I’ve never quite taken the time to admire my body before. You see women and young girls alike do this in the mirror all the time – it is, at least in movies and TV, one of our most favourite past-times, second to chasing after abusive relationships and in deep meditation over which brand and colour of shoes we should buy this week (thankfully, this ugly trend in media is starting to shift, to great degrees of empowerment).
But this particular expenditure of time – admiring myself – wasn’t something I really allowed myself to do. Oh, sure, you look yourself over when doing your hair, or makeup, or whatever. You look yourself over when you’re obsessed with finding that invisible (and likely non-existent) speck of lunch between your teeth – but never have I really stopped to look at myself. To confirm myself, let fall away the flaws, to look myself seriously eye-to-eye, smile, and mean it.
When you’re going through a personal transformation, be it something major like realizing you’re transgender, or even something super-minor like “what would my hair look straightened today?” (okay somewhat-minor, not really), it can be difficult, sometimes near impossible, to see the bright side of uncertainty.
The fact is, life is full of uncertainty. People try to beat this out by indulging in the constant chase that is “knowledge”, in preparation for everything and everything. But what does this produce? Just a bunch of know-it-alls (I’m sorry, apparently they’re called experts) who, despite all their research on various topics, will still find themselves in the midst of “fight of flight” when the very realness of uncertainty comes to knock at their door.
On the same coin, we’re so busy as a culture self-fellating when it comes to everything “wrong” with our lives and how we don’t have enough as it is. The consistency in which we compare, contrast, judge, resent, and envy those around us, that we don’t stop enough to really look at ourselves in the mirror and accept where we’re at and, most importantly, love ourselves for where we’re at.
Gonna tell you a little story. So buckle in and get your Dollarama-certified reading glasses out. Ready? Got your tea or water in hand? Snacks all good? Aight.
Little Glass House
I was born prematurely, with a bucketful of medical issues. My mother’s cesarean brought forth an inky-dinky seven-month fetus so small, I just fit the length of my father’s hand. Underdevelopments, surgeries, complications, all to spend the first two months of my life in an incubator. Doctors were so skeptical of my survival, that my baptism took place at the hospital, with only my parents, my godmother, and the staff present – just in case.
But, obviously, things worked out. Whew! Turns out this 2-pounds, 5-ounce premie had been scooped out a fighter, and kicked some major ass, despite all odds.
At the time of this post’s original draft, back in 2014, I found great difficulty in confiding to friends and family about my journey to transition from male to female (which I termed “regeneration”, after binging Doctor Who episodes on Netflix), because, deep down, not being a cis-gendered woman brought me great shame. In the original draft, I wrote: Even when I do eventually come to fully regenerate, I still won’t be a cis-gendered woman. And that really kills. I had become ashamed of the body I fought so hard to keep alive.
Journey of Self Acualization
During that time, I’d just delved into the surface of personal development, consuming all superficial forms of “growth”, from personal Facebook feed quotes, to base self-help books, to even shows like FX’s Wilfred, starring Elijah Wood.
But it wasn’t enough. Fear had kept me rooted to the ground for a long time. No matter the amount of inspirational quotes, the number of personal pep rallies I’d hosted in my mind, I couldn’t move forward. Even though it was clear what had to be done and what my desires were, when time came to “fight or flight”, I couldn’t budge, couldn’t free myself.
Then one day, while scrolling Facebook for daily inspiration, a particular quote macro roved into eyesight and changed my attitude forever:
Knowing is not enough; we must Apply.
Willing is not enough; we must Do.
– Bruce Lee
Bruce Lee. Master of self discipline. Contemporary of self empowerment. That guy knew what had to be done, wasn’t afraid to get shit done, and didn’t care who was around to see or judge.
The fact is, uncertainty got the best of me. Even though I wanted more out of life, and knew I was meant for greater purpose, I was not applying myself. I was not putting into practice tools like vulnerability that, deep down, would help me to grow in the way I needed to.
