Dysmorphia: why don’t I see what you see?

You may or may not be familiar with this word. If you aren’t, that’s probably a good thing.

Merriam-Webster defines it as: pathological preoccupation with an imagined or slight physical defect of one’s body to the point of causing significant stress or behavioral impairment in several areas (such as work and personal relationships).

Dictionary reference simply states: a mental disorder characterized by distorted body image and obsessions about perceived physical shortcomings.

Okay, hold on to your socks as this will be a HUGE surprise to you, but I have a bit of a body dysmorphia problem.

I know – me? Mr. Sanity?Eating-Disorder_Body-Dysmorphia-994x350

(Source: The Bliss Project)

When I look in the mirror I see flabby jowls, skinny arms, chest, and calves and an almost pregnant looking abdomen.

Even when I am not in front of the mirror, I am disgusted by the roll of fat that hangs over my belt line and fills my hands as I grab at it. When things are a bit intense, I can literally feel the fat forming around my belly; to the point that I would like a knife to just cut it off.

My own cheap form of Sonobello I guess.

I mentally keep track of how much goes in and how it matches with how much comes out (yeah, gross I know). I do think I’ve made improvement in that I only exercise twice a day instead of three times, although it still adds up to around 2.5 hours a day. Anything less and I feel that fat ballooning.

Okay, logically even I know that is Mr. Insanity.

musclemanBut Ann, (of course you knew that she has a part in my holding to on what is real, right?) just tells me that I’m not fat and that I don’t see what is really there.

She doesn’t overdo it with “Oh, you are SO good looking and your body is this or that…” She knows I wouldn’t believe that.

So instead she just quietly, persistently, helps to keep me grounded through what she sees.

Why talk about this?

Alex sent me a link the other day about an LDS man who identifies as transgender. It’s called gender dysphoria and I think the difference is that dysmorphia is when I see something different than others see in me, while dysphoria is more about people feeling inside something different than what others see on the outside. Don’t quote me on that.

I read through his posting carefully and am impressed that he is genuinely trying to carry his “bucket of rocks” the very best he can. In fact, a pretty powerful statement in his posting is

“It’s highly likely that my gender dysphoria is merely a product of mortality and in the next life I will be perfectly happy being male.”

I think that is true of so many things in all of us.

depression3His purpose in writing is to try to get out the message to those trying to help and support people struggling with the transgender phenomenon is that the most hurtful words are “but you aren’t.”

You know, when he shares how he feels, and others look at him almost in disgust and say “but you aren’t a woman, you are a man.”

I can see his point.

When other people tell me that I’m not fat or misshapen or too skinny in the wrong places, I roll my eyes and brush it off as just a surface comment, kind of like “How are you doing?” and we always respond “Fine, how are you?”

The words are probably right, but there isn’t much intent or sincerity behind them.

When people say “but you aren’t” often the message received is the deadly “it’s all in your head, just pull yourself together and get on with it.”

Yeah, I’ll tell you that one is a doozy that only makes things worse.

But I’ve often wondered how other people don’t see what I see when I look at myself. Scientifically it just doesn’t make any sense. There is only one me, with one shaped and proportioned body. How can there be such varying viewpoints?

Over time, though, I’ve come to understand that isn’t the question that matters.

The question that matters the most is “who will I choose to listen to?”

prayer3It’s no secret that I will listen to Ann.


Because I know Who she listens to.


Even if I don’t see the truth, or I can’t imagine how she sees something different than I see, I know without reservation that she sees the truth.

And she will never lie to me.

I was struck by reading the posting of this troubled man calling out for help that, of course, it makes perfect sense that he would find “but you aren’t” as only maddening as it is hurled at him from every direction. He’s right; it literally is enough to make you want to jump off a bridge at the discrepancy between his reality and everyone else’s. He deserves all the love and help we can give him.

But looking at how I stay grounded, I was also struck that most probably he hasn’t found the one who will always tell the truth, and that he can believe them over what his own mind is telling him.

bucketOn the larger picture, I wonder if many, if not most people, haven’t found that person in whom they trust completely.

That would be a heavy bucket of rocks to carry, indeed.

In the parable of the Ten Virgins, we learn that oil can’t be shared. It must be purchased and saved and protected. We can see our way through others’ light for a time, but at the point when we must step out on our own, find our own way through the darkness, then we must have our own oil to fuel the light we need to see by.

For me, the oil is that quiet whisper that repeats over and over “but , really listen this time, you aren’t those things your mind is telling you that you are.”

Even when we aren’t sure of the sincerity or motives or even misunderstanding of those who are trying to help, albeit often in the wrong ways, we can be sure of the Whisper of Truth.


So what if I don’t see what you see when you look at me? I am learning to see what He sees when He looks at me.

Savior15The real miracle is that it isn’t just about seeing all the things I’m not; it’s about beginning to see all the things I am.

But, look at what you are.

I can trust that, no matter what my dysmorphic mind may be telling me.

Can you?

(Art by David Bowman, available at DavidBowmanArt.com)


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