Am I Unattractive or Unapproachable?

I’m sure a vast number of women (and men) have asked themselves this at some point. Honestly, I think I know the answer for myself–both.

Yes, I have pretty severe body dysmorphia; I spend copious amounts of time inspecting my face in mirrors, going over what I think is wrong with it. One of my eyebrows is slightly higher than the other, my nose is too wide for my face, I have low cheekbones, no jawline, my eyes are too small, my upper lip is too thin, my skin is flawed. The discrepancy go on and on with my face and my body. What I would give to not have the shoulders of a linebacker…

My self-esteem has gotten worse with each year. With each week, really. To be honest, I thought it couldn’t get any worse, but 23 has been the age I’ve experienced the lowest self-esteem of all time. When I look for books to possibly aid me, they really don’t delve into physical self-esteem issues; it’s almost entirely about emotional self-esteem issues. And no, I am not one hundred percent confident in that area either, but I am extremely confident about who I am as a person. I know my values, I know I’m intellectual and intelligent. I’m rational yet also emotional. I’m good at communication. I know I’m talented and capable, and I’m a great friend. I know my self-worth.

Except not when it comes to how I look, which seems to trump everything else.

It’s difficult to feel confident in how I look for a lot of reasons. I’ve analyzed my appearance with such scrutiny, and I’ve found “rational” explanations to explain why I’m so unattractive. And yes, my friends occasionally try to tell me otherwise, but they’re biased because they think my personality and who I am is attractive–not necessarily how I look. Also, throughout my entire life, no one ever told me I was attractive. Distant relatives and friends of my parents would comment on my brother and I and they would automatically declare that he was attractive. Me? I honestly can’t recall ever hearing that from anyone. It probably didn’t help that throughout childhood and adolescence, my brother actively berated me about being unattractive.

No one’s ever really complimented me (and it happens very rarely now–although I do have one friend to thank for telling me I look nice ever now and again), so I find it hard to believe.

I also know I’m unapproachable. I definitely have “resting bitch face.” In fact, I’ve had multiple people tell me I actually look like I’m on the verge of murder. At the very least, I know I look angry a lot of the time. Everyone I’ve ever become friends with has told me that before I actually talked to them (and sometimes after), they thought I didn’t like them and that I would be an unpleasant person.

Last night my friend and I went out for St. Patrick’s Day–sort of. I got looped into it, but I was glad I was sober for the multiple and extensive interactions with new people.

Soon after sitting myself down outside, I lit a cigarette and silently observed my over-stimulating surroundings: two very drunk girls standing next to me, a group of well-dressed men smoking a blunt on the other side of the picnic table, a man climbing a hardened snowbank to write something in chalk on the cement wall. A guy sat down across from me, and we made eye contact, so I gave him the inverted head-nod gesture. You know, when you quickly jerk your jaw forward in recognition? That’s usually what I do.

He was also silent, and out of my peripheral vision I caught him shooting me glances quite a bit. Eventually he asked me, “How are you?” I replied with, “I’m alright. How are you?” to which he responded, “Are you sure you’re alright?”

I laughed. “I’m alright,” I assured him. I knew why he was asking–I looked fucking pissed. “I use anger as a defense mechanism.”

We sat in silence again until I asked what was going on with him. It didn’t take me long to realize he was plastered. At one point he asked if I was single, to which I said yes. He asked why and I said, “Have you seen my demeanor?”

Nevertheless, I was happy to have talked to my new and very drunk friend.

Later in the night, my friend and I sat around the fire pit. Two of her friends had joined us as well. A bearded man in a short-sleeve button-up sat down next to my friend.

Listen, I actually love meeting new people, but I’m usually unwilling to break the ice–mostly, if not entirely, due to how I feel about the way I look. This guy eventually broke the ice for us by asking my friend what she studied at school. Then he asked her female friend. He didn’t ask me. So my friend came to my rescue and told him which school I go to, and then he asked what I studied and what I wanted to do.

It’s being an afterthought that really makes me feel hurt. It’s a pattern, and it’s a shitty one.

Soon it became just myself, my friend, and this man. The three of us talked, and we were both enthralled by his personal life for a few very specific reasons. I thought, “This is truly a once in a lifetime opportunity to speak to a man like this” so I decided that no matter what, I would ask for his phone number. I ended up asking to add him on Facebook, since that seemed more approachable (ah! That word). He seemed to happily agree to this and added the two of us. He also invited us to a party he’s having this weekend.

As the three of us were talking, a young man, extremely plastered, sat down next to our new friend. He asked the names of us “ladies.” After my friend introduced herself, he repeated her name and said “pretty” and licked his lips. Then I said my name. Boom. Not a person of interest, clearly.

We parted ways with our new friend as the lights of the bar came on and the bouncer shooed us out (although he seemed genuinely pleased that I wished him a good night; I’m sure it was a tough night for him). As I stepped outside, a dude said, “Hey girl” but I honestly don’t know if he was talking to my friend or myself.

As I pulled the car up, a man driving by honked at my friend.

