The body I see in the mirror isn’t mine

A naked afab person with pubic and underarm hair and a slightly rounded tummy on a green background.
Brilliant art of ME by Kayla of Pink Space Lime!

This isn’t the blog post about the privilege I have as a white, skinny, middle-class, afab trans person. That blog post is coming, but this is another one where I need to acknowledge upfront how much privilege I have because I am thin. The only straight thing about me is my size, and I know I have a lot of work to do to unlearn my internalised fatphobia. Maybe this means I shouldn’t talk about my weight, but every time I sit down to blog all I can think about is that the body I see when I look in the mirror isn’t mine.

Content note for weight loss, disordered eating habits, body image, and mental illness. Once again, I recognise that I am privileged and that disgust I have felt with my body in the past comes from internalised fatphobia, and that I am protected from the systemic oppression opposed on fat people.

The body I see in the mirror isn’t mine. Yes, I can see the actual reflection of my body, with it’s body hair and freckles and the smile that might be my favourite thing about myself. My eyes register the red marks left by the too-small underwear I wear when I’m on my period because practicality forces me to go for knickers rather than boxers. I can focus on my tits, which sometimes I love and sometimes make my body feel entirely wrong because I’m no longer a woman.

However, that’s not the body I really see.

The body I see in the mirror isn’t mine… expect it is. It’s my body as it was five years ago. Beneath the skin and slowly sliding into focus above my real reflection I see the memory of how I looked at seventeen. How I looked after a summer spent with teenage girls convinced me that I needed to start eating less. How I looked after I got ill and threw up every morning for three weeks, and couldn’t eat anything even through I wanted to. How I looked when I was taking too many classes and pushing myself too hard.

How I looked when I would spend eight hours on a Saturday in a dance studio in a leotard and tights, and when I sucked my stomach in I could see my ribs.

I close my eyes and shake my head, but even then it’s there – seared into the dark behind my eyelids. Maybe it’s mocking me, taunting me with this ideal of what my body can look like. Making me wonder if I could still look like that, if I wasn’t so lazy, if I worked harder. I know I never want to look like that again: I wasn’t just thin, I was underweight. When I look in the mirror and see this twisted, tortured version of my body, I want to throw up because I can remember how proud I was that you could see my ribs.

I know now that it wasn’t healthy. I have spent the last five years telling myself again and again that it wasn’t healthy, that wasn’t healthy. I have spent the last five years trying to teach myself that I wasn’t just skinny but dangerously underweight – and struggling with an eating disorder that I never got any help with. I have spent the last five years learning what it feels like when my body is tells me that it’s hungry and actually listening to it, and I’ve worked so hard to stop believing that my body should look like that.

So why is that still the body I see when I look in the mirror?

It’s like a ghost, appearing whenever I dare to look at myself in the mirror without shame. A year ago I shared a photo of my little tummy rolls and confessed that I didn’t love them. I knew I should love them, I knew I needed to accept them, but I was struggling with the fact that I was finally putting on weight. Since then, I have started to let go of some of the guilt that society saddles us with around gaining weight. I have a long way to go, but I have started and I genuinely love my body.

I have outgrown dresses and celebrated when I had to donate them to the charity shops. I’ve bought shorts that actually fit me, and grinned when I see how my stomach bulges (just a little) in my skirts. I know how much privilege I still have, because even though I have put on necessary weight my body is still thin. I try to acknowledge that as I admire that my body is healthy again: I am not healthy because I am thin; I am healthy because I am not as thin as I was five years ago, when I was scared of food and thought it was my enemy.

Sometimes I still do, and it’s been harder over the last few months. Everything has been harder over the last few months, and now when I look in the mirror I see a body that isn’t mine. I see a body that I used to think wasn’t quite enough, and I wonder what that says about how I see myself. I report ads for intermittent fasting and I unfollow the sex positive artists who I love but who only post artwork of people even thinner than me. I force myself to eat, even when the food tastes like ash and I’m certain that I’m going to throw up.

I watch my thoughts – every minute of every day – because I know how easy it would be to slip back into a place where I punish myself because I don’t look like the body I see when I look in the mirror.

My body is beautiful. My body is beautiful and powerful and it is enough. I know that it is going to change over time and I’m ok with that. I’m finally, honestly ok with that. Or I thought I was, until I started to look in the mirror and see a body that isn’t mine at all. A body I have fought so hard to leave behind, along with my stupid belief that it was a standard which I needed to hold myself to.

I am so scared that I will start holding myself to that standard again.

I’m super anxious about this one, y’all. If it resonates, drop me a comment or a DM, or even just retweet it, please?And if you really love it, maybe buy me a coffee? Ok, yes, I’ll probably get a hot chocolate, but your support helps me keep writing about vulnerable shit. 

Doughnuts and days when I force myself to do things
Sharing sex-positive shit: June 2020

2 Comments

  1. I hear you. When I look in the mirror sometimes I don’t see my body. I see the body that so much of society tells me is wrong. It may be the opposite side to your conundrum but my answer is still the same. To deny myself. To shrink. To be something else.

    I’m glad to hear the positives in here too. And that you’re fighting hard, you are beautiful and powerful just as you are.

    On a positive note, I see *me* in the mirror more often these days. And I love what I see. In time, thinking positive works.

    This writing resonated with me.

  2. Having certain privileges doesn’t mean you aren’t in pain or don’t struggle with that privilege (just had an hour long talk on Twitter in exactly this) You recognize your thin privilege and it’s okay to recognize that no one is “thin enough” in our culture and that as a thin person that hurts you just as it hurts people battling their weight and its “meaning” in culture, in a different way. I empathize with the pressure and I too have very disordered eating and was bulimic for years. It’s a process and it’s okay to be thin, healthy/healthier and in recovery from that pain and what it’s done to your body/mind/soul. As a fat but healthy person I relate and I think it’s important to hear that thin people struggle too. Your struggle doesn’t minimize mine, it makes us allies against a common threat, even if our experiences differ. Be well xo

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