My boyfriend and I watched Mulan today before he went back to college and the whole movie just made me think. Mulan and Beauty and the Beast were probably my favorite two Disney animated movies growing up, and Mulan is definitely in my top 5 favorite Disney animated films today, but I remember living with my grandma after my parents first separated and walking up and down the stairs from my bedroom to the living room with my pink heart umbrella singing “Honor to us All” and “Reflection”. I remember singing “Belle.”
And I remember wishing I could be pretty.
I am not blaming Disney’s portrayal of women at all. I am not blaming the media. I am confident that I would have wished this and that my eating disorder would have become full blown by the time I was in high school whether today’s media existed or not. I know this because I wished I could be pretty not only like Belle and Jasmine and Ariel and strong like Mulan, but I wished I could be pretty like my cousin H. She is only 2 years older than me and we were best friends back then and I wished I could be as beautiful as her.
We have recently revived my old baby videos and my mom and boyfriend insist that I was absolutely adorable. We have millions of photos from when I was younger and everyone that sees them tell me I was beautiful. When my mom took me to work one day as a baby one of her co-workers said, “I know babies are always cute, but yours is just gorgeous!”
So I guess it’s pretty universal that people think I look pretty, but even at 4 and 5 I couldn’t see it, which is why I’m not surprised that I developed my eating disorder. I’m not some poor rich white girl (because I’m not rich or white) who grew up thinking so highly of herself and then all of a sudden stops eating. It doesn’t work that way. I strongly believe I was born predisposed to this and I think that is a perfect example of why. I grew up idolizing the women around me on television and in person. Princess Aurora of Sleeping Beauty was who I wanted to look like even though she is just a cartoon drawn in a beautiful artistic style. Teenage girls I saw in the mall were beautiful and I could only hope that when I grew up I could look that good.
I still struggle with body image. For a few weeks I’ll love how I look. I will look at my body and think, “Wow, I actually look pretty good,” and then something will change and when I look in the mirror I wish it would break so I wouldn’t have to look at myself anymore. And my first instinct when that happens is to starve myself and do some high intensity interval training followed by a ten mile jog. Maybe someday I will be okay with how I look. Maybe someday I will be able to be perfect.
I guess that’s why I’ve been searching for this whole time: some form of perfection, along with some many other things.
When will my reflection show who I am inside?
Because I’m tired of being sick of my physical appearance.