How to Love Your Body Every Day!

As a teen, and young man, I suffered from Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD). I hated my physical appearance and always thought myself fat, ugly, awkward, undesirable, and Spanx-worthy. In fact, had Spanx® existed back then, I would have covered myself from head to toe like a French saucisse, so I’d feel thinner and have less room to hate myself.

It turns out I would have been more ridiculous and a lot less desirable if I had Spanx-mummified my lean self. The problem is that the handsome young man in the attached photos didn’t think himself handsome. I remember the day the photos were taken quite vividly. BDD sufferers have a sharp memory of moments where they felt vulnerable and exposed. On photos, I felt fat, inadequate, and certainly unworthy of being in the company of these amazingly beautiful young women. Hi, Martha. Hi, Tammy!

Nowadays, I forgive my young self for his self-hatred, and I am glad that I was skilled at putting on an effective façade because looking back, I looked pretty darn good, and did not ruin the picture.

The issue with BDD is that it causes me to see myself through the prism of a shattered and suffering mind, my own, toxic brain restructuring molded by relentless years of emotional, verbal, and physical abuse. I do not see my body objectively through the eyes of the beholder, the photographer, or the admiring older self, years later. I see my body through the eyes or the words of my abuser—the one responsible for my injured mind.

My abuser was a disease, Narcissism. My dad’s narcissism to be exact. I blame his disease because it was genetic, and, therefore, unintentional, on at least two accounts: a spectrum brain easily dysregulated by years of poverty in post-WWII France, unlucky social cast, and a porn star size pecker, lucky dick-size lottery.

Narcissism, gigantic dick, and a big mansplain piehole easily activated by traces of Asperger’s syndrome, resulted in an uncensored daily celebration of one’s supremeness with no mindful considerations for one’s audience.

A simpleton, my dad, barked hyperbolic comparisons with his rooster talk. There were also constant mockeries. And belittling insults. And none of that ever stopped, because my dad was a broken record, and the brains of my little sister (also a victim) and mine heard the echo of his oppressive boasting in their constantly triggered minds.

We were tiny children forced into a daily comparison we did not comprehend. We suffered greatly. My dad was as skinny as he was dick-monstrous, and he verbally harassed us with his additional (thin) layer of narcissism. My sister and I felt fat on our bodies where there was none. We grew up feeling ugly when we were, in fact, beautiful children (photo below).

© Michel Bordeau

© Michel Bordeau

To put it simply, children cannot ‘play’ the measurement game when the ruler of the game, the decider of the rules, is an over-proportionate 6’6” stick figure with a loud mouth and tactless manners. We could only lose. Our dignity was shattered. Our self-worthiness destroyed. Our potential for a healthy self-image annihilated playing that insidious game: “P’tite quequette … P’tite grosse!”

BDD it turns out is also a form of narcissism, except that it is the mirror opposite of self-aggrandizement. It is absolute objectification, mirroring the shadow of self-hatred, self-loathing, and self-destructiveness. It’s beautification morphed into uglification. An ugly word, isn’t it? Well, that’s exactly how BDD feels: uglificating!

Today, I have a family meal to attend and my dad is long dead. So, he won’t talk about his dick, and he won’t remind us how fat we are in front of the people I love, people who love me. Although, at one point in my life, family meals triggered flashbacks. They don’t anymore. Not because my dad’s small brain and big dick have turned into a worm feast (Thank you mighty worms!), but because I’ve been to a lot of therapy sessions. I am also surrounded by people who love me just the way I am: tall, shy, silly, and too clever for my own good.

The mirror my American family holds in front of me has always been kind and fair. I give them heartfelt thanks for their unconditional love.

On Thanksgiving, the meal traditionally placed in front of me has been generous. I know that Thanksgiving should not be an exercise in fat shaming because the tradition is about reaching high on the food coma scale. But by all honest culinary standards, the Thanksgiving spread is still way too much food—it’s not my BDD brain flashbacking.

Today, on Thanksgiving I know I can eat as much as I want because I know when I feel fat, and I tell myself I am fat, I am not lying. I know I’m not deceiving my brain from years of post-traumatic struggles.

Today, I will eat way too much turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce, broccoli casserole, mashed potatoes, and sweet potato casserole, which I will cover with gallons of dressing and pounds of butter. Feeling fat under these extreme eating conditions is only fair—yummy fair until the next day.

Tomorrow, the day after Thanksgiving, I have a perfect solution to make me feel and look more within acceptable anatomical proportions. At age 45, I have accepted that sporting a micro potbelly is not the end of the world—as long as I can still see my you-know-what when I pee. I no longer have the reflex to re-injure my mind with unfair body dysmorphic criticism. I have come to love myself physically to the same degree that I have come to accept myself intellectually.

However, I am also prepared for those occasional BDD relapses. A perfect solution I owe to Sarah Blakely, a superstar business woman from Atlanta: form fitting and soul flattering Men’s Spanx!