Okay, I’m not wishing for myself to be sexually harassed in any way, but I’m the only female I know who hasn’t been (insert laugh track here).

And now I have this party to figure out. My friend actually can’t go, so I have to fly solo. And there’s no fucking way I’m gonna be sober for it, so I’ll have to shell out money for an uber. But that’s not the problem. The problem is, I’ll be alone. I’ve never been to a party myself. That’s terrifying enough, but even more terrifying is the fact that I barely know the host.

However, I’m very much into the host. It may be a little rash to declare that, but the more we talked with him, the more I realized how much I was aroused by him. It didn’t help that he put on an incredible red velvet blazer as we exited. What a dreamboat. Viewing his Facebook photos sealed the deal. Well, for me anyway.

Basically, I can’t determine if he was more into my friend than me. I would guess that he probably was. I just imagine him being disappointed that she didn’t show up. Also, I don’t flirt well. I never do it consciously and when it does happen inadvertently, I’m usually extremely aggressive or become a little self-deprecating to try and avoid actually becoming flirtatious.

This is a conundrum. And I don’t have therapy again until after the party happens, but perhaps that’s a good thing. I don’t know how to end this post–I guess my original statement still stands. The answer is both.

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Less Than.

On my days off I sleep for ten+ hours, which is excessive and gross. I blame my new schedule, work, and my medication (the Latuda, specifically, which I recently increased and does nothing except make me more anxious). I want to decrease my dosage, against my doctor’s orders, but as bad as the side effects are now, I don’t want to know what the withdrawal will be like.

Jealousy permeates me to the core. I feel bad because I’m making others feel bad. No one wants to listen to someone tear themselves down, and incidentally blame others for their shortcomings, but it’s become habit for me now. I just looked at myself in the bathroom and was proud of the new glute muscle I’ve achieved–I’ve never had an ass before–but then immediately thought about how my best friend, who is more beautiful than I could ever dream to be, started doing squats so really, it doesn’t matter how many wall-sits or squats I do, or how toned my arms are, because I will always be the less attractive one.

It’s hard to be constantly surrounded by and associated with such beautiful people when you are not included in that sentiment. I know my friends don’t see it that way–how could they? I’m one of them, in their eyes, but I am not.

The thing is, it’s not as if I’m not trying. It’s just more effortless for other people. I have to try and look socially acceptable and I barely manage to do that, and I certainly do not pass for “attractive.” For my friends, they don’t have to do much. One of them doesn’t even wear makeup. The other lost weight because her medication decreased her appetite, so she just doesn’t eat. The other is just naturally alluring, but I haven’t quite figured out why.

This sounds pitiful, it really does, to go on and on about being less-than. But I know what I am.

Not That.

I’m listening to “Love/Paranoia” by Tame Impala on repeat, drinking my second cup of, now cold, chamomile tea. My best friend sends me a picture of herself and I feel my eyes well up momentarily because her collarbones are visible and mine are not, her lips are full and mine are not, her skin is clear and mine are not, her eyes are pretty and mine are not, I am not any of that, I don’t have any of that. Another cigarette won’t make me feel any better but I want one anyway. My room is too hot. I don’t know how I’m going to fall asleep tonight–not without struggle, that’s for sure. Even the days that are okay aren’t really okay, you know? I’m so tired of being inside my own head, because it’s not a fun place to be. I need a new phone. I need a car that isn’t a piece of shit. I need new shoes but I can’t any in my size because I was “blessed” with abnormally large feet. It’s even hard for me to find men’s shoes. I just want a pair of oxfords, for fuck’s sake. Something is wrong with my right hip. I’m not that old yet. I would rate my depression at a 7 out of 10 right now, and my anxiety maybe a 5. A wavering 5. I want to win the lottery. I want to be discovered. Or shot dead. There’s so much of that happening, but not to me, because I’m not that lucky.

The Plague of Self-Criticism

I’ve probably said this more than one: I really struggle with confidence. A couple years ago I was two sizes smaller than I am now. I ate healthy and did pretty hardcore workouts four times a week. I was mentally stable and emotionally well, hence my ability to do such things. When my medication (at the time) stopped working and my emotional well-being plummeted, I gave up on all of that, and gradually I gained back the 70+ pounds I had lost. That alone has taken a huge toll on my body image. I feel like a failure because I let it happen, and I feel like a failure for not making the changes I need to. Being constantly depressed doesn’t make me feel motivated to do anything about it. Although I want to be healthier and look better, I don’t have the drive I once did to achieve these things.

Although I feel grotesque in terms of my body–too much stomach fat, no hips, no ass, large all around, really, double chin–it’s gone beyond body issues and for the past couple months I’ve grown to really hate my face, which was never a big issue before. My face is too round. I wish I had a more angular bone structure and higher cheekbones. My nose is too big, my eyes are too small. My face is riddled with acne and horrible red scars (thanks, Lithium). Everything seems disproportionate to me, and I feel ugly.

