When Self-Objectification Gets In The Way Of Living Life Fully

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     I have a simple rule in life: look your best, as long as it doesn't get in the way of living.
     This means I take a few minutes to put on concealer and mascara on most days. It also means I don't have problems in going out completely barefaced if I'm in a rush (or lazy).
    It means that I wear pretty dresses everywhere, but I don't wear heels because I hate it when my feet are tired before the rest of me is.
     It means that I end up donating clothes that I can't move in comfortably.
    It means buying flattering workout clothes, but not wearing makeup to the gym and not caring about looking sweaty.
    I means that I invest quite a bit in a good hairdresser so that I can have a haircut that looks good when it's left to its own devices.
  It means saying "yes" to a spontaneous evening out even if I'm completely under-dressed. It also means always having an eyeliner pencil stub and facial blotting paper in my handbag for such moments.
    It means that I never let my nail polish stand between me and what I want to do.
    It means that I carefully choose the most flattering swimsuit in the store. But when my friend spontaneously invited me to jump into a deliciously cold river on a hot day and offered to lend me her very low-cut bikini, it took me just a moment to contemplate on displaying my postpartum lower belly and then to say "yes". And actually having fun and not caring, to my own surprise.
    It means appreciating a well though-out outfit, a good hair day or a good makeup look; but also being able to say "I'm not here to decorate the world" when I can't be bothered to do anything more than put on the first thing I see in my closet.
    It also means purging my closet so that the first thing I see is never looks too bad.

    I was a bit of a tomboy when growing up, I wore trousers and didn't brush my hair and I enjoyed wrestling with my brother's friends just as much as sewing clothes for my Barbie dolls. For many years, well into my teens, I didn't give much thought into what I looked like while doing stuff. I think that this means I never really minded getting my hands dirty and my hair messy, and doing stuff was usually more important than looking good.

   It breaks my heart when I see people (no, not just women), denying themselves experiences because of their insecurity about their looks. Like not going to swim because they put on weight. It's not your job to be decorative! I want to scream.
   This video gave me a word to use for this attitude -- self-objectification:

     It's saying "I can't (...) because I look (...)". In the west it is the norm to talk about how women look when doing stuff, even if the stuff they are doing is so awesome that nothing else should matter, like winning the Nobel Prize or the Olympics or running for office. A lot of money can be made off teaching women to self-objectify and to fix their appearance. I still remember as a teen reading in a fashion magazine that "all women hate their hips"; until then I had never given a thought to how my hips look like. After that I spent too much time scrutinising and criticising bits of myself, until I stumbled onto the positive body-image movement that helped me to turn this around.

    It's not like I don't have insecurities and issues with my body image any more, I definitely do. I just make sure those voices don't dominate the conversations inside my head. I try to keep things in perspective, that my looks are by far not the most important thing about me or my life. Down the line it's experiences that are the most precious things in life, and I don't want anything getting between them and me.

   The next time you are in a situation where your body-image is getting in the way of an experience, take a moment to ask yourself: this time next year, what will I remember about this experience -- how amazing it was or what I looked like? Whose judgement am I afraid of anyway, and why? Will I regret not looking my best as much as I will regret missing out on this experience altogether?

Photo credit: KayVee.INC

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