I am fascinated by transformations. Special effect makeup, prosthetic, body painters, drag queens, women turning into glamour dolls and fetish vixens. It seems everyone else is too. Yet we struggle to change what’s underneath our images.
We compete. Compare ourselves. Make quick judgments. We become threats. We doubt one another.
The better you appear, the better off they will think of you. We develop tunnel vision. When you snap that photo, you are a caricature of Hollywood beauty and fame. You can’t be ugly, based on a array of different standards. You can’t be unhappy. You can not be human. They’ll shame you. Tear you apart.
Without the camera, your eyes are lackluster. Trying to recover from the world alone in your head, spheres of madness settling within the deepest crevices of your thoughts, envisioning wrists spilling cruel red.
You see a picture of an attractive person. Seductive. Confident. You’re drawn to it. And on top of that, they seem intelligent, charismatic, a silk summer dream. You imagine when they speak the air is scented with sweet ruby roses. Semblance of perfection. These are the little traps of our culture. Focusing on a person putting their best foot forward. Everyone appears beautiful and happy. Manipulating our mirages, as we bury our monsters, our symptoms of sorrow, frustration, and uncertainties hidden away.
Before the wave of social media completely exploded, I used to take photos showing off my body and face. I was proud of my petite frame, and I didn’t mind receiving admiration for it. I dressed up to emphasize the fullness of my breasts, tiny waist, the curve of my back. I was most proud of my butt and muscled legs from dancing.
I went out dancing often. At clubs, house parties, out on the street on warm summer nights. I drew an audience. The release I felt when the sound reverberated through me was incredible. Industrial, electronic, trance, hard-style, 80’s, dark-wave, my love for music set my spirit on fire. Even with this projected confidence, I could not find complete security within myself. I gave my power away every time I internalized someone’s approval or denial of me. This need for validation, manifested into a warped perception of my identity and body.
In the culture I was raised in, there is a tendency to poke fun and openly criticize if you are too petite, even if you’re eating just fine. When I was told I was too skinny, I felt like it meant I didn’t have enough curves as a woman. I bought a huge bottle of high calorie protein shake powder, mixed it with ice cream, whole milk and chugged it down, even if I felt like I was going to puke. I always made sure to eat in front of others, so I wouldn’t look as though I was starving myself, even if I wasn’t that hungry. I felt like they were always watching what I ate, because they commented on my body often.
I gained some weight. I felt uncomfortable with it. I looked in the mirror and I found a million things wrong. I’m not sure how much of them were accurate, but I felt disgusting. I started running. I disliked exercising, but I disliked what I saw of myself more.
I gained the most weight when I went on medication for my mental health, it was right after I experienced the worse breakdown from a relationship. It was a temporary experiment of different cocktails and unpleasant side effects. People made jokes, asked if I was expecting because my stomach was bigger. I developed puffy cheeks. My clothing didn’t fit the same. All of a sudden the same people that told me I was too skinny, were telling me I was getting big.
There was an unspoken threshold of what’s considered the appropriate body type and I kept missing the mark. I couldn’t win. I became obsessed with fixing defects. Picked at my skin if it didn’t look baby smooth, because I couldn’t stand for it to look less than perfect. When my hair was too damaged, and I had to cut the majority of it off, I didn’t want anyone to know. So I disguised it with weave, full clip on ponytails and eventually learned to do hair extensions to blend in. If I looked bloated, I skipped eating or cinched myself into a corset.
I started missing out on social events if I didn’t think I could hide a flaw, however minuscule. I panicked at the thought of being around people. I spent hours anxiously getting ready, checking myself in different lighting to be sure everything was put together well. My best friend thought I was crazy. I would apologize for taking too long to get ready because of such and such on my face or my body and he would say “Girl.. where”? And if someone did notice something, I tensed up. I couldn’t convey anything less than the confidence I was portraying in the photos I posted. Because where was the allure in that.
When my magic slipped and someone I was seeing asked me “Are you insecure?” displeasure creeping into his face, I laughed it off. It was the narrative of my romances. My friendships. My modest audience. And I put myself there. I didn’t believe I was worth more than my body and my life echoed these sentiments.
The wounds from being unloved, abandoned, and rejected, they felt more profound. My failures were a knife cutting into my chest. Underneath it all I was a fraud. Just like them. And I would suffer in silence. Just like everyone else.
After shedding the excess weight, after healing the scars and removing the toxicity from my life, I still find myself suffocating under the pressure. Everyone sizes each other up, injecting their own agenda, insecurities, and blatant ignorance, because people are too scared to admit how shitty they feel about themselves. This asphyxiating nothingness gnawing at our hearts.
It feels so asinine. But my mind’s disorder negates all sense. The mirror is still my enemy. I alienate from most of the people around me, because it feels like they are reading from the same script and I don’t have a copy, because I threw it in the trash.
And authenticity becomes inferiority. Fear rules. You must appear untouchable. A god among gods. I can’t keep up with that.
It’s a madhouse. Tell me lies, sell me dreams. Create more mediocrity.
The despondent march on.
Envy no one. Don’t believe everything you see.
Detach from ego. Fight against the prison of your self-doubts.
Evolve beyond a sea of untruths.