I've found that hormone therapy has had distinct stages. I'm not going to go over some of the early psychological ones, but in this case focus on the way I began to feel and what my concerns and fears were, leading up to where I'm at now.
Early on, changes were exciting. How could they not be? Even just feeling things, like sore breasts and realising "oh my god, they're growing!". That was really something - a great feeling.
My face feminising was tougher to pick, but friends who weren't seeing me every day certainly did. "Your face is softer," they said, and it made me feel amazing.
Then came the huge weight loss and re-distribution. And at that point - the point where I needed to wear a bra of some sort every day, I began to feel closer to 'right'. Like my body was finally mine, not something unpleasant my mind was shackled to.
But with that realisation that I look quite feminine came the beginning of insecurities about it. At first, every change was amazing... but then gnawing fears like "What if I don't change enough? What if this is it?" arrived.
Even as I became really very comfortable with my new body, I kept noticing parts of me that didn't seem 'feminine enough'. Forcing myself to get over having broader shoulders. Trying to focus on angles that made me face look more feminine than masculine. Playing with makeup.
Then about a month ago I noticed that my hips were starting to curve a bit. I nervously took out several form-hugging dresses I'd bought months ago, tried and given up on due to my still-too-masculine form.
But this time they fit, and looked good on me, I thought. A great feeling!
But the further along I go into HRT, and the more feminine I look, the more I find myself affected by micro-pressures and fears. My shoulders. My face. My breasts. Instead of just being excited that I look feminine at ALL (and not being mis-gendered all the time) I began to fixate on all the parts of me that didn't quite look the way I wanted them to look.
Finding I'd be wistfully staring at gorgeous friends of mine, or total strangers, wishing I looked more like them.
It's not healthy, and it's not good. I went from being incredibly happy to dwelling on small details. Nurturing a fear of being 'too masculine', and it's a concern I've spoken to lots of other trans women about.
Having to remind myself how lucky I am - how effective HRT has been. That microscoping on minutia was not a good idea, and I should instead be just focusing on how my body makes me feel now.
Of course, it's easier said than done. It's hard to shake 30 years odd of feeling that your body is masculine, and that's terrible. I don't want to keep telling myself, "things could be worse, stop being unhappy", too. That's equally unhealthy. So I knew I need to face these concerns and find a way to work through them usefully.
Then I moved house.
It's several days at the new place, and the major difference is this:
Tons of them. My room has a built-in wardrobe that dominates the space, and I can see myself in the light more clearly now. In a lot of ways it's helped.
I can still feel stubble on my face sometimes if I don't shave every few days, but I can now stare in the mirror and prove to myself that it's very light hair and simply not visible in all but a few cases. I can carefully shave those bits off and feel comfortable.
I can, whenever I get a moment of slight dysphoria, stand up and stare at myself in the mirror. That may sound a bit narcissistic, but when you're dealing with the insane body issues I'm still coping with, it's to me just a good way to remind myself, "No, THIS is your body now. Stop thinking you're in a body you aren't. That's gone. Love who you are now."
But there's another side-effect. Due to the positioning of my desk, glancing to my right I can see something I have almost never seen before: my new profile.
Staring into a mirror or taking a selfie gives specific angles.
But out of the corner of my eye now, I see my legs, my bust and just generally a very literal side of myself I haven't seen yet.
When I see that, it's hard to dwell on fears of being too masculine. I'm clearly bloody well not.
I have hips and breasts. I have curves.
This is incredibly clear to me. I can't wear most of my old male clothing. I've had to get rid of most of it, or use it as weird baggy at-home-clothes.
Accepting this consciously, I began to think more about what was causing my subconscious fears or what specific attributes were triggering these moments of dysphoria.
The features I have that I perceive as being 'too masculine' are really not. Many of my cis woman friends have broad shoulders like mine - they've given me tons of tips for drawing attention away from them. Same with any number of other features. But for me, with years of built in concern and dysphoria, it's hard not to see all of these are insurmountable flaws, when they really aren't. They're just me, and on balance they're not a problem. (Just tell my subconscious that.)
No, it's not that they're too masculine per se... it's that they look too much like me. The old me. Pre-transition me. Any features that look like old photos of me trigger me feeling uncomfortable.
I know I had a very feminine face even years ago - I know because, ironically, I was self-conscious about it. I was so scared of accepting my gender dissonance that I grew a beard and did whatever I could to NOT look feminine.
Now it's the reverse, and I just need to remember that.
I need to remember to glance in the mirror sideways occasionally, catch my profile for a moment and just remember I am quite beautiful, and unique. I'm not a perfect airbrushed cis woman model, and I won't ever be, and that doesn't matter.
I am a female version of the person I was before, and that means that as much as I'd like it to be otherwise, part of my old body is still here.
I am fixating on things that remind me of my old self, and not all of those are bad.