A couple of months ago I started contributing regularly as a beauty writer on Babble. After a long long struggle to reclaim my style after letting it completely fall by the wayside in hopes of disappearing in to my postpartum depression, I realized that I felt strongly that taking care of your appearance and wanting to look good were not a bad thing. Quite the opposite actually.
For me, the desire to express myself through my clothing and appearance is inextricably tied to my self confidence. When it’s up, getting dressed is a joy. The first creative act of my day. One of those increasingly rare things I do entirely for me. Every accessory, every color choice is a small piece of the narrative I hope my day has in store. But when it’s down? I just don’t give a shit. I don’t want to be looked at, noticed, or even seen at all.
I think about what other people think of me more than I’d like to admit. I don’t worry about it, per se, or even necessarily take it in to consideration, but I do think about it. I always have, to some degree or another. There was a time, deep in the throes of my depression, when it dictated my every move. I was certain that everything I did would be the subject of criticism (by who? I honestly have no idea…) and as a result every move I made was fearful and overly cautious in hopes of just not seeming like a total fucking failure at life to my imaginary judging panel.
But you know what I didn’t do while I was so worried what everyone else would think? I didn’t get dressed. I didn’t put on makeup. I didn’t style my hair, or even really bother with it at all. Because as it turns out, how I look and the effort I put in to it may truly be one of the few things that are ALL. ABOUT. ME.
That realization was huge. That realization changed the way I thought about beauty altogether. It seems silly, I know. Trivial even. But our appearances AREN’T trivial. It’s not shallow to want to reflect your inside on your outside. There is power and confidence in looking the way you feel, and anyone who has ever taken a fashion risk can attest, that power and confidence MUST come from within or you’ll get laughed off the proverbial stage of life.
For as long as I could remember, beauty and vanity had been ugly words that I would never have felt comfortable applying to myself. In no uncertain terms: Beauty was something I wanted and coveted but never spoke about for fear of appearing vain. I don’t even know where I got that idea. My parents told me I was alternately smart, valuable, and beautiful the appropriate amount. I just always held that weird belief. I didn’t talk about feeling or wanting to feel beautiful. I just didn’t.
So this new thing where I write about beauty on the regular? It’s been really liberating for me. Standing up and saying that I think it’s okay, and hell, even important to spend time on looking the way you want to is a new idea for me, and I’m really enjoying it.
But then yesterday it happened. Someone left a comment on a post of mine that appeared on Yahoo! taking aim at my parenting and overall moral composition because I’ve opted to write publicly about experimental beauty choices.
“So she admits that she’s not in her 20s, I assume she’s in her 30s then. Why is she wearing pink/purple hair? Especially now she has a kid? That’s a great influence. And to be so addicted to makeup she’d go to these extremes? I sure hope that little one isn’t a daughter or she’s going to grow up with some pretty bad self image issues.”
My editor emailed me to let me know the post had been featured on Shine, so I clicked over to see how it looked. I mean, a post about eyelash dipping is hardly my life’s masterwork, but still when I clicked over and the first thing I saw was the comment above, I felt my heart drop and the blood drain from my face. It was like every critical thought and/or worry that had ever run through my head all summed up in one random person’s internet vitriol.
And then I took a deep breath and shut the browser window. I felt stupid. Just for a second. But then I reminded myself: I knew what the opposition was going to be to making those beauty choices when I made them. That commenter couldn’t have been the first person to think those things, it’s just that random strangers on the street don’t often find the balls to walk up and tell you all the shitty things they think about you based on the way you look. I realized that the comment stung me in all the right places, but the reality was, when I really thought about it, I didn’t care.
It’s not like it never occurred to me that someone might judge a Mom with purple hair or visible tattoos. It obviously did. For a long time I chose not to be “that Mom” because of it. But the thing is, “that Mom” is actually who I am happiest being. I am a Mom like hopefully many others who leaves the house in the morning looking how she wants to and feeling comfortable in her own skin. And believe me when I tell you that feeling comfortable in my skin sets a much better example for my daughter than the miserable introvert I had become while I sat cowering in the corner of life worried about what other people were going to think of me.