I went clothes shopping today.

Well, that was the idea, but 15 minutes of trying on clothes and immediately peeling them off later, I stomped out of there.

And promptly burst into tears.

My startled partner comforted me as I tried to find words for how I felt.

You don’t know. I said. You don’t know what it’s like to struggle to find clothes that fit, let alone look good. And when you find something, it’s often too expensive to justify.

You don’t know what it’s like to have to fight every day to accept yourself for how you look, to not beat yourself up. To hate what you see in the mirror some days.

I snuffled a bit and went on…

You feel jealous of the people who can just grab something off the rack and it looks great. You feel judged by others, because you realise you are judging yourself.

Yup.

Now for the record, I know that others have it worse, that these are privileged problems to have, but this is still my reality.

I even found myself considering buying laxatives.

And then immediately felt ashamed.

Then guilty.

I will keep fighting to accept myself, validate myself independently of media and other external influence.

But it ain’t easy.

What do you call that space between the person you really are and the person you strive to be?

You know that space I mean, where you wish you didn’t care about things like tidy sock drawers but you actually do. Where you try to be spontaneous and devil-may-care but you actually feel boring and predictable. Where you try to laugh off silly things but inside you’re sulking and brooding. When you strive for generosity and endless acceptance of others but you’re feeling selfish and neglected. Where you aim for confident and sexy but you’re really insecure and feeling frumpish.*

How do you bridge that gap?

Is bridging that gap even a good idea? Or is it that very tension which keeps us on our toes, a psychological routine we run through everyday just to stay mentally fit? As if the effort of striving for personal improvement is enough to actually cause personal improvement. Is it like a horizon? Endlessly out of reach, even as we do make progress towards ever better versions of ourselves?

And what if that gap is too big and can never be bridged? Have we then been perpetuating an unrealistic (even if much hoped for) portrayal of ourselves? If the reality of our true nature is too far from the version of ourselves we try to be, then are we just lying to ourselves and worse, to others?

For some of us, isn’t this one of our greatest fears? That we’ll get ‘found out’? That our loved ones will gaze at us in mild horror when it suddenly dawns on them that we’re not that  interesting/generous/fill-in-your-appropriate-idealisation-here? That the person they fell in love with is deeply flawed and so very very human? (Suddenly becoming aware of what my friend calls ‘the fine print’)

Or is it in such moments of beautiful and painful vulnerability that we are being truly honest, bravely trusting others to really see us for all we are. A point of singularity where our authentic self is painfully aware of the distance to the horizon and for a brief moment, we are revealed. Instead of standing on one end of the bridge, we are in the middle, in the fog, in between one or the other.

Perhaps that is one of the best gifts we can give someone, our vulnerability, our moments where we are filled with fear.

Is that then what love is? To love another human being precisely for their very flaws, which they are painfully aware of and may valiantly be trying to overcome? To accept the fine print and more importantly, that bridge we all walk.

 

* I’m sure some of us have a smaller gap than others, but I would wager that most of us have some kind of authenticity gap. How many of us can be truly authentic at all times?