we are all enough, hopefully, hypothetically
January 15, 2018 8:45 PM   Subscribe

How can I feel "attractive enough" in a more reliable, stable way, other than the diminishing returns of taking selfies? Complicating factor: internalized transphobia.

I've been working on putting myself out there in the dating world over the last couple of years. It's been very hard for reasons I am working through alone and with a therapist, with taking more risks in real life, etc. I've become less goal-oriented (i.e. the purpose is to find a partner) and more into the idea of accepting myself and enjoying myself more fully. If a person comes along who can add to my life, awesome!, and I want to be ready to put myself out there for a possible relationship. I'm proud of this mindset I've been working towards, and feel like I'm more or less taking care of the things I can reasonably control about my life, and accepting what I can't.

So that's the positive part. The hard part is that lately I've unearthed something that's really been messing with me and causing me to stay in extra-safe-never-going-to-happen land (crushes I don't act on or are impossible, first dates with people I already know I'm not attracted to, etc.) I just have a really unstable and often negative feeling about myself for being undesirable as a trans woman. It's painful to admit, and I hate feeling this way. I also truly don't think this about others -- I have many beautiful and lovely trans folks in my life, some of whom I've developed intense feelings for, and their captivating energy is so self-evident to me. I just don't always feel the same way about myself. I've read about internalized transphobia/homophobia/etc. and I know it's a common and difficult thing that many of us grapple with in different ways.

The problem for me comes up with this block of being like, how could I possibly share myself with another person (and often this fear is stronger with men), and face the vulnerability of possible rejection. I've had the surgery I wanted and needed so badly, and I feel very good about my body and energy and what I have to give as a human in this world in many ways. But it's also just this terrifying block -- really just this pure ball of fear of rejection, and a kind of inwardly-directed disgust maybe -- that I have yet to really start dealing with.

The main reason I'm asking this is that, for a while, selfies served as my go-to tool of being confident in this defiant, unapologetic pretty way. They've meant a lot to me over the years. And through them, I can objectively recognize that it's possible that somebody else would find me attractive (sometimes the feeling is "wow these internet strangers find me attractive!" and other times it's "I don't know if my friends are supporting me or secretly maybe crushing on me? but I'll take it" and still other times it's "what am I even doing prioritizing physical appearances so much, as if my physical apperaance is somehow the most important part of me as a person!? we're all going to age and change and die, this isn't the most important stuff at all." So, you know, a mix of fleeting affirmation and despair!)

For whatever reason, the selfie magic has dissipated and it now pretty much always makes me feel neutral or bad, which is fine -- but I still find myself reaching for them when I just want to feel physically attractive. I now realize I don't really have a go-to way to just, on my own, feel like, I'm not sure, attractive? Confident? And yet I keep posting selfies, because I feel like I need something so badly, anything really, when I start to sort of imagine the pain of this future rejection.

I'd like to replace this failed coping mechanism with something healthier and better. Do you have any suggestions? I HAVE recently been trying to do more things to celebrate and enjoy feeling embodied and secure in a positive way. I started playing pickup basketball again and it has been tremendously affirming and positive to run across a basketball court. I hae speciifc goals to try out both martial arts and dance classes for similar reasons - expressive, unapolegetic, playful embodiment. But I keep coming back to that vulnerability-despair-inner disgust stuff.

I guess when I look out at 2018, I am so ready to really take dating seriously and put myself out there, but I am concerned I still am not quite courageous enough to take the risks I know I need to take. I'm tiptoing towards that vulnerability of "being a desiring and self-confident person" but it's hard not to hear that old "nobody will ever love you when they know you" voice and I just, you know, want it to fuck off.

I know I've grown a lot in the past three years and I know this is something I can work through, but it's just been scary and hard to feel like I would ever be enough. Any ideas you have would be lovely. Thank you thank you thank you.
posted by elephantsvanish to Human Relations (9 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
 
Not sure what your budget is, but would something like Toastmasters help? A group of non-dating, but professional confidence-building exercises over a period of time - that might prime a more general “pump” that gets dating mojo in order. A sort of safe-space to platonically work out your nerves. Just a thought.
posted by childofTethys at 9:22 PM on January 15, 2018


I think sports /goal-oriented exercise is a great impulse. I find it really re-frames my feelings about my body when I discover I am able to make a great play or run further or lift more or stretch deeper than I could last week.

Also, the skills don't need to be super-jockish for this to work- playing musical instruments, dancing, dexterity stuff, breath control.... those types of skills could also apply. Working up a sweat is helpful though, as it also gives you endorphins that will help your mood overall.

In short, I try to see my body as a tool, not an ornament, and proving my body's "usefulness" by exceeding and improving at physical skills really helps me in that goal.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 12:05 AM on January 16, 2018


Try to get some perspective. Think of the people you think are beautiful.

I try to put myself in the future: when I'm 95 years old with rheumy eyes and weird hairs and stuff in my yellowed teeth, what would I think about my beauty now??

