Excerpt From "Chrysalis: A Dark and Delicious Diary of Emergence"
As a young girl, whether blowing out my birthday candles, throwing a coin into a fountain or gazing up at a shooting star, my wish was always the same, "Please let me grow up to be beautiful."
When I first lost weight at 19, I got a lot of attention and it felt good. I lost 30 lbs in 3 months, which on a 5'4" frame is significant. I wore those numbers like a badge of honor. But with pride, came panic. When my friends and I went out, I would have to go to the bathroom to check what I looked like at least every 30 minutes. The more I drank, the more I checked.
One night, during one of our deep talks, Jennifer said she thought I'd become conceited. Little did she know it was quite the opposite. I was obsessive compulsive. I thought if one hair was out of place or if I looked even slightly bloated, people wouldn't think I was beautiful anymore or worse, they would think I was gaining my weight back.
Rock-rock bottom was the spring before I started seeing Dr. Pez.
After a particularly intense self-loathing episode on the bathroom floor, I pulled myself up to the mirror, scissors in hand and pressed the blade into my right cheek... I don't know what stopped me. Maybe that young girl still hoping her beauty wish would someday come true.
I stand naked in front of my full-length mirror and state matter-of-factly, "This is the way I look. This is the way I look. This is my physical body."
I scan my body up and down, careful not to linger on the 'good' parts or the 'bad' parts; not labeling some things pretty, some things ugly.
"I love you. I appreciate you. I am sorry I abused you for so long."
It is awkward. I crumble. I cry.
How long will it take? As long as it takes.
When you look in a mirror, what 'bad' parts do your eyes linger on?
For me, it is my hips. When I was thirteen years old, a boy told me my hips were a meter wide. We were standing outside the corner store and I was eating a chocolate bar. I glanced at my reflection in the window and those words 'meter wide' fused to my perception of my body for the next 26 years. I recall everything about that moment, including the utter humiliation, but can't for the life of me remember the boy's name or why I cared what he thought.
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, I know, I know, but what if the beholder of the eye is you and you can only see a distorted reflection of yourself in the mirror?
Apparently, we have up to 60,000 thoughts per day, but most of them are the same as the day before. Even worse, almost 90% of them are negative. According to quantum physics, everything is energy, including our thoughts, so it is no wonder why negative ones, like doubts and judgments, are so exhausting. They drain us of our power... and can even land us on the bathroom floor.
A few months into my 39th year, I began noticing my thoughts when looking in the mirror. Whoa. Was I ever a mean-spirited, super-critical bitch! I don't think there was one thing about my appearance I did not judge. I consider myself a fairly kind person and it bothered me I was still being so mean to myself.
I forced myself to say nice things to my reflection on a daily basis.
"You are beautiful. I love you."
That other part of me would protest, "What are you talking about? Look at me!"
"I am... and you are beautiful."
"You're a liar. I have a chest like a boy."
It was some of the hardest work I have done, but the rewards have been remarkable. The greatest? Self-acceptance.
What does self-acceptance look like?
During one of my serious mirror-work sessions, Rihanna's 'Where Have You Been' came on and something came over me. I stripped down and started dancing naked... for myself.
"If I don't want to see myself naked, how can I expect anyone else to?"
I danced for hours and it was by far the most liberating night of my life.
What does self-acceptance feel like?
Not long ago, a man told me he admired how comfortable I am in my body. This was so much greater than any compliment he could've given about my body. For someone who had been detached from her body for decades, violently abusing it even, this observation sent a surge of power from my toes to my head. Why? Because it was the truth.
I don't know when this happened -- the switch from contempt to comfort. It was never a conscious goal, but it has been the gift.
What does self-acceptance sound like?
Acceptance of my hips and breasts may seem superficial, but it is a gauge of how I am feeling about myself on a deeper level. It lets me know when I'm in judging mode.
Recently, I walked by my full-length mirror and a voice I hadn't heard in a long time blurted, "You look frumpy."
I immediately stripped down, grabbed my sheer fuchsia scarf from India and YouTube'd a lil' Rihanna...
And, yeah, that's right, I still got the moves.
As I swayed my hips to 'The Monster', the pressure I have been putting on myself professionally and personally seemed to melt away as well. I have been prioritizing my purpose over myself.
I twirled around, repeating over and over again, "I love you. You are perfect. Just the way you are."
At one point, I glanced in the mirror and realized my young girl's wish had come true. Like magic, I had grown up to be beautiful.
Author of "Chrysalis: A Dark and Delicious Diary of Emergence"
"Chrysalis" is the yearlong diary of then 39-year-old Chartrand, who felt she was becoming a grown-up for the first time during this period that many would consider middle age. Along with her baggage from decades battling diseases like bulimia, alcoholism and depression, the diary features Chartrand's recognition of her destructive relationship with men and the steps she takes to heal this part of her.
- "I think men are drawn to Chrysalis as an opportunity to get an honest, unpolished look into the female mind, but are surprised by the rawness and humor of it. I'm getting a lot of feedback from men of all ages about how they can relate to my thoughts and experiences, the demons I faced, and the struggles I endured to open my heart." R. Chartrand.
Rachelle Chartrand is an award-winning screenwriter, producer and past-president of Women in Film and Television Vancouver. She has been involved with the film industry for fourteen years, first as an actress, then as story consultant and creative producer and now as a full-time screenwriter. Additionally, Rachelle holds a bachelor's degree in physics with a minor in mathematics from the University of Alberta. Her eclectic teaching experience includes working with ESL students abroad as well as at-risk youth, young offenders and autistic children at home. Rachelle currently resides in Vancouver, British Columbia. For more information, visit http://www.rachellechartrand.com/.
"Chrysalis: A Dark and Delicious Diary of Emergence"
By Rachelle Chartrand