I have a confession to make. I really like the way I look.
I look at myself in the mirror and I'm really content. More than content really. I rather like my reflection. I linger on it in the morning, admiring my visage in the bathroom mirror. I spare a glance whenever I walk pass a glass building. When I ride the subway, I try to stand by the doors so I can look at my back lit reflection in the plexi-glass panels. I don't do this with dread or anguish. I do with a strong sense of vanity and self-satisfaction. Indeed, I've been doing this for quite some time. Even in high school, I was obsessive about taking photographs of myself even in the days before the instant gratification and low costs of digital photography. I was just positively enamored with my image. Which is kinda weird because I know in high school I always felt I had a low self-esteem.
Which brings me to my second confession. I don't really like the way I look.
I see so many flaws, so many problems and I fixate on them. I was like this growing up and I still am. I can't look away from the scars on my when my forehead was cut open as a kid. I squirm at my bad complexion and the marks it has left behind. I have stretch marks that have faded by are still there. I cringe at pictures which show my double chin. I feel self-conscious about how thick my lenses are and how distorted they make my eyes.
So, how are both of these things, true? Can I be upset by my appearance and happy at the same time? Well, yes. I know I can because I am. I really do like how I look. I know I'm not a super model, but I'm happy with what I have got and even after gaining a fair amount of weight, I've come to be comfortable with that, too.
What I find has been important is learning not to beat myself up over beating myself up. I'm going to have moments where I hate what I see in the mirror and for all sorts of reasons. Its natural. Its going to happen. No one feels 100% positive, 100% of the time. If you expect that of yourself, you're just assuring failure. If you think fat acceptance means never feeling doubt, you're setting up an unattainable goal. You will feel doubt. Its how you respond that is important. And sometimes you'll respond better than other times. You can keep striving for acceptance even while you accept that you may never quite get there. Sometimes, its just about going after the goal more than reaching it.
So, when I cringe when I see a double chin in a photo, I suck it up and keep looking at photos. Keep taking photos. I recognize that part of the problem is that photos aren't a good representation of what we look like. I look at other people and photos of them and I see that its not just me. I think if that was what I looked at in the mirror every day it would be easier to accept that. I'd have more opportunity to deal with it and learn to accept and enjoy it. Since its not, I sometimes overreact but that's okay. I tell myself not to fall back onto "well, that's not what I really look" platitudes because maybe I will someday. I try to see the cuteness I try to see in myself. And I do. Not all the time, but I really have. One of the hottest pictures I've ever seen of myself does show a double chin. Shows my huge birthmark on my arm, too. And its okay. The world didn't end because there is a cute picture of myself where I have a double chin.
So, I keep taking pictures. I keep looking in the mirror. First to desensitize myself and second to come to love myself. This isn't something that happens over night. But it is something that can happen. Look at yourself and look for what you like and build on it. Allow yourself some vanity. It can be a pretty good antidote to a culture that's always telling us the opposite.