Working with “Aesthetically Challenged”

My last post was all about my story with “ugly” “aesthetically challenged”. Me, letting the pain out.

Now we’re going to focus on working with “ugly” “aesthetically challenged”. With as much mindfulness and kindness as we can manage.

I have learned a thing or two about what helps work with it and what doesn’t.

Talking to people? Generally a bad idea

Unless those people are super enlightened yoga teachers who know in the flesh how much pain you are under and have a lifetime of practicing compassion for others…?

Just don’t talk to people.

Seriously, they don’t get it.

I have never met a single person, in all my days on this Earth, who understood, remotely, just how much pain is lying under the weight of “being aesthetically challenged”.

“Ugliness” is such a taboo in our society, especially for women, that most people simply cannot handle talking about it.

This is one of those occasions where you have to go all Possessive Squirrel and be seriously protective of your pain. Guard it, treasure it, shelter it from everyone else.

And then, in the privacy of your own heart, you work with it.

Sweet talking: “You will be beautiful to someone”

You know what? BITE-ME.

Whether someone will like you or not is neither here nor there.

Fact is, you are not beautiful. This is your reality. And when it comes to working with your stuff, your reality is the only reality that matters.

Oh, sure, you can unpack this “I am not beautiful” and find that the fear that you will never be loved is hiding in there.

If that happens, then chances are that people telling you “someone will find you beautiful” will only trigger resistance. Because… HELLO! This mythical person isn’t there in your life yet!!! And guess what? You can’t tell they will show up one day.

Not only that but chances are this “I am not beautiful” pattern is hiding other stuff as well. Such as “I don’t love myself”. Or “my mother didn’t love me”.

Whatever it is, you have to go and find out, and you can only do that by listening to the pattern really closely. Trying to force yourself to forget about your pain because “someone will find you beautiful” will distract you and not allow you to find out.

Also, it’s violent.

Also, it assumes that other people’s perceptions of you matter more than your own. Which is rubbish. (Feminism covers this one well)

“But you’re not ugly”

This one is similar to the one above.

People telling you that “things are this way, NOT THE WAY YOU PERCEIVE THEM” is pointless and useless.

Just because our entire society does it virtually all the time doesn’t make it any less pointless or useless.

If you are upset because you are ugly then you’re upset because you’re ugly.

THIS is your reality, as far as you know. And this “reality” or perception of reality, is bringing up pain.

You cannot work with your pain if you deny it because “someone thinks you’re not ugly”.

All pain is legitimate. Always. This is where we start.

“Just think differently about things”

We like to think “if only we change our perception of reality”… And sure, that is part of what we do in this whole mindfulness process. We even have a name for it: “reframe”.

But here’s the thing: we only attempt “reframes” AFTER we have acknowledged the pain. AFTER we have looked at the pain and said “you are allowed to be here, of course this is painful, this pain is legitimate, of course it hurts”.

When we attempt a reframe in perspective BEFORE we acknowledge the pain, we are forcing things. And it’s violent and abusive.
It’s the equivalent of saying to someone “your views of the world are wrong, and they are also hurting you, now aren’t you a doodoo-head for thinking them? Just change them”.

‘Cuz THAT’s gonna work, yo!

First thing always, always, ALWAYS is to make room for the pain. Acknowledge the pain. Tell the pain that of course it’s legitimate, of course there’s a damn good reason for us to be hurting.

Then it usually happens that reframes arise of their own accord.

After you have acknowledged the pain (and then acknowledged it some more) you will automagically land somewhere like this:

well… yeah… we are not beautiful… that’s how it is… nothing I can do about it, I guess…

This is a mind shift you have to arrive at in your own time and on your own. Nobody can force it on you.

It takes time, and love, and patience, and acknowledging the pain.

It’s a process and it takes as long as it takes.

“Fixing it” = Resistance

Too often it happens that a part of us is convinced that there is something we can do about this situation to “fix it” or “change it”.

So, of course, we are stuck in resistance. Resistance means “not accepting things the way they are”.

There is a part of me who seems convinced that there is something I can do to change my looks.

This conviction has been fuelled in no small part by a lifetime spent with my mother.
Me: “I am ugly”
My Mum: “Well, if you go around looking like that! You need to CHANGE YOUR CLOTHES, WEAR MAKE UP, DO YOUR HAIR, *insert endless list of feminine fixing approaches*

Yes, my Mum was trying to be helpful.
It’s not easy living on this world as an… “aesthetically challenged” woman. *sigh*

The point is, there is “hope”. Also a result of realising that I wasn’t beautiful at age 5 and hoping things would change with time.

There’s still the lingering hope that I will change… that I’ll discover some magical product that will change me. That I will get plastic surgery on my face and I will become beautiful.

“Ugly duckling into swan” story…

You know what the issue is with hoping?

It’s not acknowledging the present pain. It’s the equivalent of this:

Part of you who thinks she’s ugly: “I’m hurting”
Part of you who tries to help: “well, you won’t be hurting in the future”
Part of you who thinks she’s ugly: “But I’m hurting NOW”
Part of you who tries to help: “well, you won’t be! Sometime in the future it will go away. So quit your complaining!”

You see, this is not acknowledging the present pain.

It’s not engaging with the present pain and giving love and compassion.

It’s ignoring the present pain and shifting your attention to the “fix”.

Perhaps there are things I can do to look better… Perhaps there aren’t. The ultimate point is: I feel ugly now. Right this minute. There is pain and it needs my attention.

And even if everything was magically fixed in the future, guess what: I would *still* have pain in my past.

Unhealed, unacknowledged PAST pain will STILL demand your attention. So the sooner you give it, the better.

So… How on EARTH do we go on about acknowledging the pain?

There are lots of techniques to acknowledge the pain.

Personally, I haven’t found one I am truly happy with. (But that might be because I’m a super tough nut)

That said, here are a few points:

  • Let go of the storyline.

You might need to practice meditation for a while. But in essence, the storyline goes like this:

“I am ugly. Why am I so ugly? Why does the Universe hate me so? Nobody loves me. I don’t love myself. My life has been an utter disaster. I will never be happy. Why did I have to fall on my face when I was a kid? Twice? The Universe hates me”

The tears will begin to sting, and you will launch into the storyline.

The trick is to drop the storyline and just cry.

I’m not saying it’s easy.
But the alternative is to bottle up pain, and that’s even worse.

  • Yoga helps: yoga is a fabulous way to work with your pain.

Again, the same principle applies. The tears will come up and you will have to let them flow.

For a version of this technique, you can see this post.

I hope some of this helps.

I am wishing you: Kindness. Compassion. Understanding. Love. Caring.