I often get comments from well-meaning family members about how the way I dressed and styled my hair in the past looked more flattering than the way I do now. It irks me to no end when they say that, because I am in a much better place now when it comes to my self-esteem and being comfortable with who I am. The way I present myself at any given moment is very much tied to my mental and emotional state of mind, so hearing “Hey, you used to dress better” translates to “Hey, go back to an unhealthy relationship with your appearance”.
Back then, I would spend hours getting ready, only to leave the house feeling self-conscious and impatient to get out of whatever I was wearing. I wouldn’t leave the house unless I had a full face of makeup on. Now, I wake up 20 minutes before class starts, throw on an outfit, and head out the door. That’s not to say that I don’t put any thought into what I’m wearing. After all, I spend a few minutes every night picking out what I’m going to wear, and I take care in the morning to make sure that the elements I chose work well together. But I am wearing less and less makeup, and I’ve been leaving my hair in its naturally wavy state after years of straightening it. I may not always look my best, but my appearance is no longer what I value most. What’s more important to me is my art, my family, and the time I spend with my friends.
I often see elements of the past me in my sister, who is much more susceptible to others’ opinions than I ever was. When we were both younger, I remember spending a lot of time trying to come up with ways to help her develop a healthy attitude towards her appearance. Looking back, I realize that it was probably an impossible dream considering all the negative messages she received from television, social media, and even her friends. I only hope that one day she can come to terms with herself and feel proud of being who she is.
I know I am.