Today I got my eyebrows waxed. This is a usual monthly occurrence. This time though, I had it done at a spa in a hotel in South Africa. I am on a safari vacation with my family. Though I am usually wary of experimenting with new aestheticians, given that they have the potential to completely spoil your appearance- I was overdue, and with five star ratings, I reasoned that the staff were sufficiently proficient. So I went for it.
You guessed right: it went horribly wrong.
My right eyebrow is now twice as thick as my left eyebrow.
And it has upset me terribly. In fact, I cannot look at myself in the mirror without obsessing over it. Every time I have a conversation with someone, I feel that they are staring at my eyebrows. Yes, although I hate to admit, and try my hardest to present a very self-confident facade, this confirms that I am still quite self-conscious.
The origin of my obsessiveness: anorexia
Eating disorders at their roots are characterized by obsession – in behaviors and mentality.
If I could describe my time as an anorexic in one word, I would choose the term “ obsession ”. Obsessive thoughts, in my constant remuneration about my weight and food consumption.Obsessive behaviours, in my measuring of food and ritualistic eating habits.
The link between obsession and eating disorders is the precise reason why I wont step foot on the scale.This is a common preventative relapse strategy for people previously afflicted by an eating disorder. Why? Because scales trigger obsession. They generate numbers, and numbers cater perfectly to obsession. Quantifiability. A perceived viable measure of ‘’success’’. Just consider the very common manifestation of OCD as proof: counting. Then what better way to assure I am not sucked in, once again, to the injurious tide of the sea of disordered eating, than to avoid the scale?
Though I managed to put my eating disorder to bed and stave off its return through various stratagems, I believe that I was never successful in completely eradicating the acute self-awareness born of it – a lingering obsessiveness as it relates to my physicality. It is in no way an obsessiveness that’s nefariously affecting my day to day life, it’s one which wades in the background, resurfacing from time to time when I’m at my most vulnerable. Nevertheless, my persisting rapport with Mr.Obsession, which I believe to be the only permanent psychological consequence of my eating disorder, is most definitely the reason why my eyebrow situation has been so cataclysmic.
This fixation on my eyebrows is a perfect example of what I consider “ transference ” of obsession or ideological preoccupation. Entirely aware of the damage I did to my body and the health consequences incurred when I was a 12-year-old anorexic, I am hell-bent on never relapsing. I know that weight is a danger zone – that I can really hurt myself. I cannot allow myself to obsess over that again. This doesn’t mean that I am 100% self-accepting all the time, as I wish I could be. Regrettably, this self-esteem battle is seemingly interminable, though much diminished in intensity. In my occasional weaker moments, I can easily manage to discover other aspects of my physicality to fixate on.
Here are some latest obsessions or “ transferences ”:
The overgrown roots of my bleached hair.
My “moustache” – the slight amount of hair that has grown on my upper lip since puberty.
Acne. At 17-18 years old came the red, blotchy, bumpy skin for the first time. I have invested innumerable hours into this problem. Daily extractions. Becoming acquainted with every food I should avoid and every supposed curative food. Researching each possible medical treatment. Despite how cataclysmic I regarded my skin condition, I was laughed at by my dermatologist and his assistant when I showed up for a consultation for my “very mild” (in his words) acne. Apparently, my skin was in good shape, and I had completely blown things out of proportion.
I have described to you three recurrent, yet very mild, body image issues of mine that are unrelated to weight. Most people would think it’s ridiculous that I ever allow such trivial “problems” to consume even the slightest amount of my time and energy when there are far more important things going on in the world. And they’re right – it is ridiculous. It’s ridiculous because though a firmly-established sense of identity is critical to our psychological viability as humans, identity is something which far transcends, and I would argue excludes, the physical world. For that reason, I will continue to attempt to extinguish the fire of obsession that smolders in my psyche.
Severing ties with Mr. Obsession
I just need to remind myself to stop – stop giving attention to my perceived flaws.
Is it vanity? To be so dependent on contentment with my appearance for happiness? Does it evidence a deep rooted self-esteem issue? Or is it normal, in our very materialistic society? I don’t have the answer for that. What I do know is that I can help myself. I just need to remind myself how menial these “ issues ” are. I should really be focusing my attention on my strengths, my internal beauty, instead of my illusory physical imperfections that only I seem to bother with.
I’m choosing to treat this case of serious eyebrow asymmetry as a self-esteem challenge. Let’s go.