How to Enjoy Beauty Without Destroying Your Self-Esteem
Annie shows us how she buys into the beauty industry without ingesting the pervasive negative messages
I’ve written about beauty, on and off, for the past five years of my life. This means that I think about beauty way more than your average person. My brain is filled with thoughts about new products, trends, techniques, and tricks. When I watch a movie, I’ll notice the makeup. When I go to a foreign supermarket, the first place I’ll visit is the beauty section.
The flipside of this intense relationship, though, is that I’m also deeply entrenched in the philosophical implications of the beauty industry. I worry all the time about how people see themselves – and how a negative self-image seems to be becoming the cultural norm. I’m conflicted about cosmetic enhancements, primarily because I don’t believe it’s really possible to want to make a decision about one’s appearance “just for oneself.” The way we all look has become such a complicated issue, and as someone who essentially collects lipsticks and reads about hair mask ingredients for fun, it also seems like something I should be thinking about more.
The essential issue is, the beauty industry is an industry like any other – meaning it’s designed to make money. Seems kind of obvious, right? But because of the constant messages about empowerment (and, perhaps, the fact it sells “sillier” items like blushers rather than more “serious” ones like cars) means many of us have a … different relationship with it. We’re sceptical about most advertising – but when a beauty product is lauded as life-changing, we want to buy in.
But the beauty industry can’t exist without first creating a need for itself. It offers solutions – and thus, by extension, must first create problems. Maybe you’ve never thought about your eye bags, flyaway hairs, or skin texture before – but best believe the beauty industry will point it out to you. In the guise of offering you “help” with it, that is.
When you look at things this way, the beauty industry can seem oddly dark and sinister. But, as with everything in the world, it’s not so black and white. I do truly believe that there are elements of the beauty industry that can make your life better. Why else would I still be involved after all this time? The healing power of a face mask goes further than just improving your skin. The cheering feeling of a new lipstick is close to pure joy.
So how can you take the good and leave the bad? It’s probably easier said than done – and I don’t think even I have my relationship to the beauty industry perfect. But over the course of my journey, I think I’ve learned some pretty valuable things. Therefore, to help with my life’s mission of making every single person feel happy and hot, here’s how to enjoy beauty without sacrificing your own personal self-esteem.
First things first: there is no end aim to beauty. You’ll never run out of things the industry tells us we could change or improve. Go into it knowing you’re fighting a losing battle – or you’re going to end up incredibly disappointed and in fiscal ruin. You may have physical preferences, but there is no objectivity to beauty. You’re always going to look like yourself – so make peace with that before you start experimenting.
One thing I find deeply frightening is the number of people who almost never see themselves without makeup. This is surely a one-way ticket to finding your natural face strangle unacceptable, right? You must get used to what you look like au-naturel, because if your bare face starts to become a shock to the system, it’s going to be far harder to be on board with it. Make no (or very little) makeup your new normal, and anything else a bonus, rather than what’s expected.
Once you’re totally down with your bare face, you can start to actually enjoy the process of switching things up. Try not to aim to conceal or cancel out elements you think are unappealing – rather, focus on colours, textures, and all the things your brain is fundamentally attracted to. Change your appearance, by all means – but don’t do it to society’s standards. Try to focus on what you like, rather than muddying the water with what society holds up as the ideal.
If you’re having a hard time being nice to yourself, think about whether you’d be as cruel to someone you loved. If someone was criticizing your best friend the way you are yourself, what would you say? Chances are, you’d have quite to defence for a pal – so why not take the same route for yourself? You can be your own biggest critic or your own loudest cheerleader, but only one will make you actively feel better.
Remember there are certain aspects of the beauty industry that are specifically designed to trick you. Curb your expectations as to how much any beauty product can improve your life. And if you want money to buy your happiness, spend it on wine, day trips, underwear, and books before you start splurging on beauty products.
My final point is that although looking the way you want may seem like the most important thing in the world, it isn’t. Whether we look like Cara Delevingne or Old Mother Hubbard, we are all going to die – and it’s going to happen sooner than you think. Try to think about that fact at least as often as you do about the face you hate the shape of your nose.
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