In a culture telling you how your body should be shaped, and what rare features are attractive, she was in fact close to the perfect specimen. She stood at six feet tall, and had the slender figure of an inexperienced model – still healthy and not yet slimmed down to just bones. Her hair hung in loose, long dirty blonde curls, with highlights of red shining bright when the sun hit her just right. Her deep blue eyes locked onto you and captivated your attention amidst any commotion. She had repeatedly been recommended to modeling, however she had stood firm at not wanting to put herself through that mental battle of unrealistic self-criticism and self-mutilation. She had been blessed with what was commonly accepted as good looks, yet she didn’t see her own skin clearly. She operated under the consciousness that she was a tall, lanky awkward young woman, who would much prefer to hide her heighth in the back corner of a room where there would be no attention drawn to her. You could say that she was under the curse of Ugly-Duckling Syndrom, however she would argue that she was fully conscious of the way she looked and the reactions it evoked in others. She knew that men on the street would stare, or throw a cat call in her direction in mild amusement. She knew that her constant struggles to keep weight on, was a struggle that most other women were envious of. She knew that she could walk into any high-end department store and have practically everything fit her small, curveless frame. Yet, despite this knowledge, she did not walk around with the confidence that you found radiating off of other women – a kind of confidence that displays that they are in love with their bodies, despite their flaws, and they are proud to parade them in front of any audience. She did not actively hate the way she looked, but she was not fully conscious of it and did not care to put the time and effort into loving it that it deserved. She assumed there were flaws in her look, she just didn’t spend the time looking for them because she was too preoccupied in assessing her interactions with others and sheltering her true personality from people that she didn’t quite trust to welcome her with open arms. Every step she took, every opening of her mouth, she methodically thought about and evaluated before allowing that action to take place in the physical world. Nothing she did was done in an act of blind bravery, or if it was, it was closely followed by a personal scrutiny of what she should have done better in that situation.
The reflex of self-critisism was overwhelming and occurred without fore-thought for her. Her self-awareness was taken to a level where she wished that she did not exist at all, because that would be less trying than the constant battle that was waged daily in her mind. She could take no action without the reaction of evaluation, reflection, and regret for not doing it differently. Simple interactions with the grocery store clerk, were later replayed over and over in her mind, in order for her to find where she could have done better and made the exchange more pleasant for the other party involved. Although she walked with an air of pretend confidence that most women operated under, she felt as if she were constantly walking on egg shells and would be publically shamed if she happened to break one. She expected the impossible from herself and allowed no room for failure. If she did fail, her missteps would haunt her for months in a constant cycle of shame and regret. How so such self-criticism and such a rigorous process of self-evaluation had been ingrained in her, she was not sure, but she knew that this was the reality she operated under every day. She was on a constant path of self-improvement, where there was no end goal in sight. Her constant outward expression of apology was not for those who she interacted with in life, it was more of an apology to herself for not meeting the standards of execution that she had set for the task at hand. She was both the apologetic child, shrinking into a corner of regret, as well as the aggressively disappointed school teacher, holding a ruler poised in a threatening position of discipline. There was no need to tell her when she had made a mistake, because she was aware of it way before you even were and already progressing down the path of punishment.
She knew the path to redemption was forgiveness – the common moral found at the end of all stories of humanity since the first documentation of our thoughts. Humans are inherently flawed, and forgiveness is the only way that you can expect to move on after a transgression or misstep. She had to forgive herself for talking too loudly in the coffee shop, for taking the last parking spot at Costco, for not opening the door for that elderly couple, and for choosing to say ‘hello’ versus a more casual ‘hey’ to the person passing by her on the street. She had to then forgive herself for smoking, drinking, and taking drugs all those years. She had to forgive herself for leaving home when she could no longer face the constant reminder of how her life had irrefutably changed after losing her father. She had to forgive herself for choosing to make decisions that were in her best interest, versus always putting the needs of those she loves first. Instead of treading the constant path of self-improvement, she needed to be heading along the path of forgiveness and understanding, working towards acceptance versus criticism. She had to forgive herself for being human.