“How do you quit troubleshooting yourself?” In this intimate personal essay, a queer writer with body dysmorphia contemplates their physical appearance and what it’s like to have a condition that prevents them from truly seeing their body.

I can’t tell you what my partner sees when they look at my body, nor what my coworkers see when I turn on my Zoom camera. I struggle to build my digital avatar. Yes, I have brown hair and brown eyes. No, I am not very tall. Beyond that—the shape of my face, the width of my hips and thighs—is a mystery to me. I’ve searched for myself in puddles and in bathwater, in dressing rooms and at golden hour. Pictures and videos show me someone brand new, so I look harder; not for beauty, not always, but for some consistent self-outline.

Cheri Lucas Rowlands

Cheri has been an editor at Longreads since 2014. She's currently based in the San Francisco Bay Area.