October 2, 2006

Self-Portrait: Imperfectly Thin

This month's Self-Portrait Challenge states:

Look beyond the surface of your life, dig into your imperfect self and reveal it to us. I want to see the down and dirty you, the messy, gross and ugly you, the side of yourself that you always try to hide, give us some insight into your dreadful secrets. This can be your physical self or your personal space or within your wider life. Be not afraid!

So here goes:

Because I like to start out in clich├ęs and work my way out, I will start with this one: your body is a temple. The majority of people seem to be obsessed with their bodies. It may be due to a relentless assault by magazines, models, movies, or their frail self-esteems, but most people wish that their bodies would look like someone else’s- someone skinnier, fatter, tanner, or paler. For most people, it doesn’t matter what they look like as long as it is possible to look like someone else. People spend their money and time trying to build bodies that could pass for things they could be proud of. Some watch what they eat, they exercise, they cry in front of mirrors, they cling to their flesh, for me it was more a series of tattoos, piercings, burns, alchohol abuse, but in the end it is the wishing for our bodies to somehow resemble the images we have created in our minds.

I first became aware of my body, and its lack of muscle in the ninth grade. Before puberty, it doesn’t seem to matter that a slight wind could blow you away. People refrain from using words like rail thin, like a stick, skeleton, or scrawny when referring to small children. But once you hit puberty, suddenly your body is no longer your own. Suddenly, it must be fit enough for a hypercritical world to examine, judge and critique.

I am still dumbfounded that it is socially unacceptable to go up to someone who is overweight and say, “Damn! Don’t you ever stop eating?” But people have no qualms about coming up to me and saying, “Don’t you ever eat? You need to put some meat on them bones.” As if I don’t know that I only weigh 142 pounds.

I wanted to play football. But the fact that I still didn’t weigh one hundred pounds did not play well with my self-image. I tried lifting weights, eating every hour, drinking protein shakes, whatever I could do, but I stayed thin. Finally, after I broke a hundred pounds my sophomore year in high school, I said fuck it! What did I care what my body could be? I decided to just get comfortable in what it was. I chose to simply not act skinny. Instead of timidly taking off my shirt at the pool, I tore it off and worked on my tan, and that is the way things have been ever since. Well, that is a bit of a reckless statement. That decision to tear off my shirt and say fuck it didn't solve everything, and my acceptance of my body as is, is not how "things have been ever since." Throughout the years, I have had several relapses where I was anxious about my body.

I have come to terms with my “imperfection.” But being thin is still one of the things about my physical body that I have a bit of anxiety about. I try not to believe in insecurity because, I think if you allow yourself the ability to be comfortable within your body that eventually that comfort sticks. But it has taken me my whole life to learn to love my body. And now, it feels right to me. Sure my collarbones jet out, and my legs are so skinny that they appear strange in photographs, but this is the body I have. I have injected a bit of ink here and there to accentuate the angle so to speak, but when I look in the mirror I don’t see what I could be; I see who I am, and I like what I see. (On a side, yet related note, the older I get the more I am realizing that my body and mind are interconnected. I am starting to see that I can work on improving my physicality not to remake myself in someone else’s image, but to become fit and help my body keep pace with my intellect and spirituality. But that is another post and another portrait.)

As I took this self-portrait, I wanted to not hide my thinness. I wanted to appear as skinny as possible and show off my scrawniness as best I could, but of the forty or so pictures I took, I started to realize that I actually have a pretty nice body. I stood in several poses, trying to imitate statues, while I played with the lights and shadows. I even took a few nude shots just to play with the idea of being naked. At the end of the shoot, I realized that a “good” body is one that matches the soul it houses. It doesn’t matter how tan or chiseled it is, as long as it reflects the light beaming from within. I wish I could show this picture to the fourteen year old me and tell him to chill out. “You will be just fine,” I would tell him. Your body is the last thing you need to worry about. After all it is a temple, so spend your time praying within its walls, then and only then, will it be worth admiring from the outside.


In closing, I would like to thank all the SPC viewers for your great comments, and I would like to invite you, if you like what you see and read here on the SPC posts, to explore other posts here at the Intrepidflame, and after doing so if you are still interested, please subscribe to my blog and get each post emailed straight to your inbox. Follow the FeedBlitz in the right hand side bar.


