Body Dysmorphic Disorder is a mental illness. When someone is suffering from BDD, they see themselves in a distorted manner. They imagine that part of their body (or all of it) is flawed and needs to be changed even if that’s not true. Someone who was once overweight and then lost it may still see themselves in their former state. When they look in the mirror, all they see is a fat, unattractive person who needs to change. This often results in eating disorders as well as self harm in other ways. There is also a high suicide rate amongst people in this group. Their obsession and self-loathing often becomes too much to bear.
When the image we see in the mirror doesn’t reflect the person staring into it, it is because of our brains making their own reality based on many factors. Opinions of others shape our views of ourselves as do the images we see on tv or in movies. We look at others that we admire and try to be like them. When we fail, the negativity comes pouring in and we start to hate who we are. When we don’t measure up to who we want to be, we see a distorted image in the mirror that doesn’t reflect reality. We see the things about ourselves that we hate the most and we amplify them to unhealthy levels until we become obsessed.
Religion distorts the image we have of ourselves as well. When I was a Christian, I was told of how God hates sin and how all people need to change their ways in order to come back to having a relationship with him. I would look in the mirror and I would see a failure. I would see a wretched sinner. I would look at my reflection and see Hell’s flames flickering behind me. I was brought down low and stayed there for a long time. Religion thrives on making you feel bad about yourself. If you can convince people to believe they have a problem, you can then step in and offer a solution…even if no problem exists.
How can a believer, such as I was, get out of that state of depression? How can you pull yourself up out of the depths of depravity and be once more welcomed into the arms of Jesus? Repentance is what we are told will cure us of our sinful disease. Repent and come to Jesus and all will be forgiven. You be become a new creation. It sounded too good to be true, but I dedicated myself to becoming the best new me I could be. I turned from my old ways and moved forward.
When I pushed aside the secular things of my life and focused only on the holy things as described in the Bible, I actually felt better. I felt like I was doing good and becoming more righteous by the minute. I pushed aside family members and friends who didn’t believe. I stopped watching tv shows and movies that were not in line with my new sense of morality and the music I listened to was 100% Christian music 100% of the time. I was a new me and my image in the mirror began to reflect that. I was reaping the rewards of the hard work and dedication to the Lord…or so I thought. Little did I know that what I now saw in the mirror was for my eyes only. What everyone else saw when they looked at me was a different image altogether.
Christianity has a way of making you feel absolutely wonderful when you are following the instructions in the guidebook. You feel like by pushing family aside, and by turning and walking away from anyone who thinks differently than you, that you are now a good person with nothing but good times awaiting in your future. Attending church is sometimes a great way to feel better about yourself. People who believe the same thing in one place, high-fiving and back slapping? What could be better? But…when you slip up because you are human, Christianity tears you right back down again. You are labeled as weak, a back-slider or an unrepentant sinner who was never a true believer to begin with. Your failures are thrown in your face (out of love of course) so that you don’t mess up again. In other words, your life is a mess on the floor and God wants those who believe in him to rub your nose in it on his behalf.
To keep up the image of a good Christian, one must look the part at all times even when your heart isn’t in it. When you want to speak out against an unbeliever, you are expected to bite your tongue, or risk being dragged back down to their level. So you put on a fake smile and pretend that you don’t still have bad thoughts, angry moments or the desires to do and say things that all people have the desire for also. Your image in the mirror that you see is a reflection of your devotion and comes with its own halo to shine back at you when you look at yourself. To others, what they see is someone who pushed aside loved ones, belittled people who have differing views, told decent people they would go to Hell because of what they believed or who they loved if it conflicts with their own deeply-held religious beliefs.
When your image in the mirror looks to you like the “bigger man or woman” who stays above the fray or looks like the compassionate child of God who reaches out to save the lost, your actions should reflect that as well. When those around you see a person who has a “holier than thou” attitude or who is hateful, bigoted or hot tempered when challenged, your mirror isn’t reflecting reality. You mirror image should look like how others view you. If it’s night and day different, that is a sign of a problem.
When I stopped believing in God, it was hard for me. I was afraid at first that my decision to let it all go would have eternal consequences that I didn’t want. I was afraid that how I was viewed by others would be hard for me to handle. I was worried that I would have to walk with my head hanging in shame after all those years telling people about how I was a Christian with strong faith and they should be too. But I could no longer look in the mirror and see a good, happy follower of Christ who looked nothing like Jesus to the rest of the world. I could not be a hypocrite for one moment longer. I couldn’t tell people they need Jesus and that I believed in it all when inside I was filled with doubt. I needed to be honest with myself. When you are honest with yourself, you can be honest with those around you. Their view of who you are and your own should match up if you are honest.
The purpose of this post is to try to get people to open their eyes a bit to reality. There is but one reality that should be shared by all people. If your reality and someone else’s is completely different, at least one of you is wrong. If you are convinced yours is right, share the reasons why with the rest of us so we may join in. If you can’t share reasons why your reality is to be believed and say you just need to have faith, that’s not reality at all. Words in a book are not evidence of your reality. Your personal experiences that you can’t demonstrate to others is not evidence. The fact that you believe and I don’t is not evidence.
If your belief in your reality is justified, then words can not take that away from you. If you are convinced that you are right, words will not anger you. You should be able to laugh them off as being absurd or at the very least offer valid reasons why the words are absurd. Having a discussion about beliefs, religion, lifestyles or any other topic should be a simple endeavor. It should be laid back and it should just involve the facts, not emotion. If you choose to avoid such discussions and cut off the people from your life trying to have them, how exactly is that helpful? A sheltered life is not a healthy life. Only interacting with people who think just like you will skew your reality. It will give you a false sense of righteousness and make people who disagree look like enemies to you.
If you disagree with someone, don’t push them aside. Sit down with them and have a mature and productive conversation. We are all equals here on this earth. There shouldn’t be a side that sits up on high looking down on the other side. Segregation is not the answer to life’s problems. I recall learning in church about being “the hands of feet of Jesus” to reach a lost world in order to bring people to salvation. I don’t recall anyone telling me to use Jesus’s hands to push someone down and then use his feet to walk away from them.