Treat Yo’ Self: Beauty and Fashion as a Means of Self-Care and (Re)Gaining Control

One of the things I’m most insecure about is my dependence on others. I’ve told my family and closest friends this in the past, that basically I was cared for by my parents until I moved away to university, at which point custody was transferred to my boyfriend, now husband, D. Deep down I know I can stand on my own but I’ve never tried, and I hope not to have to, at least not in the foreseeable future because it would come at a great cost.

Care can mean a lot of different things to people and for me it encompasses physical, emotional, and financial components. I’ve been very lucky to receive exceptional care and have been spoiled in many ways all my life (so far), mostly by my dad and later D. Don’t get me wrong, my mom has always been generous and accommodating but when it comes to putting her foot down, mom can be firm while my dad and D, well, they waffle. I know they’ve spoiled me and treated me to little luxuries that they wouldn’t otherwise afford to themselves: spa dates with the girls, fancy haircuts, and a fairly impressive wardrobe, as well as many other things. I like to look a certain way because it makes me feel good and I’ve been very fortunate to have people that allow me to do what I want. I contribute to running the household and I work hard for my money, but I also have the chance to spend some of our disposable income on myself.

I will forever and always be my daddy's girl
I will forever and always be my daddy’s girl

Because I had two people spoil me constantly, I used to carry around a certain amount of guilt for this; it felt wrong that I should have so much. I also felt like I was frivolous and superficial, caring about my appearance, and wanting to spend resources (money and/or time) on what I looked like. Why couldn’t I be a minimalist? Well, the answer is easy. I’m not a minimalist. I’m me and I am fortunate enough to have access to things that make me feel better. I’m fortunate to live in a society that allows me to do this and that’s OK. I’m not advocating a lifestyle of over indulgence and thoughtless consumerism (how you define those is up to you) but provided that you can, why not make yourself feel good?

Not pictured, the several inches of hair I had just taken off.
Not pictured, the several inches of hair I had just taken off.

In some of my previous posts I’ve mentioned how much better I’ve felt after getting my hair cut or going to the spa. A large part of this has to do with the self-care element that keeps re-emerging in my work but these acts also mean more to me than that; these moments of self-care are also times where I allow myself some sense of control. It might sound stupid and shallow, a misconstruction of information but for me, choosing to cut off four inches of my hair is empowering. Allowing myself to browse the beauty counters at Sephora and buy a new mascara is exciting because it’s a decision I get to make. No, I won’t justify all my spending this way but sometimes these decisions matter.

Earlier this year, there were moments during my dad’s illness that felt completely out of my control (most of them) and they were periodically minimized when I made these types of choices. Most days I spent with my dad my attire was casual, my hair was tied in a messy bun, and I wore my glasses instead of my contact lenses, which is a rarity. One day I decided to wear a dress, my contact lenses, and a bit of mascara. I instantly felt more like myself and in control. I didn’t know how the day would turn out but in that moment, I felt like myself. I told my dad all of this when I got to the hospital and he said to me, words that still make me cry, “I think you are as beautiful as ever”.

This year for Annette's birthday we had our friend contour our faces, which was so much fun but way too time consuming for me to do regularly
This year for Annette’s birthday we had our friend contour our faces, which was so much fun but way too time consuming for me to do regularly

All of this brings me to an organization called Look Good Feel Better that helps support people going through cancer by offering beauty sessions in hopes of improving self-confidence through self-image. The organization’s mandate recognizes that in periods of uncertainty, our appearances change and little beauty routines that were once important fall to the wayside, which is expected. Furthermore, if you or your loved one is going through cancer, the resources to take care of yourself in this way may not always be available – money, time, and energy are all finite. What Look Good Feel Better wants to do is restore some of those practices, whether it’s done independently or in a group setting. Their goal is to give back some control when so much has been taken, building confidence and communities in the process. While no one is suggesting that personal value is derived strictly from outwardly appearances, I guess what I’m trying to say is that appearances DO and SHOULD matter, if not for anyone else but you. However you feel good is good enough.

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