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What do you see when you look in the mirror, above and beyond the image of who you are? Sometimes, what you see can be a revelation, especially if you’re in the middle of a move that is changing the way you live your life.
By Kim Norwood Young
As a plus size woman, shopping for clothes can be something of an emotional roller-coaster for me. I may find a new favourite outfit, or I may suffer a crisis of confidence and end up feeling like a heffalump.
Making a major move has been pretty much the same. There are moments of incredible joy and wonder, and times when I have questioned my sanity and decision making abilities. Either way, it’s been an excellent catalyst for taking stock of my life. Unfortunately, as an anxious over-thinker, taking stock (and clothes shopping, for that matter) doesn’t always end well for me, and can lead to a downward spiral of self-doubt and second-guessing every choice I’ve ever made.
Foolishly, I thought that because I was used to this, experience would make my move across the ocean easier to handle.
Hahahaha. No. Moving has surprised me in the number and variety of ways in which it has jiggled things around in my head and heart, messed with my sense of self, and put me on a personal growth curve as steep as the price of designer duds.
Mostly, I am finding it almost impossible to use my standard units of measurement for assessing if I’m “alright”. How do I know if I am doing okay when I have left behind all of the markers I am used to referencing as checkpoints?
It’s like going into a store where the clothes don’t have any sizes, and the change rooms don’t have any mirrors. In theory, it’s a great idea – the liberation of buying clothing by focusing on what feels good and what I like, rather than being swayed by social norms of what a person of my age/size/colouring should wear or look good in.
Unfortunately, the reality would just be confusing and disorienting AF. Again, a lot like moving across the planet.
Back home, I had a life full of stuff that I thought I loved, and that painted a picture of who I was. A picture that I thought meant something.
More than that, I had friends and family who helped me define how I saw myself. But then I left it all behind. No stuff, no job, no friends. Just me and my little nuclear family unit.
Now, all I’m left with are the bare bones of who I am. I am stripped completely naked and – like facing a dressing room mirror – it is uncomfortable with a capital U. To make matters worse, I moved to a country where all of my cultural reference points for success are meaningless.
Over the years, I have done a lot of work on learning to love myself unconditionally – at least, I thought I had. As it turns out, what I had really done was create a mental checklist of stuff that made me feel successful.
Great home? Check. Fast car? Check. Kids in private school? Check. Job, friends, smug sense of ‘doing well’? Check, check, and check!
But without the items on that list, I am forced to really look within and find reasons for my sense of self-worth that are totally divorced from money, status, and social standing. To build my self-esteem without any references to external factors. And I am shamed by how shaky my foundations are, and how little I have built in my 40 years on this planet.
But, oddly, I am not really surprised. Because for some reason this isn’t something we’re taught – to feel good about ourselves regardless of what we have or can do.
As someone who has had to do a lot of work at loving her outside, I am grateful that issues such as body positivity are receiving more and more airtime.
For starters, it means that my confidence is far less likely to take a beating when I go shopping, no matter how ‘unflattering’ the fitting room lighting and mirror may be.
However, I feel like while we’ve been encouraged to love our bodies more, there has been a concurrent increase in what I call the cult of capability, particularly for women.
We have increasingly been told that it doesn’t matter what we look like, but to instead focus on what we can do. Pinterest has us creating ever longer lists of things to do, places to see, DIY projects to finish.
Because doing – our ability and capability to get stuff done – is the new black. But that isn’t where our value lies either. It lies in our humanity.
We are ‘good’ simply because we are. Regardless of whether we work or not, whether we are good mothers and friends or not, whether we can handle all the things or not.
The humanity in all of us deserves recognition and love, most of all from ourselves. And like learning to love our bodies, learning to love ourselves ‘just’ for being is worth the effort.
Moving has forced me to face my failings. I suck at housework, my anxiety and social insecurity can make my friendships difficult, and sometimes the harsh light of a fitting room can still leave me feeling insecure. But that’s okay.
Because those are all things I do, and not who I am. Besides, if this move has taught me anything, it’s that I don’t need to perfect. Like my favourite old pair of jeans, I can be worn thin and slightly broken, and still be alright.
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