Why Is It So Damn Painful To Feel This Ugly?

I can't run away from the shame of "letting myself go."

This morning I sat in the dentist’s chair to get a temporary crown on a previous root canal. Unsurprisingly, the dentist office is among my least favorite places to be.

Nothing against this office, because everybody is amazing. But no matter how kind and gentle your dentist and hygienists are, there's no question that going to the dentist itself is something remarkably unguarded.

For me, it is a long sequence of awkward and vulnerable discomfort. I step into the waiting room and must pick a chair--all of which reminds me that my body is bigger than it's supposed to be.

When I'm called back to the dentist's chair, there's the discomfort of having my blood pressure checked with a cuff that's too small. And in recent months, the lipedema fat that has spread into my arms feels painful when squeezed by the too-small cuff. I grit my teeth in pain and can feel my blood pressure rising.

Now we have to have the talk. "Have you talked to your doctor about your high blood pressure?" I awkwardly explain that I have the right sized cuff at home and check it regularly. It reads high when the cuff is too small and I'm in pain. More awkward conversation.

I swing my enormous legs up into the chair, cringing as the connected lamp and tray of dental instruments move along with me. I am painfully aware that my body hangs over the sides of the chair, and despite being fully clothed, I feel entirely naked.

A hygienist comments that she likes the color of my hair. I mumble an uncomfortable "thank you," and she tells me how she doesn't have the guts to be so bold.

Am I bold?

Sitting in that chair, I don't feel bold. I feel sheepish. I lay there as if I'm some big bull in a china shop and I'm just waiting for it to end... though we've hardly even begun.

Today was a sort of mental doozy at the dentist. It was as if the full and uncomfortable weight of the experience hit me for the first time.

I hate going to the dentist.

But it isn't merely the grinding of the drill and the smell of powdered teeth. It's not even just the pain or worse yet--the fear of the pain.

No, I hate going to the dentist because it reminds me of how ugly I feel. Ugly on the outside where everyone can see. And I feel ridiculously apologetic for all of the ugliness I find in the mirror.

Today, as I opened my mouth on command and tried to ignore the discomfort of being so obese, I couldn't help but think of all the little ways I have let myself go.

How my hair color has grown out and I'm in dire need of a real haircut. Or how I don't feel like my face is worth the effort of makeup so I no longer try. I think about the fact that my eyebrows are overplucked by years of my mother's amateur hand. And the way my PCOS leaves hair in the wrong places like my lip and chin, so now the dentist and everybody can see my (mostly) blonde mustache too.

I feel so damn ugly, and I can't help but feel like the world judges me harshly for that.

Who am I, really, if not the mind and spirit inside?

Of course, I thought about all of these things and I knew that I don't owe the world beauty. I don't owe anyone a perfectly plump lip for a pretty smile. So I reminded myself of these things. Told myself that beauty is only skin deep.

That I am still Shannon Ashley whether I look like this:

Author, 2012

Or that:

Author, today, with her 4yo's "makeover"

Aren't I supposed to be above this? Above caring what other people think? Yet a simple dental appointment was enough to remind me of the fact that I feel like a brittle, ugly shell of the girl I used to be.

Beauty, in the eye of the beholder...

I owe nobody a pretty face or "normal" body. Yet I find myself feeling guilty and humiliated knowing that every person who meets me looking like this doesn't know me when I looked like that.

In reality, it's such an arbitrary line. I have never truly felt beautiful, but there have been times where I felt "pretty enough." And there were people who made me feel beautiful.

Why the hell can't I do that for myself?

And why must I have this deep desire to be beautiful? There is nothing wrong with not walking around looking one's best. Letting ourselves go isn't a character flaw or moral failing.

Letting ourselves go is fucking complicated.

So why do I feel like such a disappointment?

I have no answers today. This is not a story where I rail against our culture or even talk about the negative impact of the male gaze.

No, this is the painful questioning of a weeping soul who repeatedly wounds herself deeply against sharp rocks and roughly splashing waters. I'm a 36-year-old single mom who still feels like a girl who still feels like an ugly duckling. And I smash myself violently against what I am and what I'd like to be.

Perhaps there is no happy ending for odd duck's story. I'd like to hope there is, but I still don't know. I am not a fairytale princess, and I'm not sure that I'm even a swan.

So I paint my world in every shade of pink and rose gold.

The other day, Marsha Spaine Walpole commented upon seeing a snapshot of my messy bedroom and laundry room that my clothes were mostly pink and purple. She mentioned that pink "is the color of universal love of oneself and of others. Pink represents friendship, affection, harmony, inner peace. Purple uplifts spirits, calms the mind and nerves, creates feelings of spirituality, increases nurturing tendencies and encourages imagination and creativity."

We all need people in our life like that--those who can find a rosy lining in our muck and mess.

And the more I think about my love for rose gold, pink and every "girly" color, I wonder if I gravitate toward those hues even more because I have let myself go.

Again, I have no answers.

Just the burden and longing this ugliness brings. And for whatever reason, I need to talk about this. I need to talk about the pain and the complication of walking through the world with such guilt and humiliation.

Of thinking my entire person is so wholly unacceptable to virtually every stranger in the world. And that the only people who can love me are those who can overlook something so grotesque--and then I stop.

Because I remember.

We aren't supposed to talk about these things.

We're not supposed to admit the full extent of our insecurities. We're not supposed to reveal self-loathing or such a seemingly shallow pain.