When You Look At Me

We live our lives making assumptions ... judging others by what they look like on the outside before getting to know them. We look in the mirror and judge ourselves. We assume others are judging us for our "flaws."

Over the past few months I've encountered negative comments from people who don't know me well, or at all, about my physical appearance. The negativity has been slowly eating away at my own self-image. I'm tired of feeling horrible about my appearance. I need to get to a place where I can practice on myself the same non-judgement I practice on others.

When you look at me, you see my tattoos. 

You judge me because of them. Perhaps you like them. Perhaps you assume they were something I did in my rebellious youth - a bad decision that I must regret, or will regret in the future. Perhaps they look horrible to you.

What you don't see is the meaning behind these tattoos....memorial tattoos for four of my babies, born into God's hands, not mine; two tattoos covering scars from abuse and self-harm, God's Word covering the wounds, reminding me how I strive to live my life; my family, friends, and memories etched onto my arms and legs. I love my tattoos. As a matter of fact, I was blessed to have a talented young tattoo artist do many of them over the past year. 

When you look at me, you see my weight.

You judge me because of it. Perhaps you don't mind it. Perhaps you assume that I overeat, eat fast food daily, or survive on junk food. Perhaps I look disgusting to you.

What you don't see is my struggle with multiple autoimmune illnesses and all that entails. You don't see the steroids and other medications that help keep the weight on and the lack of mobility that adds to the problem. You don't see that I get very little sleep due to extreme pain and medications - sleep deprivation messes with your digestive system and causes weight gain. You don't know that untreated Celiac disease caused damage to my gastrointestinal system that is healing thanks to a gluten-free diet. You don't see all that it working against me when it comes to losing weight or that I rarely eat out, and do eat healthy foods in proper sized portions. 

When you look at me, you see me walking like a healthy person.

You judge me because of this, too. If you know me, perhaps you're impressed. If you don't, or don't know me well, you might ask why on earth I would have a handicapped placard if I can walk. Perhaps I don't look disabled to you.

What you don't see is the pain I'm in with every step, every movement. What you might not realize is that, for me, walking is preferable to being in a wheelchair due to the severe pain sitting for prolonged periods causes ... or that some days my arms don't work well enough for crutches to be an option.

When you look at me, and then comment to me what you see, I start to look at myself that way, too. 

The negative comments do get to me. So do the positive ones. The funny thing is, when the negative comments pile up, they make the positive comments more difficult to believe. 

To those who chose to comment on my appearance...
Yes, I'm fat. I struggle every day not to gain more weight, despite all that is stacked against me.

Yes, I have lots of tattoos. I love them. They mean a lot to me. This is my body, my skin, and I'll do what I want with and to it, thank you very much.

Yes, I'm mobility-challenged. Thank you for standing up for people like me with your concern for me using a handicapped parking space when I can walk on my own two feet. Please believe me when I say I only use the space when I need to. 

What if, when we look at others, we look past their physical appearance and instead offer a kind word, an opportunity to get to know the beauty within? What if, when we look at ourselves, we do the same?


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