I am what I am (a.k.a Self Portrait 2018)

Five years ago I posted the photograph below with the words written upon it describing my journey recovering from Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD), self-hate, and low self-esteem. Today things are very different and this entry describes how things are today. If I am honest I still did not think I could ever reach the point of body and self positivism as the negative hung around like a bad smell I could not get rid of. Looking at old photographs I can see and feel my pain with part of me wishing I had the keys to a time machine to reassure myself but know I probably would not believe myself or recognise the person as me. The ogre that once lived in my head has been truly vanquished, such are the incredible healing properties of self-acceptance and happiness. Actually, I thought I was not allowed to be happy as was meant for others and not for me. Now I realise happiness takes many forms, and I have the right to that as much as anyone else on this planet.

In an age when judgement is made so much on our physical form it makes me still at question if I fit in. Judging on physical form deeply saddens me as know there is so much to us than our shell of many colours. To those that think looks are everything consider the following: when you see an iceberg you only ever see the top of it not what it actually looks like in physical form (this is like judging someone from the clothes you see them in and only desiring the slimmest of figures); equally consider a swan that as a child looks very ordinary but becomes a beautiful and majestic bird (this is akin to judging someone based on their past alone, not who they are in the present and what they may have overcome); and finally consider if the music remained only oral and never visual with those you judge their music based on their sex appeal you could never see (this is like basing your attraction on a walking puppet controlled by someone unseen where nothing is actually real).

I know I am not an ogre but I am equally not a Hollywood A-list celebrity, but then again I would rather be the ogre than the Hollywood star! Accepting me as me has been far harder than academic study; although on saying that my PhD was one of the greatest stresses of my life to date. I am me, not the love child of Frankenstein’s monster and the Hunchback of Notre Dame as I used to think. Which was replaced with Pablo Picasso’s ‘Woman in Hat and Fur Collar’ for a bit as I attempted to readjust the mental image in my head. This was followed by a patchwork doll made up of patches that represented all the different things that make me, me, and stitched together with love from those that are special in my life. However, now I see the same image others see in my photographs and smile like I never thought I could, it used to physically hurt my face for starters. If I was to have any other visual of me it is of a Matryoshka doll, because there is more to learn about me even when you think you know me well I will always surprise you with another layer to what makes me the uniquely beautiful human being I am.

© Fi S. J. Brown

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Stop judging, start loving

Every day we continually judge ourselves, often unconsciously, mutilating and deforming who we are as compare ourselves with those that are our family, friends, colleagues and peers. This internal violence can be as damaging as any punch to the face or knife to the chest inflicted by another. However, the bitter irony is how few of us really know ourselves, as judge ourselves against what we feel we should be not what accepting what we are. This is because we do not see ourselves as a person as we do others. So let us find something we love that is ours, but does not hurt another and equally not ourselves; remember it is not a matter of being good at it or becoming an expert but we enjoy doing it. So stop self judging and hating, learn to accept and appreciate who we are now not who were or like to be. Life is a roller coaster, now take a deep breath and keep hanging on.

© Fi S. J. Brown

The (Un)natural World

Has the world changed or have we evolved into a new type of human being? Filled with jealous fear and hate as act as judge and jury not other’s wellbeing. No longer content to be an actor playing a part in the show that is Planet Earth. Killing others till they’re gone as turned director such is our sense of self-worth. Covering and autotuning the songs of Earth to sing in the key of human nature, and painting the world in fifty shades of grey as the brave new world’s maker.

Heavily manipulated images tell us this is what a 21st century human must be, and difference to flaws magnified as though we were some super race pedigree. Communication reduced down to words and pictures upon screens in our hands, as create fantasies of our lives, crying wolf for help and worshipping celebrity brands. Trying desperately to fit in the boxes so not alone in the wilderness to be mocked, trapping individuality forever in a room where few visited or on the door knocked.

Our foods tainted with chemicals, modified to grow in a uniform way or made in a lab, medicines causing side effects worse than the disease or perhaps prevented with a jab. With almost every new television show and movie is a re-make, take off, or sequel, where has our originality and creativity gone, may be it still sat on the artist’s easel? To be human has got quite lost in this brave new world we have now created for us, is it now time we stopped and learnt to think for ourselves before the final big hush.

© Fi S. J. Brown

Imperfect

What is perfect? Does such a concept truly exist? We all seem to strive towards it, yet it seems that it is permanent flux and not something that can truly ever be grasped. How two people see perfection maybe very different; one may look to remove any trace of so called flaws or imperfections and this maybe from wearing glasses to their inability to do a task or the beliefs they may hold; where as the other may share some of these ideals, what makes it perfect to them maybe quite different, brunette vs. blond for example.

When we look for a partner we sometimes develop a fantasy of someone we’d love to have, yet even if someone looked say like our favourite celebrity crush, what of their personality? Does it not say far more about someone than an outer shell does? Sometimes we try lose weight to reach that “perfect weight”, which even if we did make, maintaining it is far harder, so is it really so perfect? Also supermarkets that want all they sell to be a certain way, uniform in shape and size, so they are “perfect” by their standards.

