The room is filled with the sounds of celebration—from polite laughter to raucous merriment. The click clack of heels mingles with the swooshing of skirts, and the almost silent breathlessness of corsets. The expanse of stone walls stretch beyond sight and are only broken up by the majestic columns adorned with wreaths and flowers. The grandeur continues to the ceiling where it looks as if the stars’ light has been harnessed for it sparkles with gold and silver. Dozens of fireplaces line the walls, the flames engulfing the chill air that swirls in tendrils every time the doors open to introduce new guests. It smells gently of cinnamon, but more overwhelmingly of perfume, as the ladies dance to the gentle thrum of the orchestra.
I stand hesitantly by the door as my coat is taken and the pressure to mingle and dance stirs within me. I should be used to this by now—I masquerade as a lady dressed in silks, opals glitter at my neck and barrettes garnish my hair. But there is a more powerful force within me—a self-disgust and self-doubt that constantly repeats that I will never be enough. I bury this deep within my heart and vehemently shove the key into the lock, hoping I locked it tight enough to avoid escape for the evening. I smile as friends approach me—I laugh, I commiserate, I cry and hug, I dance and serve. Yet, deep within me, the insecurity that I locked so tight is seeping through the cracks. It gnaws its way out like a persistent hunger, desperate for satiation. Once I realize it has broken free of its cage, I redouble my efforts to hide it, but the more I try to hide it, the more I pretend that it doesn’t exist or doesn’t really affect me, is the more power I give it.
BENEATH THE MASK
I masquerade in these beautiful garments, smiling, and laughing, hoping against hope that my façade will convince the most doubtful person—myself. I hope that if I dress pretty enough and pretend I have confidence, then I may begin to believe they are really true. But, the force locked within me never seems to loose its grip on my heart. Who am I deceiving? I am trying to be someone that I am not. I am not beautiful, no matter how many fashionable clothes I buy. I will never be judged as skinny no matter how many workouts I complete. I will never be happy as long as I persist in this façade.
What brought this sudden, seeming backslide in my recovery? Well, a whole host of things combined against me—the holidays, the plethora of wonderful food, the need to impress family, stress-induced acne, and a recent attempt to restrict my diet. Truly, I didn’t even realize I was restricting because I had convinced myself that I really wasn’t hungry, that my body didn’t want any food. And yet, my body saw through the lie—so that soon enough, I was bingeing uncontrollably and felt as if I was drowning again. I was emotionally vulnerable and had not prepared adequately for the stressors ahead, so that when these factors all hit at once, I had doomed myself.
So, where does this leave me? It leaves me feeling extremely vulnerable, as if I am naked on stage, the audience horrified. I feel like wearing fashionable clothes is how I help myself feel better about who I am and the body I have, but that is not the permanent fix or inner change for which I yearn. I do not feel that wearing fashionable clothes or makeup is wrong, however instead of wearing them because I enjoy how my body feels in the fabrics or because I like the way the bronzer enhances my bone structure, I wear them to hide my flaws and to enable me to look in the mirror without cringing. It is these motives for wearing the clothes and makeup that cause them to be a masquerade instead of a statement of confidence or personality. I am only just realizing this and feel that there is a long road ahead of me to change these core beliefs about my body and the role of clothes and makeup. In some ways, I feel as if I am back at the beginning, realizing again, yet also for the first time, that I hate my body and I don’t know how to fix it. In other ways, I feel like this is just another step along the path toward acceptance, gratitude, and joy. Quite the contradiction, isn’t it?