Recently I had several people gently chide me that I was beautiful and that I needed to embrace that. I was flummoxed, to be quite honest, because I was at a loss to see what they saw.
I haven’t ever looked at myself and thought, you are beautiful, Dominique. I don’t think I’m ugly or whatnot, but I don’t affix the beautiful adjective to my personhood.
Anyway, after two people made the same comment to me within 24 hours, I found myself contemplating why it was that I don’t, or perhaps, can’t affix that adjective to myself.
Although, I am a person (today) who looks for what is on the inside of people, for me personally, I am finding that ME (myalgic encephalomyelitis) has wreaked havoc on how comfortable I am with my looks, and sometimes, even how I feel in my own skin.
I am one of those people that feel that nothing has power unless I give it power. Unfortunately, that isn’t always the case. When living with a body that chooses to malfuntion on a whim, the resulting consequences can be devastating to my psche and emotional balance. Add to that the social mores of our time, especially for women, and being comfortable in a body that isn’t what it used to be is … well … challenging.
Futhermore, add the possibility of a relationship with the opposite sex, and the challenge only grows!
For instance, a weight gain of 125 pounds has shaken my self-confidence as far as how I look in clothes or how I feel about my body. I don’t want to go there, but, if I’m truly honest, I do … and I am.
The interesting thing is that even after having lost 75 of those 125 pounds I am still having days where I struggle with my body perception, and thus, me as a woman.
I also struggle with my inability to be consistent in my life. I am someone who tries to keep my word in all things but I often find that I will make a promise and have to break it because my body isn’t cooperating.
Or, I will want to be fully engaged in the moment, but my brain goes on vacation and I am left struggling to not only engage in the conversation I am having with a particular person but to enjoy my time with my friends and family.
And of course, I can’t forget how my vacationing brain causes me to add 2 + 2 and get 2 or forget that I had a doctor appointment at 11 a.m. instead of 2 p.m. All of these situations are such that my confidence is always challenged because I never know for sure how my body will function and these quirks create an impression for new people that does not properly reflect who I am at the core.
These struggles are minor, to the ones I had when I was bed bound, housebound, and wheel chair bound last year. I constantly found myself feeling like I was living in a body that was 20 years older then it really was. And to be honest, that ‘ain’t sexy’.
Anyway, all of this got me thinking of how chronic illness affects our perspective of ourself and our belief about what we can and can’t do.
I have recently stepped out into the world of friendship with men and I find myself wondering how I have anything to offer when I am still 50 pounds over-weight, suddenly nearing 50 years old, and don’t officially work.
I also struggle with too much time on my hands and the rest of the world is so busy they can’t even make it for dinner.
It’s as if I have been living in a cocoon and now that I have blossomed into a butterfly, I don’t fit in because I am so out of touch with the times.
In addition, all the different standards that society uses now days to measure a woman’s worth (or a man’s for that matter) are based on things that no longer matter to me or that I cannot attain.
While I choose to value what is inside of a person, the world, on the other hand, continues to value what I can give, do, attain, become, and look like. It is a standard that I am finding myself as of late wrangling with especially when meeting new people.
Of course this doesn’t even take into account the mis-perception of the ‘chronically ill’ and being lazy, etc.
So what is a girl to do?
I have decided that I am shutting the ‘critic’ in my head and in the world around me down every time I hear him. I also have started reminding myself that I am unique and that includes having this illness that so many people around me are completely unaware of.
Yes, I have a few extra pounds. Yes, I add 2 + 2 and get 4. Yes, I constantly forget your name, where you live, what kind of work you do and a number of other things. Yes, I have to cancel yet again.
But those things are not who I am. They are ME … or better yet … they are the consequences of what ME does in my body.
They do not reflect poorly on me. In actuality, they show that I am an incredibly strong woman who has chosen not to let extra weight, vacationing brain, math difficulty, or anything else stop her from being who she was created to be.
We all have flaws, quirks and mis-steps. Mine are just a little more obvious because of a difussed brain injury. I can’t control what that brain injury does to my body, but I can control how I choose to view myself inspite of the many, many changes that have been visited upon my body and life by ME.
Despite all the many changes I have had to endure because of ME, I know I am beautiful because I am an over-comer, I am strong, I am determined, I am hopeful, I am kind, I am compassionate, I am a giver, I am sexy, I am funny, I am talented, I am an encourager, I am an activist and on and on.
I also know with everything in me that YOU, too, are beautiful because of who you are despite having ME! (or FMS or any other chronic health condition!)