Inner/Outter Disconnect

I have a confession.

Since I stopped working in an office, I almost never get dressed.

Starting to go to the gym at least got me out of my pajamas. But now, I only get out of my yoga pants and t-shirt when I have to go somewhere other than the gym. I even sleep in the damn things. When I do get dressed, my kids ask me where I’m going.

I’ve had this post on my mind for a few days, and have really struggled to write it. I think that means that I’ve touched a raw nerve. It’s really difficult to talk about myself in respect to femininity.

I’m not talking about a difficulty with gender identity. I have no problem identifying as a woman. I just have a hard time thinking about it. In fact, a lot of my past self-hatred has come from being incredibly uncomfortable with having large breasts or a rounded belly or full hips–things that announce to anyone looking at me that, yes, I am a girl.

I loved being pregnant. I wasn’t sick. I felt fabulous. But, I got this weird, sick feeling in the pit of my stomach whenever anyone would start to wax all Mother Earth-y on me about the awesomeness of being a woman. I didn’t want anyone I didn’t know to fawn over me or touch me. I didn’t nurse my children for very long, because I couldn’t stand it. I can’t even put into words why. It was too–much. It made me physically miserable almost to the point of being ill.

I’m full of contradictions. I like people to notice me, to read what I write or appreciate my work. I have a competitive nature, although it’s mostly turned inward, and I don’t want to fade into the background in most ways. Except I do want to, physically.

I was happy to be a girl growing up. But, I did not want my body to change. I didn’t dream of having boobs. I most certainly didn’t want my period. I was nearly 15 when it started, and I did not have a single Dear God, It’s Me, Margaret moment. Not a single one.

I love clothes. I have an entire room of gorgeous vintage dresses. But none of them fit me. Most wouldn’t fit on one leg. I buy them knowing that someone else will love them.

I’m uncomfortable wearing clothes that draw attention to my body. I have a hard time knowing, when someone says that I look nice, whether they are being sincere. That leaves me feeling unsettled.

So, while I have a good eye for fashion (I’ve worked as a stylist for a photographer and I own a vintage clothing store), I do not ever apply it to myself. I’m great at putting together outfits for my daughters.  For anyone. But, it seems, that dressing myself forces me to spend too much time looking at myself.

I’m realizing that this is one of my mountains. If I’m going to heal from decades of self-hatred, I have to get over my inability to look at myself. I have to stop being afraid to be a girl.

In fact, I just have to stop being afraid to see myself. I have very few pictures of myself. I’m always behind the camera. In the last few weeks, I’ve asked Kevin to take a few pictures of me to post here–roller skating and bowling. But they are difficult for me to look at. I skim past them quickly when I come across them. Not because I hate how fat I am, or I think I’m particularly ugly or find myself grotesque in someway. I’m capable of understanding that when other people see me, they don’t go running the other way. I just really don’t like to see myself. It discomforts me. I’ve developed this huge chasm between my interior self and my exterior self and seeing pictures of myself is too weird.

This is going to sound strange, but the first step to bridging the gap is to get rid of a lot of clothes. My goal this week is to pack up everything I own that doesn’t fit me and give it to someone who can wear it. That isn’t going to leave me with a lot. But it will leave me with an idea of what I have.

I’m easing into this. Next week’s goal will be to get dressed.

I have an idea brewing. Some sort of photographic project. Not an OOTD thing. Something else. I’m not sure. I’ll keep you posted.

I will be incredibly happy if someone posts that they get where I’m coming from. Am I alone in this weird self-disconnect thing?



Filed under body, mind

20 responses to “Inner/Outter Disconnect

  1. Andy Jo

    I absolutely get it. When I work from home, it’s grubbies all the way… I have LOADS of lovely clothes, but I often will default to the outfits that will be the quickest, still be appropriate for my job, but are generally unremarkable.

    Some say I look good, but I know I could look better. Good and Better are relative terms, but I totally get the disconnect between the inner and outer self.

