Parts of a Whole

Recently, I was half-watching a YouTube video while getting ready in the morning, as is my wont.* I hadn’t chosen it for any particular reason; it was just one of the videos on my subscription feed that seemed long enough to get me through putting on my makeup and sorting out my hair. It featured one of the YouTubers I follow addressing something her viewers point out in every video: her teeth. She has crooked yellow teeth that she has chosen not to straighten or whiten, and that bothers a lot of people who watch her videos. As she explained why she has no plans to change what others view as a defect and broke into a speech about self acceptance (To paraphrase: everyone has their thing, their weird physical quirk, and they are free to love it or change it as they wish), I naturally started thinking about everything I dislike about my body. I considered my thighs and stomach, which are no longer held tight by runner’s muscles and a rapid-fire metabolism, my skin, which has been making up for the years of acne I avoided in high school, and my jawline, which has a nasty habit of disappearing right into my neck and making my face look rather less dignified and more potatolike than I’d prefer.** As I went down my list of insecurities, I noticed something was noticeably absent from it: my moles.

For as long as I can remember, my skin has been covered with marks. I’m so familiar with the freckles and moles on my arms, legs, back, and face that I could find each of them blindfolded. When we had to draw self portraits in second grade, I made sure to include the mole on my left arm just below the crease of my elbow. My first hypochondriactic (I’m making this a word) and insecure tendencies were directed toward my skin. The other kids didn’t have so many moles. Would it be too disturbing to my classmates if I wore a backless dress to prom? I could never get a tattoo with all these marks in the way. Are any of these things skin cancer? I very rarely, if ever, hated my moles, but I was definitely insecure about them. I often tried to picture my skin without them, kept somewhat obsessive tabs on their locations, and couldn’t help but feel relieved each summer when my skin got tanner and they became less noticeable.

Somewhere between the time I first noticed the inexplicable mole on the inner side of my left pinky (yes, I even have one there) and the day I heard that YouTube video, I stopped being insecure about my moles. I wouldn’t go so far as to say I love them, but they’ve become a part of myself as unquestioned and inextricable to me as my legs, my hair, or my teeth. They’re simply there. If anyone were to tease me about them now or suggest I hide them or have them removed, I would be confused, not hurt.

So where does all of this leave me? It seems that if I can incorporate something that was once a huge source of discomfort into my self-image, I can do the same with what concerns me now. I’m not sure I can purposefully put aside my insecurities about my legs, my pimples, or my chin—I’m still not sure what exactly caused this recession of insecurity about my moles—but there’s a chance I’ll be getting ready one day in the future, look in the mirror, and realize the parts of myself that make me uncomfortable now are just that: parts of myself.

*I have mixed feelings about the practice: on the one hand you can time yourself to the video (my range goes from Minute Physics to anything with “Rant” in the title), but on the other hand it’s nigh impossible to pluck one’s eyebrows and watch the screen at the same time. Perhaps I should switch to podcasts.

**These are, of course, my own perceptions of my own body, which are, unfortunately, bound to be distorted by societal expectations and my fluctuating self esteem. I’m including them to give you a clearer sense of where my head is at, not to be corrected or to fish for compliments.

(Cover Image)

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