I was ready to start the day, my eyelashes coated with thick mascara, skin hidden behind a mask of foundation, fingers littered with rings and clothes clinging tightly to my body. In fact, that’s how I have started every day for the past four years. I would dedicate an hour of my morning just to hide my face with makeup. I decorated myself with “trendy” products such as white shoes, leggings, and skin-tight shirts. Sure it was uncomfortable, but I didn’t mind. I just wanted to fit in with the girls of high status at my school.
I often observed the outfits the so called “popular girls” wore, thinking if I dressed like them, then maybe people would admire me too. Last year black Lululemon leggings became the new obsession, so I started searching for them online to see where I could buy some. My jaw dropped when I saw them priced between $98 and $128. I continued looking for some more affordable options and ended up at a retail store with knockoff black leggings for $6 hoping they would suffice in looking on-brand.
Even when I did wear all of the “right” clothes, I was unhappy, despite my trendy outfits. Everything about me felt artificial. I was an actor in my own life just playing along to what I thought would please the audience. I sacrificed my comfort to appease unrealistic societal beauty standards, never really allowing myself to explore my authentic style.
Poisoning my mind with spurious definitions of the word “beauty” damaged my self-esteem. I over-complicated my appearance to the extent that getting ready for school in the morning became laborious and exhausting. Spending an hour on makeup and another hour choosing clothes and trying on accessories drained the time I’d rather spend asleep.
The summer after sophomore year, I had an epiphany where I finally became aware of how harmful trends were to me. Dissatisfied, I knew I needed to make a change. I stopped wearing makeup, rings, nail polish and knockoff leggings.
Now, instead of searching online for what’s popular, I go to thrift shops and get a few clothing items that make me feel confident and comfortable, only wearing what I admire even if others think it’s weird. Recently I started wearing thrifted mom jeans with a belt and borrowed shirts from my brother’s closet. Other days I’ll wear sweatpants and crop tops, allowing me to feel more physically comfortable in the soft, loose fabrics. Choosing clothes that make me feel confident takes a lot of courage, but I’m more content with my appearance because of it.
Clothes allow people to express themselves, and now that I can authentically do so, I feel much happier with my appearance. I still have days where my self-esteem is low, but I feel much less artificial than before and that keeps me grounded..
Beauty doesn’t have one uniform definition; it is up for interpretation by the individual. I used to believe that being beautiful meant owning black leggings, or white shoes or always wearing makeup. But in reality, beauty, like confidence, is a feeling. Having a style that aligns with what’s trendy is not bad, but I learned for myself that I don’t fit that aesthetic.
Redefining what I find beautiful helped me build the courage I needed to try new clothes. Some days it is difficult to reject the social norm of fashion because I worried I would receive negative comments from others, but the only person whose opinion I should care about is my own. I approve of my style, and that’s all that matters. Through many wardrobe changes, I discovered being my authentic self is the most beautiful action I can take.
What makes you feel beautiful? Let us know in the comments below.