Or “How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Myself.”
(author’s note: I’m not entirely sure if this blog post makes a lot of sense, but I’ve been really wanting to write about it for a while. Here are my thoughts. Let me know what you think.)
There is something very precious and fragile about self-love. I know I’ve written about this before, and you’re probably tired of hearing about how amazed I am with my newfound fascination with my own self. After all, it shouldn’t be this groundbreaking, right? To be okay with yourself? To like the human being you are busy being?
But things shift and change. Delicate little puzzle pieces snap into place of their own accord. Walking into a room full of strangers becomes a less terrifying prospect. If all I needed to do for the past 21 years to feel good about myself was actually care about my eyebrows, I’m a little mad I didn’t start earlier.
If you have told me six months ago that I would be the kind of person to dress up when she isn’t feeling awesome in order to force herself into a better state of mind, I would have laughed in your face. Historically, I have been the person to roll into most social situations in running tights (despite a massive lack of running in my non-existent workout regime), Chacos and an old sweatshirt or Goodwill flannel. If I was feeling anything less than stellar, there was little to no effort put into my appearance. I wouldn’t put on makeup, save keeping any leftover mascara. I wouldn’t touch my hair, except maybe sweeping it into a topknot or hiding it behind a favorite baseball cap.
Then I went to Europe.
Europeans dress better than most Americans. That may be a stereotype in some cases, but believe me when I tell you I actually only saw two hoodies the entire time I was abroad. I knew going in to my summer abroad that I wanted to dress the part; to fake it till I made it, as they say. I packed only one t-shirt. I left my running tights at home. I didn’t bring a single sweatshirt.
Instead, I wore sweaters and skirts. I bought a pair of black ankle boots. I paid attention to what my hair actually looked like. I put makeup on. I learned to appreciate the power of the perfect shade of lipstick.
I know what you’re thinking: didn’t you just describe someone becoming more shallow and obsessed with appearances? I thought about that too. I have to wake up a little earlier every day to give myself a margin of error in case I mess up my eyeliner and have to start over (which happens almost daily). I keep lipstick in my bag. I actually bought a full-length mirror so I can change outfits multiple times before I leave the house.
In other (more frank) words, I started to give a shit.
And when I started to give a shit, life got better.
So yes, I care a lot more about my appearance than I used to.
You want to know why?
Because I care a lot more about my confidence.
Few things make me feel ready to tackle a difficult day like winged eyeliner and a red lip. I rarely feel as prepared to deal with my social anxiety’s whims as when I’m wearing my favorite striped shirt and my oversized Levi’s denim jacket with the sleeves rolled twice. When I know my hair looks good, I feel like I can take over the world. People can tell when you feel good, just as they can tell when you don’t. Confidence is the first thing most strangers will pick up on when you walk into the room, no matter how subtle the changes are.
And that’s completely fine, because the confidence I get from my outfit or a particularly good hair day bleeds into every other area of my life. I put on lipstick to go to the library, and now I am pounding out a blog post I’ve been putting off writing for weeks. I blow-dried my hair yesterday morning and then made huge strides in assignments I’ve been struggling with approaching. I haven’t changed my routines to impress others, but for the immense personal importance.
This doesn’t only happen when I accomplish the perfectly blended smokey eye. When I spend Friday mornings without a speck of makeup on, I feel like I’m glowing. A few months ago, I would have cowered at the thought that I could feel beautiful in my most natural state. Something about feeling good on the outside has wiggled its way inside permanently, and it’s the most wonderful feeling.
It’s hard to change your insides, after all. I have been a procrastinator since the day I was born (my mom likes to say I “took my time” coming into the world), and it’s something I have to actively work on combatting. I am bad at managing money, and my dad has fought tooth and nail to get me to not overdraw my bank account (update: I’m getting better and better).
What I’m thinking — and hear me out — is that sometimes you need to inspire yourself to be better. When I’m wearing ankle boots and have lipstick on, I want to be the kind of person with an organized desk who drinks two cups of coffee every morning and takes time to read the news. People who willingly stand in front of a mirror and painstakingly etch eyeliner that looks the same on both sides are not the kind of people who give up halfway through a busy day.
Does any of this make sense? By caring about what I think about myself and investing time and effort in myself, I have changed my life for the better. By caring about my outsides, I have drastically improved how I feel on the inside. It’s a weird sort of logic that I’m just finding the words to (try to) explain.
My room is an absolute disaster right now. Maybe a new tube of lipstick can remedy that…