by Sofia Paredes
art by Belle McDonald
Going to the carnival funhouse as a kid was fun. Seeing yourself stretched thin, wide, short, fat… You would point at your friends’ reflections and laugh at them until your stomach hurt. When you’d leave the funhouse, you’d go back to your normal perception of yourself as if nothing had happened. As I grow older, though, it has become impossible to leave the funhouse and go back to reality.
Living with body dysmorphia is like living in a room of funhouse mirrors. Every single look in the mirror has you thinking, “Did I look like this last week? Yesterday? Thirty minutes ago?” You spend hours pinpointing every insecurity, only to look at the same spot a minute later and say, “Oh, I don’t look that bad.”
It’s thinking to yourself, “I look kind of skinny today,” and then wondering, “Is this a skinny mirror?” And even though there is no inherent value in being skinny, when you live in a society that lauds thinness as the ultimate accomplishment, it’s hard not to judge yourself by those standards.
It’s not trusting your perception of your own body, the space where all your thoughts and actions arise from. And this goes beyond the physical appearance. It obstructs your entire view of yourself, and leaves you in a state of perpetual confusion. If you don’t know what you look like, how will you navigate the rest of your identity?
We try to tell ourselves that our self-worth isn’t tied to our appearance—that what matters is what’s on the inside, what you stand for. But in a society where physical beauty is seen as being of utmost importance, where you’re judged based on how thin you can be, it’s impossible to separate your self-perception from your appearance.
As a kid, I loved the funhouses. The constant changing shapes, the exciting patterns throughout, always something new to see… But now, with my dazed perception of my body, after every new diet and weight fluctuation and crying over the glimpse I caught of myself in the mirror that day, I begin to wonder… will I ever leave this funhouse?