What It's Like to See Myself Through Body Dysmorphia 'Goggles'
Imagine looking at yourself and seeing someone who others do not seem to recognize. People saying all the time that you look different from the way you see yourself. It seems just as absurd to you as if someone were to claim to you that up was suddenly down. For me, it feels as if I were wearing a pair of goggles that others are neither wearing nor recognizing — they are what I call my “body dysmorphia goggles.”
These goggles feel as cold and tight as a soaked wetsuit around my face and eyes, yet to the others who surround me, they are completely invisible. As if I were not wearing them at all.
“Just take them off!” they say. “They aren’t really there. Why do you keep them on just to fish for external validation of yourself from others?”
What they don’t seem to grasp is the idea that I, contrary to their beliefs, fully recognize that what I see through the goggles I wear is only a warped version of the actual reality I am living in. They don’t seem to fully understand these goggles are just as uncomfortable to for me to be stuck wearing as they are uncomfortable for others to know I’m wearing them. They do not understand how much I wish for them to be off as they leach onto my face far too tightly, pulling and stretching all my skin around my eyes like two little maximally powerful vacuum cleaners. Yet, they do not cleanse my body or my mind — not even in the slightest. The unrelenting pain from this pair of vacuums causes me to jump to the first conclusions concerning all the things I see through them, especially in myself — all because of survival, as they continue to force my eyes open to see entirely through the the full extent of the filtered and warped lenses that they provide. That this whole manner in which they cling to my face and obstruct my perspectives concerning myself, from my outward appearance to the furtherest depths of what is beneath it, has been what has made them so difficult for me to pull off without a miraculous amount of strength that I feel is impossible for me to possess.
Whenever people dispute or encourage me to question what I see in the goggles, “Stop messing with my head!” is always my first thought and the way in which I am impulsively tempted to respond, “Stop trying to convince me that black is white!”
I’ve spent so long wearing these painfully inhibiting goggles that the longer I spend with them on my body, the more I forget what it is like to see the world without them, until me wearing them becomes what is standard and normal, until I become so accustomed to having them on that I forget I’m wearing them in the first place.
Because of wearing these googles, believing I am somehow ugly, deformed, undeserving, inferior and inadequate has been as much of an absolute truth for me as the laws of physics, as much as the sky being blue and as much as outer space being pitch black. It has gone beyond just becoming an opinion for me. It has become the law, almost like absolute maxim as in the manner described by Kant. No exceptions and no considerations for alternate opinions.
I ransack every inch of the space that occupies my mind every single day thinking, “What would it take for me to finally be able to realize how much they are hurting me and how helplessly I’ve accepted them as just being part of me, forgetting they are merely just a excessively tightly secured extension of my visional functions? What would it take for me to realize they are not serving me any real purpose apart from forcing me to continue to see myself in a way that keeps me in a vicious cycle of justifying my self-depreciation? Just maybe, what would happen if I took a pair of scissors and suddenly had enough faith and strength in myself to snap their straps in half from the back of my head? How much faith would I have to have in order to be convinced that I would dislike what I see once they have fallen off much less than I now dislike what I see when they are on in spite of me being aware that what the goggles have me see are delusions? Would I really find relief in seeing myself, for the first time in what feels to me like eons, unfiltered by and free from all the warped and dirty lenses contained by the constricting and inescapable abhorrent goggles? These are all, of course, countless questions I have no idea how to answer unless I dare to attempt to free myself from the perceptual constraints on these entrapping goggles.
This is what body dysmorphia does to me with its goggles. I only end up seeing myself as light or dark, as the switch flipped on and off, as totally hideous or perfectly flawless. As if the lighting in the viewing window I are using to scrutinize every part of myself under the most unforgiving of all microscopes contained within the goggles only has two settings, in focus and zoomed in on my flaws or just completely dark, leaving me oblivious and unaware of all the other parts of me that others continuously seem to admire because they do not see me within the confounds of my goggles’ influence.
Perhaps then, the optimal way my well-meaning supportive peers could encourage and help me with my body dysmorphia goggles would be by helping me to guide me to sever the straps of the goggles I wear rather that just simply discrediting what I see in them. Perhaps while they encourage me, I can keep reminding myself that what I see in the goggles are complete distortions, and how much more credible, empowered, confident, authentic, grounded, content and at peace I will feel when I no longer have to question the illusions the googles project to me upon my eyes. I will keep reminding myself that even if I may be substantially afraid to step outside the overly self-critical familiarity of the goggles today, that once I do, a day will inevitably and eventually come where I will feel just as accustomed to not wearing the goggles as I do feel accustomed to wearing them today.
Yet ultimately, what most motivates me to work towards severing the straps of my goggles is the the thought that once I free myself from the inhibiting familiarity of the goggles I can then help guide, encourage, and empower others in doing the same. I believe we all have the strength within us to pull off these obstructive goggles, even if it does not miraculously all come to us at once, and even if the extent of our strength every day is being able to pull the straps on the goggles a tad looser than they were yesterday. And so today I choose to keep pulling the straps of my goggles at the back of my head more and more loose, until I can take the scissors and cut them with the confidence, strength, and ease that I and everyone else who also wears these goggles all deserve to have when we look upon ourselves as exactly who we are; because, we all deserve to look upon, perceive, accept and embrace ourselves as unfiltered, uncut, unedited, and unaltered as we all are.
Unsplash photo via Mohammad Metri