So, Happy Thanksgiving to all and Happy Spanxgiving tomorrow and Thank You, Sarah!

–Michel Bordeau, Area Frenchman–

 

Michel Bordeau

My name is Michel Bordeau, aka Area Frenchman. I am a Therapist and an Education Coach in private practice in Atlanta. Born in France, I have spent half my life in the US. I am culturally French and academically American, so you can safely assume that I know a thing or two about love (gender respectful, validating, unconditional, non-threatening) and the pleasures of life (many friends, much cheese, little w(h)ine). When I don't blog about mansplaining, teen assertiveness, guru shaming, toxic work environments and toxic people, motherhood, mindful parenting, immigrant entrepreneurs, bipolar disorder and body dysmorphic disorder, I dedicate my time speaking about the lessons I have learned as a therapist and a coach. I am the host of Le Kindness Couch on Youtube. I created this channel to demonstrate that today's therapeutic modalities are kind, validating, and solution-focused. We don't read mind or blame your mom for everything.

7 thoughts on “How to Love Your Body Every Day!

  1. Renee DeMontRenee DeMont Reply

    I adore everything you pen. There is a gift in your words that blesses not only those who have suffered greatly but those who long to understand, help and love the ones who carry the emotional scars of BDD. Some of us have endured great pain my friend. You expressed a desire to hug? Sharing your story here is a verbal hug of infinite value. Thank you for the ❤️

  2. Michel BordeauMichel Bordeau Post author Reply

    Thank you C.
    It was not hard to write this post, the process took about 90 minutes and yielded a lot more bulk which I did not bother sending to Julie & Marla. Proof-reading for pace, content, balance, is what brought me a notch down. Humbled. Teary.

    It is not the first time that re-reading a post a little too close to my life tribulations brings onto the surface of my vulnerable mind, an overwhelming trigger emotion. Thank goodness I don’t do it by myself.. this time. I have the Gravity gang and, by the look of it, a few more people are beginning to tag along.

    This-From-U-Inspires-Me-to-Push-through:

    “Seeking Permanence”, C. Streetlights

    ‘…It’s odd to live in a country where resiliency is celebrated in our history yet scoffed at in our present. As if we can turn it off from our human nature. Or be selective with it. We can’t. We’re root-bearing people. We grow them deep down and want to know that we’re permanent.’

    Bowing low,
    Michel Bordeau, Area Frenchman.

    1. Rachel Thompson Reply

      beautiful article in its honesty, you truly personify the vulnerabilities men experience but rarely discuss. Bravo, Michel!

      My heart breaks for those beautiful, little children whose spirits were crushed by that monster of a father — and the long-term effects of that damage you still struggle with today make me angry for you both. No doubt other adult survivors can read your article and identify strongly with your words.

      Thank you for sharing your story. I look forward to many more honest pieces.

      1. Michel BordeauMichel Bordeau Post author Reply

        Thank you Rachel!
        I, like you, cannot believe that someone might hurt children. I am at point in my life when I see these two kids with enough distance that they can be any kiddo out there. I just want to hug them (with permission from their parents, :D) and share some optimism about the future. I also want to get a Social Worker in that tiny, unkept condo outside Paris to straighten my parents’ reactive behaviors a notch.

        One commonly used therapy technique to help heal past traumas is to ‘pay a visit’ to our younger selves and provide the comfort we did not receive because life was insane and because those who could have provided the necessary validation were stuck on narcissistic mindlessness.

        I continuously use that technique with myself when I feel on the edge of angry resentment. I have a great life now, so I make sure ‘to tell’ my past selves that I owe that great life to them, their fortitude, as Apryl Pooley would say.

        I can’t quit now because, in the worst of life situations they fought on: I did not quit at age 11 (first depression), 12 (self-mutilation begins), 14-18 (suicidal ideation, high anxiety, academic failure, anger management issues, and the rest of my younger life (GAD + PTSD + Adult tantruming).

        Again, Rachel, thanks for your comment and nd see you very soon in the Gravity field,
        Michel.

    1. Michel BordeauMichel Bordeau Post author Reply

      Thank you C.
      It was not hard to write this post, the process took about 90 minutes and yielded a lot more bulk which I did not bother sending to Julie & Marla. Proof-reading for pace, content, balance, is what brought me a notch down. Humbled. Teary.

      It is not the first time that re-reading a post a little too close to my life tribulations brings onto the surface of my vulnerable mind, an overwhelming trigger emotion. Thank goodness I don’t do it by myself.. this time. I have the Gravity gang and, by the look of it, a few more people are beginning to tag along.

      This-From-U-Inspires-Me-to-Push-through:

      “Seeking Permanence”, C. Streetlights

      ‘…It’s odd to live in a country where resiliency is celebrated in our history yet scoffed at in our present. As if we can turn it off from our human nature. Or be selective with it. We can’t. We’re root-bearing people. We grow them deep down and want to know that we’re permanent.’

      Bowing low,
      Michel Bordeau, Area Frenchman.

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