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

Mirror…reflections

What is a mirror? To most people it is something that shows their reflection. If we think beyond that, it is a silent mime act following our every move. If we go a little deeper, it is showing us in live action motion how the outside world sees us. Deeper still it is a magnifying glass that highlights all we dislike about ourselves. However, is it all of these things and none of these things? It physically may show these things but how we interpret what it is we see is another. Furthermore, it is said if we met our own double we would not recognise them, as we have an image in our head as to how we actually look. So does a mirror really reflect the real us and how we look to those we meet in the workplace, streets and malls?

The silent mime act may make us laugh as children, as there is someone doing all we do. As we grow we get worried how the outside world sees us as fear the fingers of judgement and rejection. Then we find it to be a truth sayer, telling how much weight we need to lose to how old we now are, reflected back at us. However, what we forget is it does not have a voice, and I don’t mean our own internal one, for if it did it may say something very different. It would not massage our egos but tell us how well we are doing with life; like a scar we see above our forehead, the mirror may show a small scar but our insides know it hides the painful memories it tells. So perhaps it gives us a version of us or hologram of our mind’s image?

These days we put so much emphasis on physical appearance that the mirror may reflect back to us. However it is what it does not show what is on the inside, from our personalities to the colour of our auras. I remember one of the early photographs I took of myself in Italy mid-May 2007 and asked someone “do I really look like that”? To which I got laughter of “erm yes Fi, who else did you think it was?” It hit me hard as realised the image I felt of myself was not the girl in the photograph. The girl in the photograph looked sad and in pain, needing a big hug to say all would be all right, and I knew in that instance I had to find my true self if was ever going to be free. Now I know a mirror does not reflect the full us; best viewed like a child, as a mime act copying all we do in that moment and nothing more.

© 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