I have already made a post about appearances. It is my most viewed post and so I have decided to go a bit deeper on the topic.
Before I start I want you to know that this is a positive and happy post. I am not putting myself down or berating myself. I’m just, as usual, being matter-of-fact. (Fishing for compliments has always got right under my skin so I’m not doing that either!)
It is hard to feel pretty when you feel so poorly. At the same time though, I no longer feel unpretty. This is a new thing for me. Until only recently I was insecure about my appearance. I would feel sick to my stomach getting ready for a night out at university, convinced that I looked like an ogre. I am tall and so usually felt like the ‘big’ one next to my petite friends. I now think back to all those years and times I felt so totally inadequate and ugly. I firmly believe that regrets are a waste of time but …. What a waste! I wish I had been more comfortable and confident in myself.
The celebrity culture does us no favours in my opinion. Airbrushing has a lot to answer for!
I’m just not sure I care as much anymore. Not in a depressed way, but in an accepting and healthy way. It’s not that I don’t take pride in my appearance, or that I wouldn’t if I could, but…I don’t know, I’m just so much happier in my own skin, which seems unusual if you look at photos where I look more glamorous pre-M.E. Illness is teaching me how there are much more important things than appearance.
I will never be stick thin, nor do I want to be. I have no desire to be obese but if I fancy a piece of cake then I will jolly well eat a piece of cake! I don’t get many other pleasures in life so why would I want to give up my beloved chocolate? As long as I am happy in my own skin what should it matter what society or boys (or whoever) think of my appearance?
I look poorly. People sometimes make statements about how poorly or ‘well’ I look to me or my family. I’m not bothered. Some people get irritated when people tell them how well they look when they are actually feeling hideously poorly. I have decided to take such comments as compliments. Surely it’s a compliment when someone tells you that you don’t look half as bad as you feel you do? We were brought up to be modest and I’ve never been good at accepting compliments but I am getting better at it. See! Every cloud really does have a silver lining.
I am incredibly pale (another symptom of this delightful illness) and I admit I feel more confident with a mask of St Tropez on. I don’t wear make up on a daily basis; partly because it requires energy I no longer have. Also, I often can’t cope with the chemicals and perfumes and moisturisers. Some days I look poorlier than others and it doesn’t necessarily relate to how poorly I am feeling. I often have what’s been described as ‘M.E eyes’.
As you probably know by now I had to have my hair cropped short in my first year of illness. It was another decision that M.E. made for me. I just wasn’t well enough to manage anything longer. At the time I was unaware of just how short it was because I was so incredibly poorly. I wasn’t ‘with it’ enough to care. Now though, as I am a little better, I know it perhaps isn’t everyone’s favourite hairstyle. I like it though! Practicality has to come first.
I do feel insecure about how I might look like a boy (and very much like my brother much to his disgust!) However, I choose to laugh it off and most of the time I am able to pull myself together and not let comments get to me.
Sometimes the jokes and comments do hurt my feelings. Some people make no secret of the fact that they’re not too keen. I admit to currently looking like a cross between Noddy and Friar Tuck (without the bald patch, although my hair does seem to be falling out again-another lovely side-effect of chronic illness!)
To combat the unfeminine and perhaps unglamorous haircut I like to paint my nails. Most of the time I have nail varnish on. I’ve always been like that and was known to change the colour daily during my summer holiday work. (Of course it’s another task that now requires energy and concentration that I don’t have in huge supply.)
Shaving is something else that is too tricky and it’s hard to feel girly and pretty when one could easily be mistaken for wearing a gorilla suit… A male friend once said the same about facial hair making him feel more unkempt than he would have liked. My legs were never, ever smooth when I shaved them anyway so why waste my energy? Hair removal is now saved for special occasions and done no more than once a month. Maybe I should plait my leg hairs to make myself feel a bit more girly? Too gross? Sorry!
I opt for baggy clothes because they are more comfortable. Comfort has to come first when you feel as poorly as this. It does for me anyway. But again this can make me feel rather unpretty. It’s out of my hands though. At the same time, if I am hot I will wear shorts or a dress regardless of how fat or pale or hairy my legs might be.
This illness dominates everything and I have to accept that.
I think this new found confidence in my appearance also comes with age. I see girls in their teens berating themselves publicly over how ugly they are. It isn’t healthy. Why talk negatively about yourself like that when other people will no doubt be quite happy to do it for you behind your back?
So I have a pointy chin and my jaw looks wonky when I smile? And my stomach is no longer flat and I have knock-knees? I have wide hips and my thighs meet in the middle and my skin isn’t soft anymore after years of being unable to moisturise it. Yes I have put on weight and have the stretch marks to prove it. Who cares??? I don’t have enough energy to waste time worrying about how I might be looking and I certainly don’t have enough energy to try to do something about it.
I’m learning the hard way that there is so much more to life than those petty little things. Of course it’s lovely to feel glamorous and beautiful but it’s not the end of the world.
I’m not saying I am/was amazingly attractive, but I no longer think that I am disgustingly unattractive either. It has taken these years of illness to love myself for who I am. Illness has given me no choice but to learn to accept myself for who I am.
Of course I have a crisis of confidence now and then, and that’s probably evident in certain blog posts, but don’t we all? The person I see in the mirror isn’t usually the person I want to see. The paleness and weight gain is enough to make a person feel unglamorous and with the hair too…
Still, it is out of my hands and I am trying to make my peace with that.