Throughout the past weeks I have been thinking about my physical appearance.
It started when I decided to reassess my wardrobe. I imagine I adopt a similar technique to many blog posts you will have seen on this subject before. The items I have not worn in a while are likely to be put in a box for sale or donation; the items I wear all the time are kept so long as they fit my current style (if I don’t imagine myself wearing something again it automatically gets the boot too); then I consider any gaps I feel I may have in my wardrobe. Any items I feel I’m missing become my focus when I browse clothing shops or websites. However I do try to think about what I would like to purchase before exposing myself to their influence, as I feel this stops me making impulse purchases and following fashion trends that I’ll tire of quickly. When I shop it’s usually with purpose and I only stray from my ‘focused list’ if I find a particularly unique piece I don’t feel I can pass on. Even then, the new pieces of clothing I buy are put through their own set of criteria, such as ‘how much use can I get from this? Do I already have something similar? Will it fit with a good amount of my current wardrobe?’.
A couple of my friends find it a little strange to shop this way, as I’ll point out many pieces of clothing I like and will still refuse to buy anything. To be honest I am very conscious of how many possessions I own. I prefer to have fewer belongings that I can really love, rather than a lot of things I don’t get to use often. It also makes me feel very uneasy to think about the amount of items that are made for them to eventually end up in landfill. I try to buy as conscientiously as possible, certainly not perfectly but hopefully getting better all the time. A sense of the environment has given me great motivation to filter what I buy.
That being said, I cannot deny the powers of a good outfit. Though it may have taken a few years to reach a stage where I feel my wardrobe is quite complete and I don’t have to constantly buy new things, I do think there’s a high-value to be placed on how an outfit can influence the way you feel. When I’m feeling uncertain of myself I tend to turn to clothes as a way of becoming more grounded. I find the way I dress has a major influence on how confident, happy and productive I feel. Even on days where I don’t achieve much more than getting dressed, I can be more positive about my motivation returning. As though taking the first step ~ simply turning up and trying ~ is enough to convince me to keep going.
A few weeks ago I also began writing a piece titled ‘my face’, that I had forgotten about until I found it in my drafts when I came to write this post, which I reread and decided I still wanted to share here too…
This post may have been more relevant during Face Equality Week (which coincided with Mental Health Awareness week) however it’s never a bad time to talk. I’d been thinking of making this post anyway just because I wanted to share how I’ve felt recently. For a few weeks I haven’t been bothering to put on make-up. Partly it’s because I’ve not been in the mood to, and partly it’s because I am so close to running out and I don’t want to have to think about buying more right now (it’s my very least favourite thing to shop for!). There was a day this year when I went to work without my usual make-up on and I was pulled aside on three different occasions to be asked if I was feeling OK, because as one person said, “I look sad”. I’m not mentioning this as a pity story at all, in fact there is a humour to be found in the fact my natural face causes some concern. And I do think it’s lovely to be surrounded by people who are caring enough to check I’m OK. I kindly told these people I was feeling fine, simply bare faced (and threw in that I had been out late the night before with friends to satisfy their suspicions may be slightly correct if I look a bit worn. Whether I have been drinking quite literally gets written over my face. My skin is not very forgiving). I learned a long time ago that it is much better to laugh at these scenarios than let them get to me, however I did end up thinking there was a time when I wouldn’t have been laughing. When I would have felt super self-conscious, possibly to a point where I would have ended up not getting any work done. Golda Meir said ‘the pretty girl was a handicap to overcome’.
There are so many people who would have reacted that way so I just wanted to share something that really helped me accept my appearance. I’m finding it slightly hard to know whether this is going to make sense, but instead of thinking about my appearance as just an aesthetic thing, I tried to fall in love with what it represents – genetically, I guess? Examples are going to make more sense here…
One part of my face I’ve always been slightly self-conscious about is my teeth. When I was little my lower jaw overlapped my top jaw, and I can recall telling my Nanny about having to have braces. She actually questioned why it was a problem because, as she showed me there and then, her teeth were the same. My jaw now sits correctly but the shape of my lower teeth does still firmly represent the same teeth as my Nanny had, which brings me a strange comfort. A similar example – my nose. A lot of people have strange relationships with their nose. Looking at it now I’m not actually sure what I used to complain about but I guess I thought it was a bit big and misshapen. As I’ve got older I’ve realised it’s a family thing. We all have the distinct shape mine does, and again that brings me a strange comfort, kind of like we’re a club.
Another thing I came to realise is that I look exactly like my mum when she was my age. When I see old pictures of her I am in awe of our similarity. To say I hate my face feels like an insult towards her as well as myself. My mum is absolutely beautiful inside and out. I take pride when it is recognised that I look like her, although (and I really hope she doesn’t mind me saying this) we are not the stereotypical definition of ‘good-looking’.
I no longer know how you can have a universal definition for good-looking, because no-one is really ugly. If you think of all the people you consider to have superior looks to yourself, all stood in the same room together, how does that room look? Does everyone look the exact same? Of course they do not: so if all these people can belong to the same party without being a carbon copy of one another, why do we automatically define ourselves as the opposite? Who are we to say we don’t blend with that crowd when we can’t even see ourselves?
Back to Golda Meir, the full quote states ‘Not being beautiful was the true blessing. Not being beautiful forced me to develop my inner resources. The pretty girl was a handicap to overcome.’ I strongly believe it’s all in the way you feel. There is every reason to put on make-up and clothes that make you feel more confident in yourself, because ultimately what is inside you pulls through to the surface. It almost feels contradictory to make a post both talking about accepting yourself as you are and how you can use appearance to change how you feel. It’s not easy to determine whether we are born as everything we are or whether we spend life learning and finding ourselves. Maybe it’s a mixture of both: accepting what you can’t change and acting on what you can. Either way there is always a positive outlook that can be adopted. Always a bright side of every situation. I feel myself saying it more and more often, the older I become.