To compensate for my body I wear ill-fitting clothes. I wear shirts that hang off me because I don’t want anyone to see the outline of my torso, or rather, my stomach fat. I won’t wear tank tops because I hate my arms. I won’t wear shorts because I hate my legs. I don’t feel confident in anything I wear, and I look at my friends and I feel envious, because their bodies are nicer than mine without them even trying and they can pull off outfits and look stylish and put together whereas I cannot.

To compensate for my face, I wear makeup. I used to feel confident going out without makeup, but because of the wonderful skin-destroying effect of Lithium, now I don’t. Just looking at my bare skin makes me feel disgusted, and there’s nothing I can do about that aspect as long as I’m on the medication. So I try to cover it up. I try to make my eyes look bigger, and I carve out fake cheekbones. But I still feel disgusting.

There is no lesson to be learned in this post. It’s just another bundle of problems that I have no idea what to do with.

The Internal Argument – Intimacy

I’ve been dating my partner, boyfriend, whatever you want to call him for two months. The first time we were physically intimate, beyond a mere kiss or subtle touch, occurred when I grabbed him against me and made out with him. The second time happened when I straddled him on the couch and we made out, again, for a long time, and I completely explored his body and eventually gave him oral sex.

My boyfriend is actually less sexually experienced than I am, but he’s more open to engaging in physical acts than I am. When we were fooling around, I refused to remove any article of clothing.

I know everyone deals with body confidence issues, but it angers and upsets me how deep mine go.

Yesterday we were sitting on his bed and he touched my shoulder and I recoiled in quite a volatile manner. I apologized, and we discussed it briefly. I was feeling depressed and although one part of my brain wanted to accept the touch, deeply desiring and enjoying it, the other, more dominant part of my brain, told my body to retreat, that I didn’t deserve to be touched, and to avoid it.

This toxic, argumentative part of my brain is always the part that wins, and I don’t know why.

Again, everyone deals with body confidence issues. We’re not thin enough, not toned enough, not muscular enough. We have cellulite and scars. Our stomachs aren’t flat. We have hair in places we don’t want hair. Whatever it is, it’s an issue. I guess my issue is, there’s not one part about my body that I like. Even when I was in shape and 75 pounds lighter than I am now and could actually be deemed “attractive” by the average person, I hated my body. But gaining the weight back has made my self-hatred even more severe.

The idea of not being in control scares me. If I let my partner dominate the situation, I lose control, and I won’t be able to enjoy myself amidst all of my worrying and self-hatred.

And don’t get me wrong. I don’t hate myself. I’ve come a long way, and generally, I quite like myself. But I only like the inside of myself. In fact, I love who I am as a person. However, that love and respect does not translate to my physical form, and for whatever reason, my disdain for my body trumps all self-love I do actually have.

I feel guilty because I don’t want my partner to think it’s him. I feel guilty because I can’t change how I feel about my body. I feel guilty because I can’t give my partner something he wants, and deserves.

I’m not sure how others, as uncomfortable as they are with their bodies, can take off their clothing and be okay with it.

-Zara

30 Day Writing Challenge – Day Twenty-Six

Write about an area of your life that you’d like to improve.

This will never not be an area of my life to improve upon: self-confidence. I’ve been struggling with it a lot more in recent months. I lost over 60 pounds over the course of a couple years. At first I didn’t even try to, it just sort of happened as my mood got better. Then I started to eat healthy and I worked out four times a week and got even more in shape. My mood plummeted, and I gained back all of the weight in just a few months. So recently, I’ve been beating myself up over and over for letting it happen.

I’ve never been confident. I was more confident when I was more in shape, but still lacking. Now it’s even worse. But everyone deserves to be confident. I’m confident in my abilities, my talent, and who I am as a person, but for some delusional reason, the hatred of my physical self trumps all of that (maybe because we live in a society obsessed with image). I deserve to feel confident in every way, not just some.

Mirrors are my worst enemy.

–Zara

Carved (A Braided Essay)

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Michelangelo, David, detail

I wrote a poem titled “Carved” and for my nonfiction class, haphazardly molded it with bits and pieces of my own narrative. Hope you enjoy.

Old blood seeps out of the gash

and I think about what Michelangelo would say

if he were here with me.

Everyone hates their body.

He wouldn’t want to paint me, number one,

because I’m not a man, and number two,

because I’m not defined, rippled, taut.

Everyone hates themselves, to some degree.

As my cat purrs and kneads the folds

of my skin I know he doesn’t mind my soft parts,

the extra pillows.

I hate those parts. The physical parts. The parts that should mean the least but end up meaning the most.

Michelangelo would hammer me to bits

and carve me out of new marble, form my arms

into thick tree branches that refuse to sway

I want to destroy myself. The leftovers aren’t there for nothing. My body is not a temple, it’s an empty alleyway to piss in, a cheap house desecrated by flames and vandalism.

in even the heaviest winds.

He would chip away the excess, chisel a delicate

nose and round pupils.

My organs are useless. My skin is too beaten up. My teeth are falling out of my skull as I speak.

The calves would be sturdy, the stomach,

smooth, and he would ignore the fact that I am

a cousin of the apes.

Things are easier when someone else molds you. I’m not a sculptor. I shouldn’t have been given the job of creating myself.