Body Image, Societal Expectations and Mental Health
By Tina Blacksmith

In our world, women are held to utterly ridiculous standards when it comes to beauty and body image. We must get manicures weekly. No one should be able to see even one pore on our face. We should spend shitloads of money on expensive makeup that will most likely expire before it can all be used. We must contour and highlight and pluck, and whatever else the latest trends tell us to do.

Shaving my head

A few years ago I decided to shave my head. I’m not talking a cute short pixie cut. I’m talking completely shaving all my hair off. I want to say it was back in 2015 after I had seen Mad Max: Fury Road. I decided I wanted to have badass hair like Furiosa. As I watched the hair fall on my shoulders while my husband shaved my head, I thought “WHAT HAVE I DONE?” When he’d finished I couldn’t believe how different I looked.

Fast forward two years and I still shave my head. It’s really freeing not having to worry about split ends or buying fancy shampoos. I used to look at my hair in the mirror and think “I hate you!” It was so fried and uncooperative. I’d go to Google and type in “how to fix damaged hair”. I would try these tips but they never worked for me. Shaving my head solved ALL my hair woes. Sure, for the first few seconds it was shocking to see all that hair on the floor but I adjusted to it very quickly.

Then my eyebrows, and then…

Early this year I shaved off my eyebrows. I’ve always had a pretty crappy relationship with them. They were uneven. I used to look up tutorials on YouTube trying to figure out how to do the “perfect” brow society tells me I must have. But I never learned how. I always ended up looking more like Groucho Marx. The whole not having eyebrows took a little more getting used to.

Two days ago I decided to stop wearing makeup. And it wasn’t to be trendy. I never truly knew how to apply it, or what brush does this or that, so my makeup looked caked on. It was more along the lines of just wanting to let my skin breathe and not be covered in chemicals all day.

Having to look perfect

I think the pressure put on women to look perfect can have a huge effect on mental health. Think about it. I’m sure some women genuinely wear makeup because they want to. But I think a lot of women wear it because they feel they have to. This is especially true of those with acne or scars. They may not necessarily want to put all that makeup on but if they go out without it, people will stare at them and make them uncomfortable.

There’s a reason people spend so much money on plastic surgery. Society tells them they have to be skinny, have a nose that’s just the “right” size, or that they need that Botox to get rid of their wrinkles. The makeup industry gets rich off the insecurities of people. And sadly, so many people fall into that trap.

Society says we will never be good enough and that we need to do this and that to keep up with everyone else in order to be worthy. So we get caught up in this vicious cycle of spending money on products and then realizing we still don’t like what the mirror shows us. So we go and buy even more in an attempt to like what we see.

Selling us lies

The greatest thing I have learned from all this is that there is no one set definition of beauty. Magazines tell us we have to look a certain way but they’re just selling us lies and products we don’t truly need in order to be beautiful.

I feel more like myself with no hair, no eyebrows and no makeup on at all. When I did wear makeup I felt…fake. I say fake because I was desperate to cover up my dark circles and lines and spots. And I say fake because doing these things in search of “perfection” can truly make you lose sight of who you really are.

Comfortable with the real me

The most important thing we need to do is focus on building self-esteem. If we can become comfortable with our real faces and bodies we won’t need to rely on that $300 Sephora shopping spree to feel better about ourselves.

As I said before, it’s fine if you wear makeup because YOU enjoy it. Just look deep and figure out why you’re wearing it. Is it for you or are you wearing it to mask your insecurities so that everyone else will accept you? Try to take a small break from putting forth an image that everyone else expects from you. Focus instead on how YOU feel about yourself. You might just learn a lot about yourself.

Reproduced with permission, originally published here

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