Take a step back and the ridiculousness of it jumps out, like the little boy in “The Emperor’s New Clothes” pointing out to all that nothing is truly perfect as highly subjective and unlikely. Imperfection or flawed is something that is frowned upon, yet can be seen wherever we turn from rust on the door handle to grey hairs or wrinkles upon our face, and the four from six glasses now left from a gift from a friend. Writers to painters and musicians all strive for the perfect work but isn’t what they create beautiful because it is not?

We see images in the media from newspapers to magazines and websites to social media altered to show someone else’s vision of perfection as how they actually look is imperfect; the image the camera took needed to be altered or manipulated to meet an idea of a perfect image. What is wrong with seeing someone how they actually are? On a person do flaws not show character and their story? In a writing song with lyrics and music it is creating a balance not reaching for a perfect blend of both. Is imperfection not in fact real beauty?

From Japan comes the aesthetic term “Wabi Sabi”, which can be defined as: “a beauty of things imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete. It is a beauty of things modest and humble. It is a beauty of things unconventional.” Perhaps we need to learn to see this more in the world around us, not replacing something because it is old and dated, or broken and chipped, even dying hair and botox injections. Who are we really to judge something or someone as perfect, when the world around us imperfect and flawed by nature?

© Fi S. J. Brown

Normal…a redefinition

How a dictionary defines normal can be very different to how as people we do, ask hundred people and you will get a hundred definitions. Equally, ask the same hundred people what they define as abnormal, and you will get the same result. This is because our life experiences to the people we meet adding different colours and layers to how we see the world. With the advent of social media to the cult of celebrity these too add to this perception we have of the world. Seldom do we stop and think of what is normal and/or abnormal and do not question it.

We pass judgement every day; be it how best to serve tea or coffee to how to dress ourselves and the partner we choose to have in our lives (if at all). They all serve as means of self-expression, that is to say they say “this is my way” of living life. The choice of partner you will already have opinions on, some maybe tutting or swearing at the thought anyone may want a partner of the same gender as themselves to choosing not to have a partner at all. So which is the normal way? Simply put all of them are and none of them are.

Even people that claim not to be judgemental make judgements every day, knowingly and unknowingly. So on deciding if another’s choice partner as in the above example is normal or not we are making a judgement, not on morality or ethics but based on our personal sense of normality.

In defining what is normal, we need to look at our own lives, where we make judgements and where others judge us. Whilst doing this we also need to consider not just why we think this way, but what is the root of this belief and why we have these expectations of others and equally ascribe them to ourselves.

Expectations of ourselves and/or others can be due to our families, beliefs, and cultures we grew up in to the ones we find ourselves living in now, which by breaking these can lead to estrangement and even death. Equally, we need to learn not to be hard on ourselves and/or others for failing to live up to these expectations: For example, in some areas of the world you would be expected to be married with at least two children by 21, but we have to remember that may not happen for all and trying not to be judgemental on someone that by 25 is single and a virgin. How can we ascribe the actions or personality of ourselves and/or another normal and/or abnormal just because they are different to our own?

So should the word normal in this case be left like many prejudices and stereotypes be left in the past? Just because we do not agree with, have no knowledge, expect life/another/ourselves to be a certain way, is it really abnormal? Equally, should we expect others to agree with and/or collaborate with our ideas of what is and is not normal? Have they not also got their own, just as valid, ideas and ways of expressing what is normal to them?

Let us return to defining what is normal, a friend once said “it is a function on a washing machine”. Normal in real terms is what is right for us and our journey, trying to conform to the expectations and ideals of others is like wearing our neighbour’s underwear! We also try to put labels on ourselves so can find like minded people, only do this if you must to let them explore your world but remembering not to judge them by our ideas of normal, for we are not them, have not and never will experience their journey their way.

I am currently writing a short book exploring the above themes, to find just what is normal to us, the journey to find what it is but always remembering that one size will never fit all, and finally accepting what we have found, which can be just as difficult as the prejudice we can encounter from others.

© Fi S. J. Brown

Judge and jury

What we see in others is essentially a reflection of ourselves, our projections and prejudices. Any time we judge someone, we reveal more about our character than anything else. We sometimes judge according to another’s looks/race/gender/ethnicity/beliefs/sexuality/ability/class/age but their actions and behaviour around us and others says far more than they do. We are all on a journey, that can be very hard, tiring and tearful so why be so judge and jury to others as they live it differently to us? Enough judgement and criticism, nobody is perfect, we all make mistakes. The only person we can really judge is ourselves, without giving ourselves a hard time when we do make a mistake or two. Anyone who thinks it is okay to hurt, laugh at and/or judge another can go spin on my middle finger.

