Below is a response I received to my recent post regarding the continuum of mental health and the intersection of self-worth, narcissism and perfectionism. This woman’s words provide such a powerful example of how the need for perfection sneaks its way into our lives, shaping us–literally (in this case) and figuratively–without us even realizing it. It also serves as a reminder of just how much there is lurking beneath the surface of our exterior and how important it is that we check-in with ourselves regularly to ask what is prompting our thoughts, choices and actions. These words, I believe, are worthy of being shared. Read, enjoy, and join the discussion below.
I have been thinking about your thoughtful and insightful post. Coming from a background of a MSW and a psychiatrist father, I understand your thoughts regarding mental health and the concept that we are all on a continuum of mental health versus mental ill-health. Sometimes we move too far left or right and find that our lives are negatively affected by our beliefs, the emotions that are created and the behavioral choices we thus make. We all do it; we all are on that continuum. Most of the time we have no real idea why we make the decisions we do or why we have the automatic emotional responses that we have.
Three weeks ago, I made a difficult, yet freeing decision. I had my breast implants removed after 35 years of them being a part of my body and my psyche. Now, as per your comments, one could easily place me on the continuum of Body Dysmorphic Disorder, which as you know shares features with OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder). Now, I could and would say my “mental health” is strong. However, when you think about it, why would I let someone cut me open and put a man-made sac of made-up chemical crap inside of me? The idea of it now absolutely enrages me. It all comes down to self esteem, and seeing yourself through the lens of a society obsessed with beauty and perfection. Long ago I jumped on the vanity/perfection train fueled through the media, which feeds on the insecurities of women. I should say all people. I think most everyone who knows me now would say that I am a strong, independent woman, but that wasn’t me before. We, as women, all struggle with listening to our own inner voice against the roaring sounds of the external world.
When I recently went to the surgeon to have my first consult, I saw all the implants in every size and shape in the room, waiting for the next insecure woman to pick her size and perfect body. There are pamphlets about every type of plastic surgery everywhere. I felt myself enveloped in ANGER, which was close to rage. Everything about this picture was wrong. I knew without a doubt that I wanted off the train. Now at 61 years old, you might think I would have gotten off years ago, but that level of physical/mental change is difficult to truly integrate into your being. Now, I am tiny and full of big scars, but I truly feel a sense of pride and freedom. The reflection in the mirror is not one I yet know. It will take time to integrate into my psyche and sense of self, but it is definitely the reflection of the woman I am ready to embrace.
Deep retrospection and brutal honestly is what I have found opens my heart and eyes as to why I created the reality that I did. Most importantly, it shows me how and why I want to alter that reality. It brings me to the present and points me in the direction I want to take in my tomorrows. Thanks for your honest blog.”