    Photos? An eternal challenge. At my later middle age I’m thinking I WISH I had taken more pictures of people and fewer pictures of places and objects as I went through life. Scenery is great, but I wish I had pictures of myself with friends. I could not BEAR to see myself in photos. I still can’t, but I still have that regret. I MADE myself let others take pictures of me and my mother the last time I visited — she’s up there in years and I won’t have her for that much longer. It was hard, and I can scarcely look at them. But at least I will not have the regret that I did not take the picture, and I will have the memories of the time with my mother.

    –Andy Jo–

    • I know what you mean about the regret. Sometimes it physically hurts that I don’t have more pictures of myself with my mother (she died when I was 24) or my grandparents. I have lots of pictures of lots of people and places, but I’m not in very many of them. It’s like I only have my own word for it that I was there.

  2. Dee

    I can relate to what you’re saying. I’ve spent a lot of time lately working from home. Sometimes I get started working on a project in my pajamas and end up not showering until afternoon. But, I’m always showered and dressed when my husband gets home from work. Not in dresses, but in jeans or cotton trousers and sweaters, which is what I like to wear in the winter.

    See, I’m not that girly either. And, if we don’t actually feel comfortable in dresses, then why should we wear them? I don’t like keeping my knees together when I sit. I don’t like the choice between exposed legs and uncomfortable shoes or an extra layer of clothing (leggings or tights) with boots.

    Sometimes I want the look I can get with skirts and dresses, but it still feels like putting on a costume to me. When I was growing up in the 70s and 80s, there wasn’t this pressure to look “feminine” all the time, and to be honest, I can take it or leave it. I bought myself a couple of retro-style flower print dresses that fit well and looked cute on the hanger. When I saw pictures of myself in them, I thought “that’s not me.” So, I’ve decided to make peace with my taste in clothing being on the androgynous side.

    I still have a sense of style – I’ve got a wardrobe of cool coats, jackets, silk scarfs and jewelry to wear with my jeans and trousers. I’m just not a skirt and dress person.

    Point is… wear what makes you feel comfortable and happy. Taking care of your appearance and having style doesn’t need to mean vintage style dresses – especially not on weekday afternoons. But yeah. I find that showering and changing out of the sweats/jammies is a must for my self respect. In fact, I’ve been telling myself that I should get up and dressed before my husband to prevent jammies-in-the-afternoon incidents.

    • Oh, I’m definitely not talking about wearing a dress every day. This hits what I mean on the nail:

      But yeah. I find that showering and changing out of the sweats/jammies is a must for my self respect.

      I’m a jeans kind of girl–I just need to get into them, and maybe comb my hair, for reasons other than going to the grocery store.

  3. noreen

    I could have written this post myself, so yes, I know exactly where you are coming from, and how difficult it is to even think about, much less write about.

    I’ve never liked being touched by other people, or in any way reminded of the physicality of my body. I didn’t think about fashion or makeup for myself, because, in my head, if I did, other people would look at me and think something along the lines of “what is *she* thinking, trying to make a silk purse out of sow’s ear.” And what I most didn’t want was other people to notice my body. They could notice my mind, sure, which is why I write better than I speak, and why I love trivia games, board games, and anything where I can excel in a non-physical manner.

    But, I also love clothes. I dream about that strapless cupcake dress from dominodollhouse, and wearing frilly things. I have a file folder of clothes ripped from magazines. I look at other people’s OOTD pics and imagine inhabiting their style. I would make a killer stylist for other people.

    This is my mountain as well, and I’m slowly climbing it. For me, some of the healing is finally coming from my boyfriend. Shaunta, I am 42 years old, and this is the first relationship I have allowed myself to have. And one day I realized — he can’t stop touching me. We cannot be in a room together without him reaching out and having a hand on my skin. He touches the parts of me I have always hated and forces me to notice them. He puts a hand on my stomach and I don’t feel the need to suck it in. Allowing someone outside of myself to celebrate my body is finally allowing me to see the worth in it myself. If I got nothing else out of this relationship (and I get plenty of other really great stuff from it) that would have made finally allowing someone to get near me well worth it.