That seems to open up my framework for beauty: it's being as healthy as I am, it's noticing the features of the relatives I love in my own, it's the beauty of being 37 and being me.

*credentials: grew up being told I was ugly for having a huge Roman nose. I never felt comfortably feminine and certainly not "pretty" and despairingly not beautiful. Sometimes my big nose-look inspired "striking", which always made me feel as though I was being struck myself. When I was 21 I took out a loan to get it "fixed" and it made me really examine how much of my self-worth was tied up in the male-gaze-standard-of-beauty and having to re-evaluate this.

Your selfies are such a small sliver of what is beautiful: cultivate the rest.
posted by Dressed to Kill at 4:36 AM on January 16, 2018


You may want to talk to your therapist about meditation, or mindfulness in general. A lot of the focus is on accepting yourself as you are in the moment.
posted by lazuli at 6:38 AM on January 16, 2018 [1 favorite]


This is something I've (dating as a mid-30s cis lady) been working on lately. +1 to regular exercise and physical challenges.

The other thing that works for me is treating my body like it's special. I like hot baths (with epsom salts after all that working out!) with a candle, and other things that physically feel good or are physical self-care - changing up my skincare routine a bit, exfoliating, getting the nice body butter, keeping up with personal grooming at a level that feels good to me, blowdrying my hair because it feels good to have a warm head in the winter, putting a little extra effort into dressing.

In the past, I've also had fun trying out really out-there makeup looks at home - using eyeshadow to make my eyebrows colorful and sparkly, shiny red gloss on my eyelids. It helped to see my appearance as play vs. part of my worth, and also to get a different perspective on what I look like / how my face is shaped.
posted by momus_window at 9:43 AM on January 16, 2018 [1 favorite]


I think you have the right idea with switching from valuing how good you look to valuing what your body can do. You might also consider what you could do that would make you feel good about yourself both intellectually and creatively. Is there anything you're interested in studying or learning? Reviews or essays you've thought of writing? Something you'd like to draw? Difficult dish you'd like to cook? What skills are you excited about other people having -- can you learn or strengthen those?

Instead of selfies, you can look at number of drawings, blog posts that got comments, level on Duolingo, favorites on Metafilter, new types of food you've mastered, or number of shots you can make in basketball. While none of these should be the entirety of your self worth, it's fine to get a boost from them and feel proud of yourself for accomplishments. (And I do think it should be something you can track or look at, so that you really can pull it out when you're missing that feeling you used to get from selfies.)
posted by Margalo Epps at 11:14 AM on January 16, 2018


I feel like most of us, women especially, are sold the "you'll be happy when..." lie. You'll be happy when your vagina looks like it does in magazines! You'll be happy when your hair is blond! You'll be happy when you have a puppy! When you buy a thing! Do more things! Try harder to be a thing that doesn't exist! But in reality, each time I've turned more into becoming myself instead of the person I think I'm supposed to want to be, I've leveled up in happiness. It turns out that only YOU can make yourself happy--other people, your appearance, buying something, can't do it for you.

So what makes you happy? Really happy? What thing can you do with your body or mind that makes you go "fuck yes, I don't wish I was dead right now!"? Find that thing and do it as much as you can reasonably do it. For me those things are: smoking weed, being with my dogs, finding new parks, being around water, eating sandwiches and drinking lattes. I finish my work and then I go pet my dogs, get stoned, go to a park, and then make a latte. And I think "Yeah I'm fat, and most people think I'm ugly and gross. I could have more money, more health, more friends, but...I wouldn't trade places with anyone. I'm glad I get to be me." And I TRULY believe it--not just in that weird platitudey way.
posted by masquesoporfavor at 1:27 PM on January 16, 2018


I get sort of anxious in public settings-- I'm uncomfortable with being looked at or stared at sometimes. I don't really like thinking of myself as a body-- to an extent, I dissociate the idea of "myself" from my physical appearance. My appearance has been something I've struggled with for a long time, and I've tried ignoring it, accepting it, drastically changing it, etc etc. I think this article of Dear Sugar has been helpful. It seems very compassionate.

In terms of concrete things, the only things that have helped me are being loved, therapy, medication, and mindful stretching/yoga. I think I was a bit leery of trying yoga in the beginning because it seems like such a trope, but it makes me feel better about inhabiting a body-- more powerful, more at ease, more desirable (in the sense I'm less self-deprecating, and am able to value myself more). I feel more comfortable with my appearance now. YMMV, of course.
posted by typify at 1:55 PM on January 16, 2018


hello. i have very similar feelings. you mentioned your trans friends, but do you have trans femme friends? maybe you can invite them over for dinner sometime? i find a very particular comfort and nourishment in the company of other trans femmes that I don't get from more general queer or trans spaces
posted by yaymukund at 4:12 AM on January 17, 2018 [1 favorite]


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