I’ve spent years rejecting the idea that the beauty industry can have a positive affect on my mental well-being. How can a lipstick make you happy? Why are young girls caking their faces in concealer when they don’t even need it? It’s taken me until by thirties to understand how the beauty industry has shaped the thoughts I have about my own body, and how I can reclaim them and make them positive.
It helped me develop a self-care routine
I don’t believe that possessions can make you happy, and for years I refused to spend money on beauty and skincare products because I believed I didn’t need them to feel beautiful. I definitely DO NOT need them to feel beautiful; but taking care of my physical self is something that I’ve done more in 2016, and something that’s sincerely helped me feel less worthless when I’ve been going through a bout of depression.
When I spent weeks primping and preening myself for my wedding day in 2015, I remember thinking there was no way in hell I could keep up this level of attention to my body. Who has the time? When I stepped out in my wedding dress, I felt so happy with myself from the inside out, that I could finally see the value in carrying on a few of the beauty routines I have developed in the run up to the day. I don’t spend much money on make up, but I do have a favourite cleanser, serum and moisturiser that I use religiously and a few face masks that I reach for when I need that extra special care. I don’t think this is the only way to practise self-care, but for me it’s a daily addition to my coping strategies that I do without thinking and gives me a regular lift.
Make-up can help me feel confident
There’s no denying that wearing make-up can make you feel more confident. In the same way that a new haircut and your favourite dress can make you feel like you can conquer the world, I’m not ashamed to say that a smokey eye and bangin’ highlighter make me feel sassy. But I also feel confident when I DON’T wear make-up and I think that’s important.
Washing my face and slapping on some moisturiser is all I do when I’m going to the gym. I like to look in the mirror and see my true self. For me, the gym is a place for honesty. It’s where I’m alone and focused with my own thoughts, listening to and observing my body to see how far I can push myself as well as when to rest. I find it’s healthy to have time without make-up, to appreciate the impact it can make when you really want it.
I realised need representation in the media
I grew up reading the same magazines as everyone else my age – Mizz, Shout, Smash Hits, Bliss – so I believed that to be beautiful I had to be white, thin, blonde-haired and blue-eyed with big breasts. I began dieting around 15 and didn’t stop until I was approaching 30. The penny dropped for me when I saw Ashley Graham on the cover of Sport Illustrated. She’s by no means a fair representation of the millions of ‘plus-size’ (whatever that means nowadays) women who look to the media for inspiration, but for me she’s an inch closer to that dream. In that cover I saw someone with a body shape vaguely like mine, and I’d never seen that before.
That’s when I realised I’d been conditioning myself to believe that my body shape, hair and face was all wrong by consuming the images that were handed to me. Now, I actively seek out women who have bodies I can identify with and a style which I can understand. I feel You Tube is particularly helpful when it comes to the beauty aspect of this, because it’s really relatable for me to watch a woman by age talk about what skincare and make-up brands they use in their everyday lives instead of relying on magazines which are heavily biased towards advertisers.