    When you posted earlier about learning to love bits of yourself at a time, and falling in love with your feet, I laughed, because that is me, too. I hope we can both over come this mind/body disconnect, because without these bodies, we would just be brains in a jar.

    • Thank you for writing this Noreen. I was feeling really vulnerable and needed to know I wasn’t alone.

      I do the same thing with other people’s OOTD posts. I go through shopping websites and pick out things, but don’t buy them. And I do the same thing–I think people will see me all dolled up and think I look as ridiculous as I feel. I think the key is maybe to stop feeling ridiculous, but I’m not entirely sure how to do that. I’m working on it, though.

      We have a ton in common. Email me at if you ever want to talk.


  4. Wow. I’m totally blown away by this post and its comments. Yes, I totally relate to all of this. Yes, I am full of contradictions. (“I am large. I contain multitudes.” – Whitman, a pioneer of body positivity.)

    Around the same time I started to think I was ugly and fat and began to diet and fantasize about being thin, a wedge lodged between my body and my conscious mind. I lived in my head and in the world of books, and ignored everything else. For years I wanted to be a fashion designer, sketching through my classes and reading Elle and Vogue and Bazaar religiously every month. At home, my mother controlled what I wore to a large extent and her ideas about “flattering” and “slenderizing” clothing influenced my wardrobe. She always rejected pants for being too tight in the rear … I entered adulthood literally thinking that my body was so odd that I could not physically wear pants.

    [As it turns out, it is not unusual (cough) for a pair of pants to cup your butt, rather than skimming over it like the fit of an a-line skirt (which is slenderizing).]

    I was painfully modest and panicked when faced with the communal dressing room at the discount clothing chain my mother loved.

    I lacked confidence in my body but I was passionate of mind, and no one would silence me. I talked so much in class that my all-time favorite teacher stopped calling on my for a while. In my late teens, in a totally inappropriate relationship with a much older man (and in the throes of my first radical adult “life change” that helped me drop 30 lbs), I joined a nudist club and got over the modesty thing. A few years later and 100 lbs fatter, I read the first salvos of the FA movement (Laura Fraser’s and Marilyn Wann’s books, which I discovered through Bust magazine). I saw confident fat women and I copied them. I didn’t mimic the underlying philosophy, just the result. I didn’t think I was beautiful, but I pretended .

    When I had a physical problem, I had a hard time answering the doctor’s questions. Did I feel better or worse in the morning? After a meal? I was never sure. My body was like a country across an ocean. The telegraphs rarely made it across.

    Like Noreen, I was fortunate to enter into a relationship with a man who couldn’t keep his hands off of me. He told me that, although he had dated women of all sizes, he preferred larger women. It took me about four years to really believe him. Deep down, I thought that every man would choose a thin woman if given first pick.

    Of course I feel immense conflict about girly things like makeup and clothing and looking in the mirror and taking photos of myself. How could I possibly have gotten through all of this unscathed? The white flag on the horizon is a small miracle.

    • I love the imagery of the wedge between body and mind. That is exactly what I feel. And I’m so used to it, that I don’t normally even noticed it. And then I realize I’ve been wearing the same pajamas for three days, even getting back into them after a shower. Or I catch sight of myself unexpectedly, in a photograph or a mirror or a window, and it literally takes a minute to put my mind and body back together. It isn’t that I think I’m ugly or gross or something–I’m just so disconnected.

  5. I am in this place with you.
    I loved being pregnant, was feeling the goddess energy. Now I just feel…deflated. I recently moved and have started gaining weight. I so want to be a rad fatty who doesn’t care about what other people think. I want to love myself and my body no matter what size it is. And I do love myself but I don’t like to look at myself.
    My work had a photographer in yesterday to take pics of every employee. I dutifully gussied up for the occasion, and when the photog showed me the snaps to make sure there was one that I liked, I just shrugged. I didn’t like any of them, but I know that even if there was a good shot, I wouldn’t be able to recognize it.
    My husband asked me if I believe him when he says I’m beautiful, and I replied that I have never thought that of myself, ever. The angle I take is that my body serve me beautifully, and I love it for that. I want to take care of it my moving it in a joyous way, by laughing as much as possible everyday. And I desperately do not want to pass this feeling on to my daughter, who in Kindergarten is already starting to get the body hatred
    indoctrination from her school mates.
    Sorry…rambly. I feel you, sister. Let’s be rad fatties together!

