Busy day tomorrow so posting early…
When I first started recovery, I did not want to be pretty or beautiful. In fact, I went so far as to look as awful as possible on purpose. Words like “pretty” and “beautiful” and “attractive” were my version of four-letter curses. “Stylish”, “fashionable”, and “trendy” were included as I got older.
Growing up, all I received was contradictory information about physical appearances.
On one hand, it was a good thing. I got lots of attention and compliments. My parents got compliments and praise. People gave me leeway when I got into trouble.
On the other hand, it was not so great. People made assumptions. They tried to take advantage of me. And used my appearance as one excuse for abusing me.
Through the Years of Recovery
After a few years of therapy, I think it was with my second therapist, the anorexia and negative body image coping techniques started to resonate. And I realized that my aversion to certain words was making recovery difficult to impossible. I had to make peace with the curse words and what they meant to me.
- That’s how I discovered three important phrases:
- Body negative (me at the time)
- Body neutral (what I strove for in that phase of recovery)
- Body positive (my future goal)
This is where being an avid bookworm and English major in college helped a lot. My love of words, meaning, and research provided the tools to redefine what “Beautiful”, “pretty”, “attractive” and similar words meant to me. Took them from having negative and toxic connotations to positive and healthy ones.
The journey started with accepting that I was “plain” or “bland” instead of “ugly” or “gross” at the time. Skinny, underweight, bad skin, pale, with acne and rashes, ill-fitting clothes worked. The real goal was “healthy” and to discover what “healthy” meant to me. If “healthy” meant bad skin, boniness, bloating, and weight gain, I was all for that.
Then came the time I had to accept that weight gain meant “curvy” and “pretty” and “attractive” because the “skin and bones” look was replaced with “slim and strong”. The bad skin cleared up as my eating habits improved. And I realized that I didn’t feel safe in my body anymore. It, my body, was attracting way too much attention.
Time to Hide Again
I went back to wearing frumpy, over sized, ugly clothes mixed with more fitted items underneath. Except for pants…because I hated wearing belts and wanted my pants to stay up. But that was the ONLY criterion – that they stay up. So of course there are many unflattering styles of pants available. And I indulged in all of them to hide behind.
Only, there’s only so much a person can do to hide when her backside is not straight, flat, or hipless. Same with her front when the girls are not small anymore and wearing the wrong size causes pain. I think that was the turning point, the beginning of moving from viewing myself as “plain” to “attractive” to “pretty” and my body as “unhealthy” and “skinny” to “slim” to “curvy” and “healthy”.
Time to Stop Hiding
Thus began my obsession with body shape, femininity, fashion vs. style, and clothes that fit/felt good/flattered/reflected me. I discovered the world of blogging. That was scary. So much contradictory information. So many choices. And so much frustration because nothing ready-made fit me or my body shape without alterations. And alterations were a trigger.
I went back to my invisibility cloak for a few years. But then I realized I was in a good place. I was safe. I had friends and connections. I had a job and was financially independent. I was strong enough to face my body fears. I was confident enough to be me.
Most important: I wanted people to see the real me; to have my outsides match my insides.
And that’s when I decided to discover my personal style. What did that mean?
I wanted to be viewed as beautiful in a timeless, unique way that only people who are comfortable with themselves can be.
It was time to make my insides and outsides match. That journey started with visiting fashion and style blogs. Then it moved on to defining what personal style meant to me and how it fit my values, lifestyle, and goals.
2014 marked the beginning of my style journey. While I look and feel a lot better about my choices, this one will be ongoing. As I change, my personality changes, my style changes.
I hope this quote from Iris Apfel helps you the way it helped me. Before watching her documentary on Netflix, I didn’t realize some of the most important words in my life came from a woman who considered “pretty” less than interesting.
Thanks for reading