Reclaiming ‘Vanity.’

Confession time.

It’s a long one.

vanity

I can be a real asshole when I’m feeling insecure.

There have been times when I’ve silently hated on other people’s selfies. I’ve unfollowed other women in the past, because comparing myself to their photos made me feel like crap. Sometimes, I look in the mirror and completely trash myself. It sucks.

You’re only a model because you’ve fooled them all with makeup, insecurity says. How dare you feel beautiful, today? You’re just lying to yourself. 

Self-acceptance feels unreachable…forbidden, even. It hurts.

But it’s not always like that. Some days, when I’m feeling good, I look in the mirror and think: “Damn, I look great today.” And I mean it! It feels nice. Nobody else bothers me on days like these. I don’t compare myself to others, and genuinely feel joy for other people’s success. In a healthy state of mind, I can appreciate beauty in a healthy, constructive way.

The end…ish.

Before long, shame drags me down. Something triggers that deep wound I’d since forgotten about, and my secret little cesspool of self-loathing starts churning and rumbling all over again.

….I’d like to take this time to thank a little word called ‘Vanity.

The dictionary defines Vanity as “excessive pride in or admiration of one’s own appearance or achievements.” When I really start to feel myself, insecurity reminds me that I’m being vain. Then the shame kicks in.

I grew up in an environment where self-love was a sin. Taking any pleasure in my appearance was wrong. I was instructed that Vanity was a woman’s downfall. Looking in the mirror for too long was enough to warrant a prayer for forgiveness.

Ugh.

I’m all grown up in logic now, but the guilt still creeps in when I least expect it. It sucks me dry of self-esteem. Those years of self-hatred I’ve suppressed can sometimes look like insecurity, jealousy, and social anxiety.

Vanity. Bad. I’d be committing a sin for liking myself at all, so I just choose not to. That’s the way to deal with things! It’s a virtue to be humble, right? Maybe someone, somewhere will notice how pious I am in my self-deprecation. They’ll say I’m pretty, but I won’t believe it. Somehow, that will make me worthy of their love.

After all, Cinderella didn’t get to be a princess until a handsome prince fell in love with her. And in chick-flicks, the geeky girl doesn’t get to know she’s hot until someone takes her glasses off and tells her she’s the one. That’s just how it’s *supposed* to be.

“Hot Girl Who Doesn’t Know She’s Pretty” is one of the most popular female archetypes in TV and film. On the other hand, confident characters who flaunt their beauty tend to get labeled “the bitch.” No wonder we’re all so scared of ourselves. 

Today in your local high school bathroom, several girls are facing the mirror and competing for lowest self-esteem:

“I’m so fat.”

“No, you’re not! You’re so skinny. I’m the one with a tummy.”

“Well, at least you have boobs. I’m so flat.”

“But all the guys like you. None of them notice me.”

…Chances are, the youngest girl might not have thought to hate herself until this very moment. If all of her older, prettier, more popular friends hate their bodies, then who does she think she is?

Vanity. We have all been conditioned to fear it, in some way or another. I realize now that this kind of shaming was designed to keep women from realizing their worth.

I‘ve come to believe that someone, somewhere invented “vanity” to keep his wife at home. Why not? It’s effective! If I feel inferior to my partner, he’ll always have the upper hand. Even if he’s abusive. Even if I’m unhappy.

Shame is a cage we build to restrain ourselves (and each other). As women, we’re told that our worth lives in the eyes of others – whether that’s a romantic parter, a group of girlfriends, or the entire freakin’ internet.

Self-loathing has almost become expected of us. A lot of it’s internalized, but the feelings are there. Beating ourselves up for this wastes a lot of time we could be spending on literally anything else.

But this is just a list of symptoms. Let’s dig deeper and kill the virus.

I’d like to start the healing process by reclaiming the word ‘vanity’ for myself. It’s the word that used to scare me most. Let’s give it a makeover. There’s a difference between confidence and narcissism. It’s time to stop condemning ourselves for knowing that we’re worthy.

Self-appreciation isn’t shameful. It’s just honest. There’s nothing wrong with being smart, looking good, and knowing both are true. When a woman looks in the mirror and loves what she sees, nothing can stop her.

I try to remember this when I put on my makeup every day. My concealer wasn’t made to diminish me. My lipstick is not applied to steal attention. My eyeliner is not for anybody else. And so what if my cat-eye isn’t perfect – I’m having fun!

Makeup helps me feel striking, confident and powerful. And yes, I post photos of myself when I’m feeling brave. But my selfie is not a cry for validation, anymore. It’s just my face. And I like it better when it’s not trying so hard.

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My roots are showing! And I like them! Also, the lighting is really good! And I look  a lot like my mother! Yay!

Photos have become my way of expressing of self-love, without needing permission. Publishing my words online is another means to the same end. I like me as much as I like you. We’re both allowed to know that.

screen-shot-2017-01-22-at-1-32-08-pm

And here’s a super blurry mirror selfie because I felt DAMN fine that day. I’m wearing my grandma’s dress! And a scarf! I feel so sassy! YAY!

Vanity. It’s not self-promotion; it’s self-possession. This is me, taking ownership of myself in a way that makes me feel empowered.

As you embrace your own confidence, I challenge you to encourage it in others. The more you share, the more you have. Appreciation has a lovely way of coming back around.

So, float your boat. Feel good, however that means to you. Let other people do the same.

Often, individuals who seem the most self-involved are actually the most self-critical. It took me a long time to realize this. Judging other women for their “narcissism” is ultimately a reflection of my own insecurity. By the same token, encouraging others makes me feel good, too. How we treat others is a reflection of the way we see ourselves.

You’re allowed to know you’re attractive. You’re encouraged to recognize your own brilliance. Acknowledging beauty in others will not diminish your own. 

Vanity, redefined, is self-love.

It’s gratitude. It’s expression. Own it. Live it. Celebrate it. Share it.

…This is not about makeup or selfies or #goals. It’s about you, beneath the filter.

Lucille Ball once said, “Love yourself first and everything else falls into line. You really have to love yourself to get anything done in this world.” She wasn’t kidding.

The future is a girl. She stands in front of the mirror and loves what she sees. She wears red lipstick if she feels like it; she wears nothing when she wants to. And she is not ashamed.

xo

(I originally wrote this post for LoveTV. Thanks for reading!) 

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