I didn’t grow up as one of the popular girls in school—in fact, it was a pretty well-established joke that I looked like the character of “Mia Thermopolis” from the film The Princess Diaries, just before she received a life-altering makeover from the fastidious hairstylist, Paulo. While I didn’t have a makeover team of my own to improve my look, as I grew older, I realized that I was perfectly capable of taking my appearance (and thereby my confidence) into my own hands. It started with little things: I donated some older clothes, and only purchased high-quality items that I knew I’d use again and again; I made sure to join a gym that would help me feel stronger and more capable; and last, but not least, I researched some higher-quality diets. As a student in college, my nutrition was often the last thing on my mind after coursework and homework, but I started to make a conscious effort to improve the fuel that powered my body. Throughout all of these efforts, however, I couldn’t help but suffer from a few skin-type maladies: and a few other self-image issues that I’d never thought I’d fully crack. Thankfully, I researched some strategies that helped me to feel comfortable in my new skin, both inside and out, giving me a positive self-image!
Do Clothes Make the Woman?
For a while, I struggled with this uneasy feeling that I somehow looked unlike myself in my new wardrobe. To overcome this, I actually went back to the basics: I went through my wardrobe and pulled out a few of the pieces that I’d loved too much to get rid of. What did that denim jacket say about me? How did it make me feel when I wore it? Why had I kept that cardigan, even if I hadn’t worn it much? In the process, I learned things about myself. I liked the denim because it made me feel tough; I loved the cardigan because it made me feel sophisticated, but I had always thought I was an imposter in the former, and not slim enough for the latter. So, now I had a baseline from which to build my new look, and some goals to meet: I kept the denim jacket, and bought a few high-quality vintage t-shirts to go with it at a garage sale. I kept the cardigan, started working out regularly at the gym, and just started wearing the darn thing so that I could grow more comfortable with my current, beautiful, deserving shape. Suddenly, I found that I was the one “making” the clothes, and not the other way around.
A Thicker (Clearer) Skin
On the surface, my next image-issue may have seemed only “skin-deep,” but it went far deeper than that. My skin is an immediate indicator of my overall health and happiness. I can’t count how many times I’d walked into class or work on a day when I hadn’t bothered with makeup, only to have a friend or colleague ask me if I was sick. It made me afraid to walk around fresh-faced and makeup-free because I felt my skin wasn’t up to standard. For that “dewy” glow that I wanted for my skin, the first step was changing the moisturizer I’d been using. When I looked at the ingredients list, alcohol was in all of the first four listed—and alcohol can dry out and ashen the look of your complexion. So, I switched. It’s critically important to know exactly what I was soaking into my skin because certain ingredients might react badly with it, so I checked the ingredients lists of all my skincare products and made an upgrade wherever I needed to. For the dark, puffy circles under my eyes that had plagued me since I was a teen, I tried all sorts of techniques. There are times when they are much more noticeable than others, and I wanted to lessen their severity if not get rid of them altogether. After some research into treatments, I was surprised to find that—besides fatigue—the biggest issue I’d had with my eyes was actually dehydration. I just wasn’t drinking enough water for my skin to glow the way it should have been naturally. I didn’t even need to switch to any fancy water brands; I just bought a quality filter to add to my tap. Hydration helped my skin start to glow, and also made me feel so much better on the daily.
You Are More than What You Eat
Like Sam and Diane, food and I have always had a love/hate relationship—either I’d be too stringent about calories, but not be careful about the nutrients I was taking in, or I’d relax on calories, but again, be a little too lax with the quality of those calories. I researched several different diet plans, but none of the popular “fad diets” ever worked for me. After consulting with trained professionals on what a weekly diet plan for me might look like, I ended up cutting out a lot of fatty animal products and increasing my plant-based food intake. I significantly reduced the number of breakouts I’d been having. While you don’t need to get off of animal products completely, the key to your skin is balanced nutrition. If you want to make a change, but are concerned about whether or not your current diet is nutritious enough, consult a physician or nutritionist.
I didn’t undertake this journey towards a more positive self-image so that waiters would offer me free appetizers, or so that men would sprint to hold a door open for me, or so that even a random stranger would ask me which television show I starred in recently: I improved my outward appearance so that I could help my inner self could better experience joy and wonder in every day, thanks to increased confidence and self-worth. I was never the “before” picture of a makeover story because I’m just a person that’s continually growing. There is no “after” pic—there’s just the “now.”