Coming Into Focus

I have a fear of seeing my photograph — a fear much more intense than simply being unpleasantly surprised by an unflattering angle or poor fashion choice. My weight is part of it, certainly. It is always jarring to see yourself as other may see you, especially when the weight gain has been so dramatic and fast.

I realized tonight that avoiding photographs is symbolic of my inability to look at myself — I’m afraid of what I’ll find. I fear nothingness; the lack of something unique to mark me as an independent human being, capable of true, original creativity.

I’ve begun to wonder if I focus on other people as a way of making up for my perceived emptiness. It also diverts my attention from introspection. “I’m sorry I have nothing to offer, let me invest all of myself into you. I can feel worthy in my selflessness.”

A striking scene from the Stephen King film Dolores Claiborne comes to mind — a woman was so overwhelmed with her long repressed memory of sexual abuse, that for a split second, she looked in the mirror and her body was facing away from her. She was looking at the back of her head. It’s hard to explain, but this scene terrified me.

It is a similar feeling — an overwhelming need to turn away and avoid the chaos and pain of feeling empty. Perhaps my weight gain was an unconscious strategy to keep me from looking too closely. It has certainly worked. And although this blog is a means of internal reflection, I don’t take it to the next level. It remains an idea, tentatively waiting for action.

So…I took my picture tonight — a few shots in the mirror. I stared directly into the camera for the first one but it was too much to bear. So I gazed away. Once I viewed the picture enlarged on the computer, I saw someone I didn’t recognize. I blurred the photo as a way to blunt the feelings that arose. When it’s out of focus, it’s not as overwhelming and allows me to keep looking — a good first step.

I want to treat myself as a person worthy of respect, just as I would anyone else. If that strange person looking back at me was indeed a stranger, I would treat them kindly and gently, reassuring them of their value. Why wouldn’t I do the same for myself?

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