It’s true. I do talk to Wilfred – He’s the only one actually helping me
The best example of this is the season 2 episode of Wilfred, when Ryan consumes that imported self-reflection weed when he’s trying to figure out why Kristen’s baby freaks him out.
In the episode, Ryan’s high brings him to a plane of subconscious existence, where he’s met by a spirit guide. Ryan is very willing to allow himself to be led by the spirit guide. But Wilfred appears, representing Ryan’s resistance and denial, self-hate and pride – fear of the unknown – so desperate to tug Ryan back to what was safe, what was known. It’s a strange dichotomy, considering in the reality of the show, Wilfred constantly pushes Ryan out of his comfort zone, hell or high water, to guide him on a path of self acceptance and authenticity.
For most people, letting go of yourself is drowned out by the torrential need need for control, the sense of fearful self-consciousness, the want to be liked and validated. It’s like attempting to keep atop a bucking rodeo bronco. But what it all comes down to is self-confidence. And most of us, while confident in certain areas in our lives, are not at all confident when it comes to our souls, our personal expression, who we truly are in the presence of others – especially in the presence of uncertainty.
So one day after having read that Bruce Lee quote, I made a vow to at least try to exorcize these inner demons. People do this in a dozen-thousand different ways: blogging, making art, meditating (which is a wonderful habit that you should really consider investing in).
What did I do? I smoked a load of weed and decided to get dressed.
Seriously. When it comes to the ideology of personal development the quote that “weed shows you who you are” stands firmly true in most every case. I’m not going to wax poetic on the benefits of toking – because, let’s be honest, Cheech and Chong’s fan base do enough of that already on the duo’s respective Facebook pages – but what I will say is that marijuana put me in tune with me – intense negative feelings, insecurities, self-destructive thoughts – complete awareness of depression. These were the demons that needed to be tangled with.
The Power of Self Compels You
My choice of wardrobe had every little bit a part in this downward spiral of toxicity in my life. Usually I throw on jeans, a t-shirt, and sometimes some plaid flannel. I’d fall into “guy mode” and automatically fit the behavioral bill in an attempt at “survival”, whatever that meant.
But that day, I decided to wear whatever in the blue blazing hell I damn well wanted to. There were old goth clothes I’d only worn a couple of times, that no longer really fit anymore. I said fuck it and put them on, anyway. When I took a look in my parents’ full-sized closet mirrors, I froze for a moment. Paused, like a movie.
The person who stared back wore a fearless expression. Her eyes were confident, hard-set, with a resting bitch face that could send Agatha Trunchbull, herself, out a classroom window. This reflection wasn’t anybody I’d recognized before. She looked damn good. A smile broke across her face. She was confident as all fuck.
I’ve never felt confident in my life, and I could see it so clearly in my eyes, my posture. I looked like a strong woman. An empowered woman. I looked myself in the eye. These were my eyes. They were not sad eyes. These were the eyes of confidence. I saw before me a woman who was sure of herself, who accepted herself as she was – flaws and all. Despite the “threat” of uncertainty, this woman didn’t even bat a goddamn eye.
My reflection smiled at me, and meant it.
Just Leap off the Edge, My Love – and Fly
If you’re a person who struggles with self acceptance, who wants desperately to find fulfillment in self-love but doesn’t know how to achieve it, don’t despair. We’re all in this together. All it takes is a solid look in the mirror. It’s easy to focus on the negative aspects of our bodies, be we cis-gendered or transgendered. But that sort of focus doesn’t help. Work towards seeing yourself for you, not judgmental of whatever stares back in your reflection, and stand tall in that.
Stand tall in your you-ness. Accept yourself for who you are, for where your at. Don’t let the fear of uncertainty get you between its claws. It takes a lot of hard work and a ton of dedication, but it IS POSSIBLE to break free, to shine in your you-ness.
All it takes is the courage to stand in front of the mirror and tell whatever stares back that self-appointed love and acceptance are readily available.