Thoughts keep rearing their not so attractive head. Am I too fat to wear this? Do my wobbly bits show in this? Is this too small for me? Do I look good enough? Those niggling little ripples of self-doubt. Self-doubt, about appearances.
I work in the image industry, which is increasingly being dammed for the upholding of beautifying. I encourage women to step into their own beauty and turn away from false standards, objectifying and the conditioning we have been subjected to for decades but now find myself battling with, what is actually the right image to portray?
I’ve yet to see a social media star, regardless of her size or age to have an unattractive face. We appear to have made progress by embracing all healthy body shapes as acceptable (and they should always have been) but we are still applying mountains of makeup to achieve ‘airbrushed looks’ – with or without the photoshopping. The brows, the sculpted cheeks, the eyes and lips painted to perfection on the 'Insta-Influencers'. You won’t catch me without my eyeliner and mascara either, as I simply prefer how I look when I’m wearing it. I actually feel 'naked' without any eye-makeup and couldn’t imagine not wearing clothes which make me feel like I’ve made an effort with my appearance.
This week whilst out walking my beloved dog Hamish I had a bit of an epiphany when quite literally, this little critter crossed my path.
The childhood memory of the day when I saw my first hairy caterpillar and thought it was the cutest and most beautiful fluffy creature ever! I gently picked it up and popped it in the pocket of my corduroy trousers, to keep it safe until I walked the rest of my journey home. I had to show this delightful looking beastie that I’d found, to my mum. Excited, I rushed into the kitchen to find her, carefully reached into my pocket as I chattered on, look, look what I found! I opened my hand and in unison; we both shrieked! I dropped the caterpillar and started to sob sad, distressed unhappy tears. The beautiful hairy caterpillar I’d put in my pocket was now a bald grey ‘worm,’ my pocket had clearly rubbed off the hairs and it now looked so unattractive and yes, ugly. The infant me had virtually no exposure to TV, magazines and certainly not social media, yet my instincts were defining what was attractive and what was not.
We are drawn to beautiful things, from the hairy caterpillar to the beauty of dappled sunshine. To turn that off completely and shame those who wish to invest in their appearance would be a sad step away from human harmony and instinct. In Western culture we have abundance and we have choices. Choices of what to wear and choices of how we wish to look. Let’s not take that too far by obsessing over it but also not shame those who do use their looks to make money or because it’s a priority for them either.
Caterpillars, furry or not, will become a grey chrysalis and then transform into a free-flying moth or butterfly, provided prey does not destroy them on their journey. I encourage you to dress up and celebrate who you are, with a strong care about the resources it takes to portray any such looks.