I’ve never been incredibly interested in keeping up with society’s beauty standards. It all seemed to go over my head in junior high and high school. I was much more concerned with sports, school, and family at the time, which made for a rude awakening in college. I remember looking down the hall of my freshman dorm to realize I was very clearly behind my peers. Thank God social media was barely popular in my college days. I learned a few hair and makeup tricks, and I made it through, maintaining most of my confidence and comfort in my own skin.
Fast forward five years. Everything I had struggled to learn, the confidence I had maintained through my teen and young adult years, went out the window. Pregnancy/postpartum brought acne I had never experienced as a high school student. Hair loss, stretch marks, weight fluctuation, and more. Kind of hard to feel comfortable in your own skin, let alone any ounce of pretty. I was just trying to stay put together enough to make it to and from work.
The worst part, social media exploded as soon as I had my son. I had hours of maternity leave to stare at pictures of other women, comparing myself. If I thought I had been behind in college, where was I now? Because I felt like I wasn’t even in the running with the women I saw popping up in my feed. How are teenagers surviving this digital age? I asked my 30-year-old self as I felt my self-confidence plummet.
And it seems like I’ve been trying to catch up ever since.
I’ll paint you a picture of recent me. Headshots are tomorrow for work; I’m frantically trying to learn how to curl my hair…at age 30. I have never been able to master this (not that I have tried very hard), but I’m armed with about seven Youtube videos and an expensive curling iron. I am distracted, looking at my son in the mirror behind me, trying to answer 25 questions and remember how that girl did the twisting thing with the curling iron. I reach down, I grab THE WRONG END of the curling iron. I burn every single one of my fingers. I’m sobbing. My husband tries to comfort me, but it’s not just the physical pain that hurts. It’s the reason behind the pain. Why am I trying to learn how to curl my hair right now? Who am I trying to keep up with?
An imaginary person. That’s who I’m losing the race to. It’s a little ridiculous at this point. Nothing is real anymore. Obviously, you can get a chemical tan, keep your fingers and toes done, and dye, cut, and style your hair. Those are easy enough.
Your regular eyebrows aren’t good enough, though they have to be shaped and then redrawn and tattooed on your face.
Don’t forget eyelashes- you can lift and tint those or better even, get extensions.
On that note, your natural hair thickness is too thin. Everyone has extensions now, don’t forget to keep up with them every few weeks.
Did you know that your lips aren’t “full” enough? You need to fill those.
And last but not least, your forehead wrinkles are showing, how dare they, better fill your forehead too.
Cover the whole thing with layers of various cosmetics, and ta-daaa, YOU are beautiful. But you don’t even look like you.
It’s exhausting. And I, for one, don’t have the time for upkeep or the money to keep up with it all. But that doesn’t mean I don’t want it. How could you not? I look at myself in the mirror, and I feel incredibly plain and boring, my real hair and eyelashes reflecting back at me. And that’s not a great feeling to feel on top of feeling like you’re the invisible maid, cook, and nanny in your own home.
I can’t seem to find the in-between. How do I feel beautiful but also feel like myself? I am most comfortable in comfy gym clothes and a little mascara, that’s me, but when I stand next to the other moms at The Children’s Museum, I’m aware of the drastic difference between us. If I’m honest with myself, I feel small despite my 6′ frame towering above everyone. I feel lesser than. I try to focus on my strengths and talents, but at the end of the day, society’s standards have a stronghold on my confidence through social media, ads, and good old “everyone else is doing it” peer pressure.
Unfortunately, this isn’t a blog post with a solution or a suggestion. What our society considers beauty doesn’t feel like me, but where does that put me with my natural features? I am wading through the feelings and insecurities, so if you have ever felt the same, know you’re not alone!