    • YES…let’s. We both have daughters who are in kindergarten. I spend a lot of time thinking about Ruby, and how to protect her awesome self-confidence. At 52 inches and 70 pounds, she’s not only the tallest kid in kindergarten, she’s taller than all the first graders, most of the second graders and some of the third graders, too. I make a point, everyday, of reminding her that being tall is wonderful. That she is tall because people she loves are tall. We go through the people in our family and talk about how all of her uncles are really tall and mommy is tall–and that she looks just like my sister, who is 6’1″. We talk about how she’ll probably even be taller than her Daddy, who is 5’8″ and she thinks that’s so funny.

      Yes, let’s be rad fatties. I’m in.

  6. Jenna

    rad fatties unite!

    I get that about the body… about touching. When I was younger I could not touch my own stomach and when I did I would snatch my hand away from myself.. in shame and in trying to hide myself. I wore odd clothes day in and day for months on end cause I thought maybe people couldnt see how fat I was in them. Even when i was passing as thin I still looked humungus in pictures and video and the self hatred was an all incompassing thing that colored virtually every minute of my life, concious or not.

    Being in FA has helped, fatshion has helped. Looking at fat art has helped,,, realign my senses and really understand that what I am feeling is the work of a sick world. It does get better. It did for me, when I thought I couldnt take living in my body a moment longer.

    Now I am dedicated to treating her nice, talking to her nice and loving her. I feel ashamed for hating her all these years and despite that horrible, god awful planet sized weight of loathing… she managed to still keep me alive and breathing, heart ticking, legs walking. When I think about it that way I am filled with gratitude and awe.

    • Jenna…build that gratitude and awe. I say we forgive ourselves and kick shame to the curb as the first official act of the rad fatties brigade. Who’s in?

  7. About photos: It has really, really helped me to look at tons of pictures of fat women–OOTD posts, pin-up shots, Photo Booth pics, what have you. I’ve also found that if I look at photos of myself from a while ago, I have enough emotional distance to appreciate how I looked. I started with photos of myself in high school when I thought I was fat, then gradually progressed until I sometimes snap a picture in Photo Booth and then look at it admiringly.

    You know, it’s not that odd that we can’t do these things. Regular girly girls have a ton of practice–looking in the mirror and putting clothes together and makeup on and so forth.* (And many of them still hate photos of themselves.) At some point I just accepted that these things will take practice for me, just like anything else.

    *Not that being girly is necessary, ideal, or superior to any other way of being. But it should be accessible to every woman, if she wants it to be.

    • Not that being girly is necessary, ideal, or superior to any other way of being. But it should be accessible to every woman, if she wants it to be.


  8. Amy

    Sweetie, I know what you’re saying — all of it. I often feel the same way. I just want to be ME, don’t go all “you have such a womanly shape” on me.

    And working from home, the temptation to wear yoga pants 24/7 is strong.

    I’ve found though, if the moment I get up I put on pants with a button and a fly, it does WONDERS for making me feel like I am dressed. Even if I am wearing the t I slept in with it (or one of a few big baggy men’s button downs I have, work is about being COMFY).

    • If someone actually said to me, “you have such a womanly shape” I honestly believe I would be physically ill. It would make me that uncomfortable.

      • Amy

        I KNOW. and Mom does it to me ALL THE TIME. It skeeves me out, frankly. (She knows this, and insists it is a compliment and coming from her, I do know that it is, but STILL!)

      • Oh, God. I am so incredibly happy she doesn’t do that to me. I doubt that she thinks I have a very womanly figure, and that’s FINE BY ME.

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