I hurt for a long time because of childhood sexual abuse. Now I want to provide a safe place for hurting men to connect with other survivors of sexual abuse. Talk to us. You don't have to use your real name to share your experiences or ask questions.

My Body, My Mirror

Three times I tried to explain to my best friend my once-strange response to my body in the mirror. But he didn't get it. He'd say something like, "None of us really sees our body as it is." One time he said, "I look into the mirror and I still see my hair as black." (It's mostly gray now.)

"It's more than that," I said and finally gave up trying to explain. I had tried to make it clear to him that I had held a distorted view of my body. I'd read about women who were bulimic or anorexic, and that they looked into mirrors but didn't see their true shapes. It didn't occur to me that I was like that.

I never saw myself as obese, but I perceived my body as slightly on the heavy side. I'm what people refer to as wiry and occasionally someone calls me skinny. Those remarks puzzled me, because I wondered how they could talk that way. I didn't go on diets, but I did watch my weight and avoided putting on more pounds.

Then something happened, even though I can't remember the date. One morning I had showered and toweled off and looked into the mirror to comb my hair. I stared at my naked body.

"I'm thin," I said aloud. "I'm really thin."

For several minutes, I looked at myself, hardly able to believe the mirror. Then I roared in laughter. Now I knew. Now I understood when people said, "You need to put on a few pounds." Or "You're going to blow away if you get any thinner." I had always laughed and wondered what they meant.

That morning the distortion was gone. I stared at myself from any number of angles.

I can finally see my body as it is.

It seems strange that it took so long. I'd been on the healing journey for two decades. And every now and then I became aware of a new marker—evidence of healing from my childhood victimization.

That morning I felt ecstatic because the distortion was gone. And for the first time in my life, I stared at my reflection and said, "I like my body."

And it was true.


Roger Mann said...

Ha Ha, in all the pictures I've seen of you dear friend, my first thought was "Is he ill?" You have always appeared borderline anorexic to me. It is funny how we get told something enough when we are young and impressionable and it can stick to us like glue and in spite of contrary evidence obvious to anyone else, we cannot see it.

I have never had a particular body image problem to that degree. I have always felt I was not good looking, just an average joe. Then one day I found an old passport photo of me and I was stunned. I was like "wow, you were GOOD looking!

I have spoken to other men on another web site that deals with survivors and this does come up a lot. Some are obsessed with their looks and body while others show no interest and become couch potatoes and obese.

I think it is great that you saw this as a marker for progress and celebrate too by the way. Any progress is progress I always say.

Thanks for your wonderful blog BTW.


Cec Murphey said...

Roger, I can laugh with you now, but for many years I idn't "see" my body.
I'm sure there are others out there who've felt that way--and not just women.

Robert said...

I understand. My issue was always wanting to be small, not noticed, due to shame. Only in the last year since dealing with my past have I realized I am tall. It sounds weird , by I never acknowledged my height. Now prople comment on my height and I actually enjoy hearing it, I want to stand tall because God loves me and is healing me!

Mark Cooper said...

It's taken me a few days to process this post.

When I look back at pictures of myself from 10, 20, 30 years ago, I realize that I was not the repulsive-looking man / teen I then imagined myself to be.

Years ago I trained myself to smile for pictures. Looking at those pics, I see someone who I wish I had known, enjoyed, accepted and been truly kind to - not merely tolerant of.

It's a bit heartrending seeing pictures of myself as a very young boy - 5 and younger. I see the child "who went away". The child full of life and enthusiasm. The child not ashamed of being playful.

Looking at these pictures from the past causes me to realize that I will eventually look back at who I am now, and feel the same.

As I continue to heal, my prayer is that the day will come when I can look in the mirror and honestly praise God for who He has created me to be. Not only my heart, but even my physical body as well.

And my assured hope is this; the day WILL come when all the shame and condemnation towards my body will be gone. I believe that in heaven, I will truly enjoy my body. Not from a self-centered point of view. But from the knowledge that I am a reflection of God's beauty, glory, love and more!