The Danger of Distorted Self-perception

Note: this post uses adult language like the word fuck. Be warned.

I felt it slither over me the night before. A certain sadness mixed with fear and disappointment. I tried to address it in my nightly journal but all I could write was, “Must keep my energy balanced as much as possible. I’m tired of waiting for my love…But it’s where I am. Must make peace. It’s the same, but different–gotta stay strong.” 

I have a tender spot in my heart–a place that can easily be triggered due to its sensitivity–and the older I get, the worse it becomes because my fears, gone unchecked, can distort my self-perception, making it difficult to believe the truth: That I am desirable, worthy of love and will find my life partner one day.

Having not truly been in a loving, sustainable partnership has created a wound in my heart that I work daily to heal. I’ve been okay the past few weeks, hell, I even managed to write a romantic screenplay where my fictional characters find love. Then, in a moment of authenticity and self-possession, I cut my natural hair–short, short.

For the first couple weeks of my haircut, I was fine, liberated even. I smiled every time I caught my reflection in the mirror. I even began offering more kindness to my brown body–its rolls and dimples; its heavy thighs and softness. All was well; I was chugging right along being all positive and shit. Then, in a moment of confidence and light, I went to my barber so he could buzz cut my hair into a style.

It’s interesting, I can take Divine love and apply it to my heart, healing old childhood wounds but when it comes time to apply it to my outward appearance, it has difficulty absorbing into my soul deep enough for me to see myself differently. My distorted self-perception contributes to my wounding because most days, I fear I don’t look right. By right, I mean the “right” I’ve internalized and constructed over the years. This “right” is based on unrealistic beauty standards, fatphobia and anti-blackness.

Yes, today’s post is like that. The whole truth and nothing but.

I’m in a battle. I guess with my head and heart. My head is concerned that not only am I single at 40 but, I’m Black and fat and now I’ve just gone and buzz cut my hair–WTF?! Imagine my head screaming at me in the voice of Dionne, from Clueless, when she discovers her boyfriend Murray cut his hair. 

Something like, “What are you going to do now!? You already had three strikes against you–you’re 40, fat, Black and now bald?! I guess you didn’t want to find love after all!”

This mindset is a result of years of internalizing fucked up beauty standards that uplift white thinness. If you’re not white and thin, that’s okay, you can be Black and thin but not too Black. And if you wear the natural hair that sprouts from your head, it must be cute and manageable–not so African-ish. Basically, you should possess a combination of rightness that still makes you desirable, especially if you are fat, and Black.

Meanwhile, my heart is like, “Woah, wait a minute. You are beautiful and you have every right to not only cut your hair but to also embrace the freedom that comes with it! There are no strikes against you–fuck that noise!”

Listen to my heart, right? I know, obviously. Unfortunately, this is the danger of distorted self-perception; I know the truth but distortion blocks me from it because the truth, as beautiful as it seems, it doesn’t add up. At least not for me. Like Julia Roberts says in Pretty Woman, “The bad stuff is easier to believe.” Over the years, I’ve managed to convince myself that it wasn’t my childhood wounds or the need for emotional growth that kept romantic love away, it was my fat, blackness and now fat, Black, 40-year-old baldness, lol!

Holy Shit.

That’s the thing with distorted self-perception; under no circumstances will it offer us the truth. It wants us to take the dark road to self-despair. It wants us to believe the lie–whatever the lie is for you. It convinces us that the lie protects us from disappointment; it keeps us safe. Distorted self-perception keeps us from expecting good and wonderful things to come our way; it blocks beauty–the beauty in all things. It feeds on our fears. It isolates, warps and twists our thinking to the point that we sound ridiculous to outsiders. We may even sound ridiculous to ourselves but we must believe the lie because if not, we’ll be out there all vulnerable, hoping for our dreams to manifest. And if they don’t manifest, or don’t in the way we expect, then we experience even more pain.

What I’m learning, even through sharing this with you, is that the lie is a sonofabitch. It can’t be trusted. Even as difficult as it is to believe the good stuff, we can’t succumb to the lie. Distorted self-perception in service of the lie does nothing for us; even if it seems better to expect the worst or become hyper-focused on what we perceive as lacking in order to better prepare ourselves for the inevitable, ultimately, it will destroy us.

Look, if you’ve ever felt like I have, then you know sometimes you just don’t feel like pulling yourself out of the darkness. You don’t feel like giving yourself a pep talk, especially if, like me, you want romantic love and it seems like that shit is not on the horizon at all. But in the end, we can’t let our fears, distorted self-perception and the lie win. We must do what we can to listen to our hearts because our hearts hold the truth. We have to muster up enough courage to fight another day; to believe another day; to see the beauty of who we are. Because guess what? We’re beautiful and no, not the world’s fucked up standard of beauty or its textbook definition. I mean true beauty in its most natural and authentic definition; the nuance of our personalities; the dimension of our creativity; the strength of our bodies and the shades of our skin. We are not what the world says–we are more than a combination of superficial elements. We are stunning human beings. 

Friends, let’s not fall into the pit of distorted self-perception. It’s nothing to play with. It doesn’t deserve our energy. If you find yourself too weak to fight off the darkness, read this blog again, get out in nature, take a nap, drink some water, hug a dog–do something to remind you of the truth: you are fucking glorious, desirable and worthy of Divine and romantic love. At least it’s what I’m going to do whenever I need it.

All my love,

Chantell Monique

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