Another piece of the puzzle: taking care of myself

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I have a dear friend whom I email back and forth with a lot, and we have a tendency to talk about a lot of deep stuff.  (In fact, one email with her inspired the title of this blog.)  I’m so grateful to her for that, because writing really seems to help me process things.

Yesterday, another piece of the puzzle fell into place during a conversation with her.  She told me that when she saw me the other day, I’d looked really pretty, but she she knew I probably wouldn’t believe her.  And generally, she’d be right – she often tells me I looked pretty, and I dismiss it and tell her that she’s just being nice b/c she’s my friend, and that I don’t believe most people see me that way.

But as I read her email this time, I thought, “For once, I actually kind of feel like I did look pretty.”  For a moment, I wondered what the difference was, but the answer hit me pretty quickly: I’d taken the time to do my hair and make up that day.

Now on the one hand, I hate the fact that many women spend hours primping to feel attractive (or even just “passable”), whereas men can roll out of bed, take a 2 minute shower, and be convinced they’re hot stuff.  This is a bit of a generalization, of course, but the overall principle is true.  And I balk at that; it’s such a double standard.

Nonetheless, it is the culture I was raised in, and when I take some time to take care of myself, I find that I feel better about myself.  I stand a little taller, speak a little more confidently, smile a little more.

But the more I think about it, I realize that the key phrase here is “take care of myself.”  It’s not the makeup and the blow dryer, per se – it’s just that I’ve expended energy on something that says to me that I value myself, that it’s worth it to take the time to do something for me.

To fully understand that idea, I need to go back a couple of weeks to an earlier email to her, when I was talking about how I’d been feeling really frumpy lately because my eyebrows were overgrown and my nails were broken and ragged, and she had reassured me that no one even notices things like that.*  I said:

If I felt I otherwise looked good, I probably wouldn’t worry too much [about those things].  But given that my nails are at the ends of chubby fingers and my eyebrows should be working to draw attention away from my triple chin (as if that were possible), I guess I just feel more self-conscious about it.  Especially b/c they are things I COULD so easily control, but I just don’t.  I think on some level I’ve decided that nothing I do can make me look pretty, so why bother wasting the time on any of it?

Reflecting on those two ideas – that I feel better about myself when I make myself look nice, and that on some level, I almost intentionally don’t do it because I don’t value myself – I finally realized something: I need to start making getting ready a priority everyday.

Since I’ve been out of work (which has been over a year now), it’s been easy to fall into the very lazy pattern of showering and calling it a day.  I comb my hair when I get out and then don’t touch it again.  I skip makeup.  I don’t even put on any lotion, which is murder on my skin in this dry climate, especially b/c I love good hot showers during the winter.

Starting today, I’m making an effort to change that.  I intended to wake up and get straight in the shower, but that didn’t quite happen, as I woke up with intense stomach cramps that seemed to be the start of a stomach bug. Fortunately, those have passed, so in a few minutes, I’m going to go shower, put on a little makeup, and blow dry my hair.

After that, I’m going to run out and use a little bit of leftover birthday money to finally get my eyebrows done, and moving forward, I plan to maintain them with the tweezers.  And last night, I took my chipped clear nail polish off, and I’m going to make sure that I keep my nails trimmed and neat with a fresh coat of clear polish on.

All of these things together take less than 10 minutes per day (all my hair requires is about 60 seconds with the blow dryer once it’s mostly dry, I use fairly minimal makeup, and the clear polish dries almost instantly), which is time I’m committing to giving myself.  They’re little steps, and they seem so inconsequential, but I realize that doing these things is every bit as important as losing weight in helping me to start shutting off that negative inner voice that tells me that I’m worthless.

* I’d like to just note that not every conversation we have is all about me and my insecurities!  We send each other mega emails about all kinds of different things, and I swear to you that I don’t obsess about this nonstop. 🙂

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