One of my favorite paintings is The Treachery of Images by Belgian artist, René Magritte. It is an iconic piece that features an illustration of a pipe with the saying, “Ceci n’est pas une pipe” or “this is not a pipe” below the image. Magritte’s point was that the painting of the pipe was not a pipe at all, but a representation of a pipe. After all, you could not stuff tobacco into the image of the pipe on his canvas, he said.
When it comes to self image and body image, I see how Magritte’s art can help us put into perspective the importance of recognizing that what we look like or how we appear to ourselves or others is not who we REALLY are. Whether you are big or small, tall or short, etc, what you see on the outside is only a representation of you. It does not need to define who you are, positive or negative, nor does it need to trap you into believing you are more or less than your true being. The body is just a body, and we are (or can be, if we are not) in control of how that body does or does not represent our spirit.
For a long time, I hated looking at pictures of myself. To this day, I fear seeing pictures people take of me because I think I look fat or bad or unhealthy. Two weekends ago, I ran the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure, and I asked strangers to take pictures of me with my camera phone as I normally do at these events when I’m running them alone (all part of my Do Different mantra by the way). When I got home and looked at my photos, I stared at them for a long time, almost in disbelief that the woman in the photos was me. Though I still picked myself apart, I happily acknowledged my flaws and celebrated my accomplishments at the same time. The woman I once believed myself to be would never be at a 5K, wearing a race bib, up before dawn, RUNNING. Say what? Ceci N’est Pas Moi – this is not me. But the crazy part of it all was that it WAS me, and it was the first time I felt in a really long time that what I saw on the outside was beginning to reflect what I feel like on the inside. My mind is still catching up in some ways, but I have acknowledged that the REAL me, my spirit, is the REAL person I can love and be proud of, and that my husband and my children can love and be proud of, too. No matter what I’ve looked like on the outside, I have had the same spirit all along, and I think that even as I do change my body, it’s important to know that it does not define ME.