Opinion by Richard Bleil
Today I found a new blob of skin on my body. It seems to be happening more and more. At fifty-six years old, I”m losing what little muscle mass I had, my skin is starting to sag in more and more places, some visible like my recently acquired “turkey neck”, and others in places that would be inappropriate to mention, and my scars are ever-increasing both inside my body and out.
This is Suicide Awareness Week, apparently. One major source of discontent in people is body image.
We all do it. We all look in the mirror and see things that we don’t like. We see the nose we don’t like, or the scars that we’ve found, or the weight with which we are unhappy, or the age as I see in my own reflection. The thing is, and I think most people already know this, is that we are harsher on ourselves than others are on us.
Probably the most perfect looking woman I’ve ever known was a student with whom I went to college, who I shall call “Kay” because her name begins with a “K”. She had long straight blonde hair, beautiful blue eyes, perfect complexion, just the right height, lovely build…just everything that you might imagine in a perfect looking woman. But, she isn’t the most beautiful woman I’ve ever known.
The woman I was most attracted to at the time I’ll call “Emm”. She had a larger build, a bit tall for most men’s taste, a slight snaggle-tooth, just a lot of little “flaws”. I’m sure she saw these flaws every time she looked in the mirror, and she was stunningly beautiful.
Beauty is a fleeting concept. Today I know a woman that is about my age, and she is just gorgeous. She has no idea. She sees everything that she wishes she could change in her reflection, but can’t see how they all fit together into a package that is beyond stunning. She also has the biggest heart I’ve ever known, and I’m fortunate to call her my friend.
Despite the direction this blog is moving, this really isn’t about beauty, inner or out. It’s about satisfaction with oneself.
I had a date with a woman long ago who by societal standards was, at least then, quite obese, but she was exceedingly sexy. As a graduate student, I met another from Sweden who was probably one of the most handsome men I’ve ever met. What these two had in common was self-confidence. She believed she was very sexy, and so she was. He exuded self-confidence, and having nothing to prove to anybody could be himself and make everybody, even me, feel important.
You and I, we are amazing people. We really are. At my age, with everything missing in my life, I have had some amazing accomplishments. I’m sure, if you look back in your life, you have many things of which you can be proud as well. But more important than what we have or may accomplish is how we see ourselves.
This sounds like “Peter Pan” advice. “Believe in yourself…” Well, it’s easier said than done. I know; right now I’m struggling to feel like a success at all. My heart does not believe it at all, but my mind knows how much I have accomplished. Unfortunately, my eyes see that blob of skin, and is an ally of my broken heart. I wish I could tell you how to look past the details and see the larger good, but if I knew how to do that, I wouldn’t be struggling tonight myself.
But there it is.
Keep in mind, though, as you see the details you don’t like, others see the whole you and like it. In my opinion, we need to be more supportive and aware of each other. Far too many of our young people are committing suicide because of mean things said about them on social media. We’re all vulnerable. A mean comment, or even one intended to be “helpful” can strike an individual who is feeling particularly weak, maybe just because of a bad day or maybe it’s just how they woke up particularly hard.
Please keep an eye out for each other, and be kind. For anybody struggling, as I am right now, don’t be afraid to reach out to others for strength. Whatever you do, please don’t make any decisions to do something that cannot be undone for a feeling that will pass.