Relaxing about appearances

People often don’t understand how much preparation and forethought I put into how I look for random gatherings and events.

It isn’t consistent. It varies according to my mood and anxiety level.

If I’m going to the house of a close friend to watch a movie, or to a casual brunch, or to grab coffee with people I’m comfortable with, I’m fine wearing rags and minimal makeup.

If I’m anxious or in any way uncomfortable, I’ll plan what I’m wearing for days in advance. I’ll spend time on my hair rather than throwing it up into a bun. I’ll do a little more with my makeup.

My appearance is my emotional armor. When I feel I look good, I’m better able to manage whatever life has in store.

It’s not only feeling as though I look good, though. That doesn’t fully encompass all I mean. It’s more like wearing a mask or a costume.

“I’m dressed up as a confident person today.”

Wearing the wardrobe and makeup of the character helps me take on the role.

Case in point: I looked nicer than I’ve looked in months to go to a doctor’s appointment recently. I was nervous and knew I might need to advocate for myself in ways that don’t come naturally to me. In order to be able to do so effectively, I knew I needed to look my best.

Not for her. For me.

Over the course of this year, I’ve noticed myself needing this armor, this costuming, less and less frequently. I skip doing my hair and throw it up into a bun more often than not. My daily makeup routine has been whittled down to become nearly non-existent.

I’m becoming more comfortable in my own skin. I make the effort to look good when I am in the mood to do so and when the rituals involved will make me happy. I don’t do it because I feel I need to very often anymore.

As I age, it’s feeling less and less necessary to pretend to be and feel things I’m not. It used to come naturally to pretend I was happy and confident. Lately, what comes naturally is being authentic about myself and my current mood.

Of course, in part, this is because I no longer spend time with people who make me feel uneasy, people who don’t accept the authentic me. People who judge, people who expect perfection in behavior and appearance, aren’t people in my inner circle.

And I’ve made effort to pull those people closer who I may, perhaps, have overlooked previously. My anxiety, without me realizing it, kept me from getting to know friends and letting them get to know me on a less superficial level.

I cultivate relationships now, not acquaintances. I look for quality in my social circle, not quantity.

This is one of the outcomes of the past few years of recovery. The mask didn’t consciously get put to the side. The mask broke. I shattered, so it shattered. And I took note of how the people around me responded.

I am so thankful for my friends and so grateful to have reached a stage in my journey when it has become easier to relax and be my true self.

It’s lovely to be able to appreciate makeup as something fun and unnecessary, rather than a required barrier between the world and the real me.

Featured Photo by Emma Bauso from Pexels. I wish I knew what that palette was. I’d use the crap out of it.

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