Here's to loving me a little more
This year I have decided to be kinder to myself, to see myself as tangible and real, and to revel in pursuits of the mind and body
Because sometimes I feel lucky to glimpse at myself in a mirror and not dislike what I see, I thought long and hard about my resolution for 2019. At my last session mid-December, my therapist advised me to focus more on how I experience myself, particularly when it came to the subject of mirrors. Over Christmas week I found myself less afraid of beholding my own image. In fact, for the first time, recently, I looked at myself in the mirror and decided I would no longer torture my body into framing itself as an ideal.
What do you see in your reflection? When I was young I only saw what I wanted to be. Fairer. Curvier. More sensuous. It has taken me almost 30 years to come to terms with my appearance; to not wonder if I looked pleasing to someone else, but to confront my image as my own, in whatever form it took. "I want to embrace my flaws," I told a dear friend who was visiting for lunch at my sister's place. She said something wise about flaws, with which I agreed, on principle, but I was speaking about embracing the very notion of one's flaws and imperfections. Is it not possible for us to also be our weaknesses as much as we are the embodiment of our strengths?
I have spent so many years trying to over-compensate for my alleged defects; aspects about my physical appearance that the world seemed to perceive as inadequacies. Because I grew up so conscious about being dark-skinned, I focussed on being a kind person, not for the sake of kindness, but so that I could stand a chance at being liked. I was always secretly envious of my sister who never cared much for diplomacy and boasts the ability to speak her mind, regardless of how she might be perceived. I remained slightly in awe of women who were beautiful but also warm, as if they had the right to be otherwise but had chosen not to. I placed such a high premium on appearance, I inadvertently short-changed myself in relationships. I made more allowances for men than I ought to have. I willingly let people walk all over me and treat me less generously than I deserved. I was so grateful to anyone who deigned to like me for who I was, who dared to desire me, who had the audacity to think of me as beautiful, even.
This year, I'm turning over a new leaf. I've decided it's pointless to make resolutions about possessing a leaner, fitter body and joining a gym or committing to an unrealistic exercise regime or diet plan in order to acquire an ideal body image. This time around I'm focussing on learning to love my body for all its recklessness, its inadequacies, its cellulite. I want to find ways to enjoy all the scars that were inflicted upon it that may perhaps never heal, all its excesses, its longings, its joyful and sorrowful trajectories. I am pursuing a form of kindness and empathy that comes from loving oneself; a generosity that is not inflected by an unhinged yearning for validation from the world around me. I want to let myself happen. I want the periphery of my aura to radiate joy and exuberance. I want to bathe in light; collect photosynthetic particles as and when they make contact with my skin, and allow them to feed and nurture me so I only digest that which is edible and nourishing and filter out all that is toxic.
The aspiration is to arrive at a renewed sense of me-ness, so that I no longer speak of my self in abstraction but as something more tangible, more alert and conscious; pulpier, more substantial. I want to design my own feminist methodology that can have its roots in the Christian ideal of love and the [Simone] Weilian notion of grace. She said "Grace fills empty spaces but it can only enter where there is a void to receive it, and it is grace itself which makes this void."
I'm still struggling to understand what that means. I am convinced, though, that within the aphorism lies a roadmap to joy. And I have decided that I will not settle for happiness or contentment. They are too pedestrian as concepts. I want nothing less than jouissance, an unapologetic pleasure in intellectual, sexual and spiritual pursuits. It is somewhere within this untranslatable word where body and mind find their union. There's another line of thought, by the French theorist, Helene Cixous, that I'm simultaneously unknotting: "I am for you what you want me to be at the moment you look at me in a way you've never seen me before: at every instant". I no longer want to be 'that' which I can be, but 'this', which I already always was.
Deliberating on the life and times of Everywoman, Rosalyn D'Mello is a reputable art critic and the author of A Handbook For My Lover. She tweets @RosaParx Send your feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org
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