I See Me

I don’t know when it was that I started hiding myself. After the birth of my younger daughter, I shied away from social media. If it were for better reasons, I would have lauded myself. But putting on weight, looking fleshier than my usual self dented my confidence. I kept telling myself I’ll return to the virtual world once looked and felt better.

The problem ran much deeper. Doesn’t it always? My physicality was not the problem.

My attitude to it was.

I stopped updating my DPs. Generic images of flowers and skies were my go-to instead of a face. I justified their presence as my bid to keep my life private. When group photos were suggested, I’d volunteer to click them- ensuring that I didn’t feature in them. I would take photos of family and friends, my kids without featuring in them. When they would argue with me about it, I’d get in the frame squeamishly.

Last year, as I lay on the operating table for a surgery, I realised that if I were to die there, my kids would barely have photos to associate with my memory. In keeping myself out of the frame, I had also left no visual imprints on their lives. What was feeding my imprudent hesitancy? I had dropped a few kilos, I looked decent and in the last four years, I had worked on improving my mind- progressing in my reading, writing and my work.

Creatures of habit that we are, I had got so accustomed to hiding myself that even when the reasons that had triggered this behaviour had subsided, I continued with living out the sentence.

I credit myself for having a progressive mindset. And yet the narrative that we need to look good to be worthy caught up with me. That I wrote, read, painted- goddamn it I created art in two different forms, even if was passably ok- was not enough.

I valued these things more than how they looked in everyone I came across. Kindness, character, grace were what caught my eye. They were more than their looks- a fact that I forgot about my own self.

It took a gaggle of women passing snide remarks on me to push me out of my comfort zone. How was I any less than anyone else? Who was making me feel lesser than what I had a right to feel?

I have comforted my children at their worst. Hell, I have comforted myself at my shittiest. I have fed hungry souls, taken in abandoned puppies, nurtured birds to good health and released them. I have seen the depths of hell and clawed myself out of it with just a pen. I have read 300 books in four years. And yet ….yet I felt I was not worthy.

I wasn’t perfect- something that I accepted so readily about others but had a tough time forgiving myself for. There were umpteen moments of indecision, the doubts creeping up behind me, waking me up at night and asking me to return to the placid land of comfort and concealment.

It started with putting a face to my name. I did that for my Whatsapp first. I forced myself to take selfies. My record here was dismal- even for a millenial. I taught myself to look in the mirror and not cringe. Most of my friends had been forced to voice call me- I initiated videocalls with them catching them by surprise first.

How did that help me? In a very intangible way, the shift in my attitude began changing my self perception. The kindness, the grace that I offered to the world, I extended to myself. I began respecting myself. First the kilos then the inches shed, the hair and skin got better. My equations with those around me improved, I began dressing well. Moreover, I started to feel better about who I was.

All because I learnt to take up space. I risked been seen.

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