Your body. Your weight. The way your clothes fit. Where you have hair and where you don’t. Your hairstyle. Your makeup. Your lack of makeup. These all add up to one thing our society has become obsessed with commenting on, critiquing, and using as a marketing tool: Your appearance.
We have been conditioned, through years of both subtle and explicit advertising, that our appearance is paramount to a positive and productive experience as a human being in this world. Not only are we told that it is important we “look our best”… “our best” is dictated by someone else. That someone is actually the weight loss, clothing, beauty, supplement, and diet industries — and their vested interest in us goes so far only as to make money off of our sales. Put another way: They’re body-shaming us, then taking our money and running.
Here’s how I see it: Nobody has the right to dictate the details of my appearance, least of all a corporation that aims to prey on my insecurities just to make a buck. Ever since I realized this power dynamic feels yucky and imbalanced, I have been fighting against harmful and dangerous cultural beauty ideals and standards. I have been using my buying power by not supporting brands and companies that promote a non-diverse or unhealthy beauty standard. But I’ve also been fighting back another way.
This is a process, but it’s one that feels worthwhile: I’m working to care less about my appearance. This does not mean ignoring my physical body and its needs. If playing dress-up, adorning yourself, or putting on a fierce face of makeup feels fun and nourishing to you — hell yeah. Do. It. Up! What I’m talking about is questioning whether or not society’s preferences and standards feel good to me… and if I actually want to strive toward or adhere to them. Most of the time, I realize I don’t. Here are a few examples to explain what I mean.
My hair’s getting grayer by the second. I’m “only” in my early 30s, but I realize that I actually kind of like the way my wispy silver pieces look. I’m passing on the dye for now.
I haven’t weighed myself in a looong time. We’re told that we should be focused on our body weight, so we can track wellness through body mass index, or BMI. But BMI doesn’t depict a helpful, complete, or even accurate look at our actual health. Plus, stepping on the scale makes me feel awful no matter what the number reads. So I just don’t do it.
I ignore fashion trends. I love seeing my fashionista friends do their thing — some people just have a flair for putting together a look. Me? Not so much. I’ve realized that trying to keep up with trends and current styles stresses me out, and activates my inner critic. So I ignore what the “season’s new look” is and shop at stores that buck the trends. All the better if they have inclusive sizing. Crop-tops and jean shorts with a .0005-millimeter inseam may come and go, but my fave sweatpants are forever.
I want to be clear here — you don’t have to mirror my choices to fight back. If rocking a gorgeous hair dye or dressing up makes you feel vibrant, beautiful, and empowered from the inside out, keep doing it. The aim is to question, or as my friend and eating disorder recovery coach Holly Lowery says, “get curious about” what you really want.
What makes you feel like the magical fairy superstar goddess you truly are? Do that, and do it proudly.
Warrior for Change