  1. A wonderfully honest and open post with a beautiful photograph to match.

  2. Gorgeous photo... The lighting is perfect. And you look great.

    And another amazing post to go with it...

    Such honesty. Made me want to look inside myself and find the same confidence you have acquired... I wish I could feel as comfortable in my skin, as you do in yours.

    This month is going to be hard for me... But you've given me encouragement by your open and honest account of how you feel about your own body.

  3. Once again I loved reading your post.

    Thank you for sharing.

  4. Fabulous post, honest and inspiring as ever.

  5. I can almost see through your tatoos and under your skin, so bare.

  6. As always, stunning photos and provoking words. Let's see what I can pull up this month now...

  7. See - amazing. People get on my case when I'm too thin, but you certainly can't find fault with the pics with less fat. My weight has yo-yo'd since highschool.. and it makes me sad that too thin is always better in the end.

    I'm really glad that you came out of this with a more positive feeling about your body. The picture is beautiful.

  8. I can relate. I have come from feeling like a stranger in my skin to feeling at peace. I really believe you can see the inner beauty in a person, and that is what counts.

    I remember being called into the nurses station, they wanted to measure my wrists and waist. They suspected that I was starving myself. I have never felt so singled out. Obviously, I have moved on since then but, it is still vivid.

  9. love love love love love this

  10. Another excellent portrait BZ. I have taken the liberty of linking to your blog. Great tattoos btw.. Mine seem lame by comparison!

  11. stunning photgraph! and don't you love that other people feel so free to comment on our weight..i do it right back and they are truly stunned and don't do it again!

  12. This is so honest and real. I can relate and have been astonished it my life what people will say to a thin person... I can't begin to count the amount of times someone has made some comment about my size.

    Do you ever eat?

    You must exercise like mad!

    Are you anorexic?

    So I am pleased that you took a an authentic look at this and such bona fide picture.

  13. Great portrait, beautiful. But I have to say that my first thoughts on reading your post this morning were, if only I had that problem... So I let that thought pass because you are so right in what you say about wishing to have what you don't and learning to live in your own body. Yes indeed.

  14. you look pretty good to me, monkey:)

  15. Great post and picture, BZ. Always look forward to seeing what you're going to do next.

  16. Though a pretty new reader to your blog and to SPC, I am always checking in to see what you'll do with the theme as well. Since January, I've been ill and have lost 40 pounds or so. Whenever I hear how "great" I look, I think about my continually emerging ribcage and my hipbones...how my body has been failing me...and how bizzare that "sickness" looks good to others in this society. I cannot eat without pain, so your meditation on thinness and what it means was beautifully timed. Thank you for looking at this...and sharing it.

  17. "I realized that a “good” body is one that matches the soul it houses."

    I love this...so beautiful. Your portrait is absolutely gorgeous and your story so moving. I have dealt with the opposite issue most of my life and resonate with your path to "acceptance of self".

    Thank you for being raw here. I hope many people read this as it is an inspiration to many.

    Love to you and your lovely wife and girl.

  18. that was bohemian girl up above, btw...

  19. First, awesome picture. Very, very well-done.

    Second, you climbed into my brain with some of your thoughts. I was always wickedly skinny. I shot up to 5' 8" but weighed only a mere 100 lbs. (from eighth grade until just a few years ago, I was that weight). NOTHING made me gain until I got pregnant. Unfortunately, I walked out of the hospital both times looking about the same as I did pre-pregnancies. 100 lbs. seemed to be what I was going to weigh forever. It was brutal to overhear comments from adults, as well as my peers, that made me feel like a freak of nature. And to be confronted with obnoxious questions like, "Do you have anorexia?" was downright painful. I always felt like everyone was watching to see how much I ate. Why no one could understand that it was simply how God made me was depressing. I never did quite come to terms and accept my appearance, and I believe it was because I let the rude remarks overwhelm me. I also lost sight of the fact that I was extremely healthy, so my weight was really a nonissue.

    Ah, but I finally gained weight these past several years, and I have the curves I always wanted. Age does have its benefits. Yay!

  20. Very honest and beautiful-the piuc and the post.

  21. This is stunning! (I linked to your post in mine, cause you really put words on my feelings). Very wise and insightful...

    I didn't post a picture of my body because the point isn't really me being fat, skinny or "normal", it's more about not being happy with the body I have. But I'm working on it, so maybe one day... :)

  22. Kudos. Here's to comfort sticking!