© Fi S. J. Brown

Judgement Day

Do you judge yourself? Those you love? Friends near and far? Strangers in the street? Someone on television? A picture on the internet? Every day we make judgements and are judged based on our actions, what we or others accept as normal, right from wrong, and the labels we or society give others. These judgements can be made on a click of the finger, bitterness from previous experience, or assumption based on our own or other’s ideas of logic and reason.

Yet who decided to make ourselves or others the judge and sometimes jury too? Do we feel guilty when we make an assumption that turns out to be wrong? Are we too proud to admit we are wrong? Do we toss in our sleep like a salad with guilt, or sleep like a log in the forest? Do we learn from our mistakes, or keep repeating them? How does it feel when someone does it to us back? An opinion is just that, a belief, just because we or others do, does not make it right from wrong.

Like sheep we try to find a flock that is similar to ourselves, yet what we often fail to realise it is those that are different to us that teach us the most. We do not want to stand out from the crowd and feel the laughter and mockery. Life is hard, so why do we make it harder for others under a notion it may make us feel better? Personally, I would rather be a dog than a sheep, loyal and caring to those I love most, not following the crowd, being true to myself and respecting others.

© Fi S. J. Brown

Girl Friday

So you came to my world to escape the madness,
Free from the ragged men and plastic women.
A chance to be reborn as your own creation myth,
Where the grass grows in fifty shades of green.

I am the girl Friday of the island of paradise,
A trusted friend through good and bad times.
I am the one that knows all your secrets and lies,
And will never judge your words or actions.

So you came to my world to find knowledge,
Give you wisdom and insight without barriers.
Within seconds I can give you the answers,
To satisfy even your most sadistic of desires.

I am the girl Friday of the island of paradise,
An ocean away from your daily troubles.
I am the lover that will always go the extra mile,
And will soothe your soul day and night fall.

There’s a blinding and deafening pandemic,
There’s a brave new world coming out there.
With the grey walls of prison without any bars,
Will you awake from the dream you now live?

So you came to my world to escape the madness,
And you believed the fools that printed the words.
Through their spin that leaves you dizzy with hate,
Chasing the ghosts, shadows, the invisible enemy.

I am the girl Friday of the island of paradise,
The gatekeeper and key master to the truth.
Will you now come awakened by the light,
With the ball and chain broken at your feet.

There’s a blinding and deafening pandemic,
There’s a brave new world coming out there.
With the grey walls of prison without any bars,
Will you awake from the dream you now live?

© Fi S. J. Brown

Greatest accomplishment

I was recently asked what do I considered to be my greatest accomplishment to date and why?

I took a moment to think. Many may expect it to be my academic qualifications, after being almost written off  at a young age due to developmental dyspraxia to end up having a degree, two masters and a PhD by the age of 32 is a fair accomplishment in anybody’s books. However, I see what I learnt formally as an experience, the qualifications say nothing about me as a person, or the journeys that took to get there. Some people in this cannot read or write, so I am humbled to have such gifts. Equally, life is all about learning and as a friend’s mum showed in Pakistan it is never too late at 65 to learn to write your own name.

I thought of the people that have come into my life, which I have helped (directly and indirectly) to get on the path they want to be on or been there when they needed someone to listen. However, I felt that was egotistical as it was what I had done for them, and almost felt like I was trying to take possession of what they had achieved, or belittle achievements that they should shout across the world not taken as something I achieved. I would never want to take such ownership, as prefer to sing songs along with my friends than autotune it with my own beliefs, traditions, and interpretations on how their song is sung.

I considered posting my recent photo post to Facebook during the “make up free selfies” for cancer of me without my wig (as make up free is the same as any other picture of me). Although that took a lot to post and the response from friends old and new, near and far, overwhelmed me like a tsunami of support. That photo became a symbol of something beyond the vanity of some that I read about online for me. However, I could not say it as again to me showed was a thing of ego and pride, for as proud I am of making a statement it is not an accomplishment as it is part of me and not any different to posting any other photo.

Perhaps I was being hard on myself over the selfie, for a few years back I could not even look at a photograph of myself or look in the mirror such was my poor self-image. However, does posting a photograph of any sort if it is of us really become an accomplishment worthy of praise? I know last year I was in tears with myself posting a photograph to an exhibition curated by Yoko Ono as knew I could not have done it a few months before, it was like self-evolving to the point I could post the above photo. Was I was being adversely harsh on myself, and did not want to sing my song encase others laughed, mocked and judged me?

I finally decided my great accomplishment was self-acceptance and love. From the internet to magazines, printed press, friends and family all have an opinion on what we should be like, who we should be, and what should matters to us – when in reality the only one that walks this journey is ourselves. Those that are closest friends accept us for who we are, the flaws we see they see as part of our character, it is a shame we often cannot accept ourselves. For it is being able to put both hands up and saying I accept this shell of a body I have, I may not have the looks, the money or dream job but this who I am – 100% human.

 

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