body marked with imperfectionsI am the mother of two little girls, a survivor of eating disorders, and I will spend my life living with body dysmorphic disorder. Never heard of it?

Let me help you become educated by defining something that has defined me for most of my life.

According to the Mayo Clinic:

Body dysmorphic disorder (BDD) is a type of chronic mental illness in which you can't stop thinking about a flaw with your appearance — a flaw that is either minor or imagined. But to you, your appearance seems so shameful that you don't want to be seen by anyone. Body dysmorphic disorder has sometimes been called "imagined ugliness."

In reality, most people who suffer from body dysmorphic disorder are not particularly ugly. I can say that about others. But when you suffer from body dysmorphic disorder, you intensely obsess over your appearance and body image. You spend a lot of time trying to "fix" perceived flaws but will never be satisfied. Eating disorders and extreme plastic surgery are not out of the realm of possibility.

Body dysmorphic disorder is much more than just wanting to lose 10 more pounds. It’s more than not liking what you see in the mirror. It's hating what you see in the mirror, and the thought of your imperfections becoming overwhelming and all-consuming. Living with body dysmorphic disorder is constant misery.

This disorder has plagued me since the age of puberty and will probably be a battle that I fight every day for the rest of my life. My doctors told me that I couldn't trust anything that I see in the mirror because I never see myself as I truly look. My self-image is so skewed that I no longer can believe my own eyes when I look at myself. They don't see who I really am and what I really look like. Do you know how disturbing that feels?

Imagine not being able to trust your own judgment. It may seem inconsequential or vain, but when you don't see the real you in the mirror, that’s a problem. Body dysmorphic disorder is never being satisfied with my appearance. When you never feel physically good enough, it takes a toll on your life. For me, it led to eight years of eating disorders.

It's a little easier for me now because I have been diagnosed with the disorder and I have researched it and I know that it’s not just my vanity, it’s a way of thinking that I can’t change. It’s a distorted way of viewing myself. It’s the opposite of beer goggles.

With therapy and education, I have been able to begin to not allow the disorder to define me. I know that I will never be satisfied with what I see in the mirror and that is not a reflection of who I am but a symptom of the disease. In that, I take some small comfort.

No matter how thin I am, I only see someone large and ugly in the mirror. For me (in my disease), I always needed to be just a little bit better. A little bit taller. A little bit thinner. My hair a little bit longer. A little bit curlier. A little bit straighter. My lips a little bit fuller. My eyes a little bit bigger. My nose, oh the bump on my nose, was monumental, practically a mountain. Boobs perkier. Legs longer. Fingers longer. Do you get the picture? No matter what I may look like, it is NEVER enough. I have to depend on my mind knowing that I am not what I see in the mirror. I’ve been like this for so long that I truly don’t know what I really look like anymore.

The standard for most women is that perfection in appearance equals perfection in all areas of your life. This is simply not true. It never has been. It is an impossible standard. It’s a moving target for those who suffer from body dysmorphic disorder. The message to all women should be that to be happy in life, you must be satisfied with your place in the world -- not the size of your dress.