I remember sitting in a college French class absently twirling a string of my hair and half listening to the professor talk about idiomatic expressions. Until one in particular caught my attention.
Etre bien dans sa peau
The literal translation is “to feel well in one’s own skin.” It means to feel good about yourself. But typically the expression is used in the negative — ne pas etre bien dans sa peau — and relates to anxiety or dissatisfaction with yourself. As in “I’m too fat, too thin, not pretty enough, not smart enough …” Wow, I thought.
Je ne suis pas bien dans ma peau.
Mon dieu. C’est moi.
Yes, that was, and is, me.
Since as far back as I can remember, I have had … issues. Like looking in the mirror and grimacing at my image.
I blame my internal critic who is on call 24/7, providing continuous commentary of the negative sort.
She gives me a head-to-toe appraisal, her eyes flickering over the most egregious of body parts, and shakes her head sadly. Clears her throat. And with a sigh, begins to tick off the litany of flaws present in my body.
I listen. I agree. Even though, by probably anyone else’s standards, I look just fine.
Like the late Nora Ephron, whose book “I Feel Bad About My Neck: and Other Thoughts on Being a Woman” resonated with many of us dames d’un certain age, I fret about wrinkles, cellulite, hair loss and all the rest of it. That is to be expected, I suppose.
But that doesn’t account for why I felt this way as a teenager. And probably even younger. I wasn’t obsessed with my body image. But I sure wasn’t happy about it.
The insecurities start at a very young age, especially with girls. Where do they come from? My mother didn’t instill these feelings – I did. Why? Is it societal norms, the overwhelming pressure to be thin, be beautiful, be perfect, thereby finding eternal happiness?
As I begin my latest diet to get rid of the 10 pounds that have crept up on me, I think of the alternative, being content absorbing the extra 10 pounds. Being happy in my own skin.
But that’s just not me.