I am at a place in my journey where I feel ready to work on developing a healthy relationship with exercising. I started going to a gym that usually has body-positive classes and does not push people too hard. For the first couple of weeks, it was going really well. I was taking it easy and just focusing more on the fact that I was moving rather than trying to change my body. My instructors were motivating in the best way possible and I was feeling really empowered about being able to work out again.
After a couple of weeks, I signed up for a class with a new instructor who obviously did not understand the culture of the gym. She refused to teach modifications to any of the moves and would come over and tell me I was doing the wrong move if I modified it on my own. Luckily, I am more self-assured than I was when I used to exercise, so I would just look her in the eyes and keep doing what I was doing. Despite being in a better place and understanding that this lady was in the wrong, I could not help but feel myself spiraling as the class went on. The harder she pushed me, the “fatter” I got as I looked at my reflection in the mirror. Logically, I knew that there was no way I had gained weight over the course of an hour-long workout class, so how did I genuinely look that much bigger?
When I was doing EMDR, most of my sessions somehow went back to a memory of me standing in the bathroom looking in the mirror. Whether it was when I was 3 years old, in high school, or on my mission, mirrors always had a huge association with my trauma. My target memories were not necessarily about the specific events that scarred me, but the way I saw myself in the mirror after the event.
My body dysmorphia was so real that it took me a couple of years of going to therapy for having an eating disorder before I realized I had it. I was so convinced that the way I perceived myself was the way that I really was. If I can’t trust what I am seeing with my own eyes, then what can I trust?
I also realized that not only do I have body dysmorphia, but I also have what my therapist and I coined as "personality dysmorphia".
One of the entries on my astrology app (the pattern) talked about my tendency to choose partners who are a mirror to me. They reflect back on how I feel about myself and make me aware of what needs to be addressed. This really stuck out to me, probably because it came at a time when I was reflecting on the impact of mirrors in my life. And it made sense. If I feel a certain way about myself, I am attracted to people who also perceive me that way and reflect back on the insecurities I have. It just feels like they were holding up a mirror that was reflecting back the way I felt about myself.
I have had an inferiority complex ever since I can remember. I thought that I was so below everyone else that I had to work 10x harder to simply be on the same playing field as everyone else. Due to this, I have a tendency to trust people who reflect this narrative back to me and act like I am lucky that they have allowed me into their life. They convince me that I am too much to handle and that they are such good people for putting up with me when in reality, they are threatened by my depth and complexity. It is like caging an exotic bird, they want to keep me all to themselves. Because they know that the more I interact in the real world the more I will start to slowly realize that actually, I am the one who is too good for them.
If there is a pattern in your life, sometimes it is painful to look in the mirror and acknowledge your part in the pattern. With me, I realized that one of my patterns is that by being so painfully insecure, I attracted a lot of people into my life who preyed on my insecurities. People who tried to manipulate and control me while acting like they are good for me.
The better I feel about myself overall, the more I like the person looking back at me in the mirror. The reflection I see in the mirror does not change, but the way I perceive myself dramatically shifts. I never could have imagined that I would ever be able to find peace with the non-idealized version of myself when I was unable to like the thinnest version of myself. I would like to think that my good days are slowly starting to outnumber the bad, but I am still really impacted by someone hinting that I need to start eating healthier or finding stretch marks in places I did not think possible.
The better I feel about myself overall, the higher my standards are for the people I interact with. I feel like I am getting better at fact-checking the version of myself that people are reflecting back to me. If I do not like what I am seeing, I ask myself why and try to determine what my role is in this situation. If I am genuinely doing something wrong, I do what I can to work on it. If it turns out we are just not a good fit, I move on to try to find people who are a better fit. Lately, I have taken a good look at the people in my life and started setting more boundaries. I was pleased to find that a lot of people responded surprisingly well to my boundaries. I have also been heartbroken to see how horribly some people have responded to these boundaries. And those that responded horribly, I am finally developing the courage to adjust our relationship accordingly, even to the point of cutting them out if necessary.
The more I cut people out who reflect back the most negative version of myself, the more energy I have for people who seem to have a more accurate perception of who McKayla is. And the more people I have in my life who seem to enjoy the real me and build up my confidence, the more energy I have to cut people out who do not do that. It is just like a spiral but like in a good way. The more boundaries I set the more empowered I feel to keep setting them. But in order to have the courage and the confidence to do so, I had to develop a healthy relationship with myself. In order to believe people when they tell me that tell me I am loveable, I have to believe it myself.
I am not saying that if people tell me that I said or did something to hurt them that I just say “well obviously you are just reflecting back a negative version of myself, so bye!” I am talking about people who are reflecting back an inaccurate representation of my character. I am talking about people who treat me like I am inherently flawed because I now know that is not true.
I talk about this a lot, but each person has different things that they need to work on in life. Each person has a different journey in figuring out how to be the best version of themselves, and this is just a piece of mine. For example, narcissistic people tend to just surround themselves with people who reflect back the most idealized version of themselves which is the opposite of what I was saying I do. So. This post definitely is geared towards people who can relate to me :)