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March 13, 2010 @ 11:31 pm

Seeing Myself As A Stranger

My therapist and I talked some more about the body image / self image thing when I saw her on the first.  One of the things we talked about was some professional photos that SS and I had taken in December (I’d emailed copies to her).  She asked me how I feel when I look at the pictures, and specifically (since we were talking about my self image thing) whether I could look at the pictures and feel I looked good in them, since we’d gotten dressed up and put on makeup and they were professionally done.

When I look at the pictures, I mostly look at SS (or if I look at myself I focus on some feature that I don’t hate), and I remember how much we laughed that night, and how our photographer, Josie, was so great, and how I’d walked in there feeling very nervous and within just a few minutes I was relaxed and really enjoyed the experience.  I remember how, when Josie showed us the first few photos and flipped from one to the other on her computer screen, we all laughed about my deer-in-the-headlights expression in the first one.  When I look at the photos, I smile as I recall Josie making a photo collage for us and adding our first names and the word “Forever” without either of us telling her we were a couple, and I see the expressions of love in our eyes as we look at one another, which is apparently what Josie saw and is what several other people have commented on when they’ve seen the photos.

But my therapist asked if I think I look good in the photos.  I said that, well, of course, I can see that I took the time to put makeup on and try to do something with my hair, and the pant suit I was wearing was pretty, but I still see me under all that.  Makeup can hide a lot of things, like uneven skin tone or blemishes, and certainly I believe I look nicer with it than without it, but it doesn’t change a person’s most basic features.  When I look at myself in those photos, I still see all my flaws; I just have makeup and a nice pant suit on, and I look very happy and I think it showed that we were having a good time.

So, my therapist suggested an assignment for me.  She asked me to look at one of those photos, and said to be sure to use a still photo of myself rather than looking at myself in a mirror, and describe the person I see as if she were a stranger and I was writing a biography about her.  She went on to suggest that I take it a step further and interview that stranger, for the biography, or maybe like one of those interviews you see in some newspapers, where they talk to people about what they do for a living.  I asked if the interview would be about what I do for my day job or if I would interview myself as a writer or web designer (although I’d have to leap into my imagination-view of the future, since I don’t do either of those “for a living”).

I pondered, for a moment, the thought of seeing or meeting myself as a stranger, and then said one of those things that sort of pops out before one has a chance to self-edit: “If I met my self as a stranger, I wonder if I would hate her on sight.”

“Has anyone ever hated you on sight?” she asked.

Damn it.  They always hear those sorts of statements, you know?  They never just slip past them.

I said I wasn’t aware of anyone hating me on sight; if they did, they didn’t tell me so.  She asked if I’ve ever hated anyone on sight, and I said that no, I haven’t.

So we discussed why I said that, automatically, like that, and I didn’t really know.

So, I’ve been at a stand-still on this assignment for almost two weeks.  I see my therapist again on Monday and I have nothing.  I can’t seem to move past describing myself as (and this is while choosing not to mention my flaws, as I wouldn’t do that when describing a stranger) “large, fair-skinned, with short gray hair and green eyes”.  Oh, and I can see that I look happy in the photos.  If I were to describe a fictional character in a novel and she looked like me, I might mention the sort of golden-brown starbursts in her eyes, since that is a feature I actually like about myself, but they don’t show up in photos.

I cannot come up with any sort of descriptive anything, other than that, and I’m not even sure, really, how detailed a physical description is in a typical biography anyway.

And the interview part . . . sigh.  I don’t even know what I would ask a real stranger about their job.  Maybe, if I were interviewing someone to write a biography about their entire life, I might ask questions that would be intended to get them talking about some of their turning-point moments, or some funny or interesting stories from their early years.  Maybe I’d tend to ask questions that focus on how one thing in life tends to lead to another, like when someone you meet for five minutes says something that gives you an idea or some information you were lacking and your life ends up being completely changed as a result of something that appears to be random, but only because I like those sorts of angles and I’d be the one writing the biography.  But when I bring my mind back to the fact that I’m supposed to be writing about myself from the perspective of a stranger, I feel paralyzed again.

I don’t know.  Maybe I’m making this into a bigger deal than it needs to be, but I really feel stuck.

4 Comments

  1. Comment by mrasherkade:

    I should do that assignment for myself….my spouse is always calling me fat and stupid…and it doesn’t help that I lost my job and am struggling with mental illness….(all my life, but it’s far worse now)…you are a great inspiration!

    • Comment by lifeischange:

      I think the really difficult times in life, like going through a period of unemployment, really can make so many other challenges more difficult. Your post from yesterday was good news! The part about the “symbolic rodents,weeds, and improper soil” is pretty powerful. I like those sorts of analogies, that we can put to direct use in our lives. And feeling that you will be ok, regardless of what others do, is huge. Sending you positive wishes.

  2. Comment by Rainbow Socks:

    http://jobsearch.about.com/od/infointerviews/a/infointervquest.htm

    seems like a serious guideline for work related type of biography intereviews.

    from another source, less formal:

    What significant news stories do you remember from when you were young?
    Who is the first president you recall and what did you think of him?
    Who is a public figure you admire and why?
    Can you discuss a significant accomplishment in your life?
    What influences most affected your life?
    What issues do you care most about/get involved with/ etc.
    Has politics been an important interest and why?
    What changes in U.S. culture do you most admire? regret?
    What changes in U.S. society do you most admire? regret?
    What changes in U.S. politics do you most admire? regret?
    Can you discuss your strongest memories of the civil rights movement, of Vietnam, etc.
    In what ways do you think ideas/discussions/actions related to race/class/gender in the U.S. have changed in your lifetime?

    google biography interview guidelines =)

    good luck

    • Comment by lifeischange:

      Thank you, Rainbow Socks, for the helpful information. I would up writing something pretty basic. I see my therapist tonight, and I’ll talk more with her on exactly what the purpose of the interview part was . . . I think that may be part of the reason I’m stuck. I understand the description part from the photo, but I’m kind of confused on the rest.

Thoughts?

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