In the two-and-a-half years since I started my transition, one of the hard truths that I’ve had to learn is that “I can’t trust myself”. It may seem like a fairly extreme statement, but it’s something that I find I need to keep reminding myself on a regular basis, to the point it’s basically become some kind of mantra. Let me explain:
Dysphoria is a heck of a thing to experience. At times it’s quite manageable, but other times it’s like an insidious shadow that creeps into my every day and causes untold stress and anxiety. On those darker days, it’s impossible to see myself in the mirror and not want to cry. Dysphoria taints any perception of myself, and makes it quite difficult to maintain any sense of confidence in who I am.
Despite all that, I often have friends and colleagues tell me that I look amazing and beautiful, and while I thankfully show my appreciation, more often that not I just don’t see it. One of the more difficult parts of transition is actually being able to see the changes that occur in any meaningful way. Putting a photo of myself from today beside a photo from three years ago is a great indicator of just how far I’ve come, but seeing myself in such a juxtaposition is rare. Transition is such a slow process that at the day-to-day level, the changes are so microscopic they may as well be imperceptible. As a result, while comparing photos is solid evidence, I see my face and body so often that the evidence might as well not exist.
The problem with dysphoria and transition, is that trans people are often our own worst critics. We kinda become these “experts” in what looks masculine or feminine, and as a result we apply that to ourselves in an exceedingly harsh way. What other people overlook or simply don’t notice tends to stick out to trans people. While I see shoulders which are too broad, or an excessively wide rib cage, everyone else doesn’t pay it any mind at all. But to us, it’s just so obvious, how can they not notice it? We become so deeply aware of what we perceive as flaws or inadequacies that we can’t not feel like we’re judged by them.
It’s for that reason, that I’ve realised that I can’t trust myself. My internal perception of myself is compromised in such as way, that making any judgement about myself is going to be inherently flawed from the beginning. It would come from the initial presumption that I look bad or ugly or not like a woman at all, and anything after that would be contaminated by the initial presumption.
I have had to learn that if I can’t trust my own perception of self, that I need to be able to trust in how other people see me. I need to be able to temporarily shut down that voice inside that screams “yeah really, you don’t see it, so they’re just messing with you” or “nah, you just look like crap”. It’s still kind of weird even receiving compliments from people about my appearance, because when living as a guy, it was something so rare it might as well never happen. It was always “hey, Avengers shirt, niiccceee” rather than “that shirt looks good on you, the colour really suits you”.
So as harsh as saying “I can’t trust myself” may sound, it’s an important little reminder to myself that what I might see of myself, other people see something vastly different, which is more often than not just the thing I wish I could see.