After reading each post on this thread
, it seems like most women have a complicated relationship with their self-image. I wonder if it is because modern society is so fractured that there is no true cultural standard for beauty? Do the tribal people in the pictures that Dale shared feel more confident than we do that they are beautiful? It would be interesting to have a conversation with them and ask.
For me, my complicated self-image came from being raised in an evangelical christian fertility cult, in which women were not even supposed to be educated, much less powerful, and were mostly seen as vehicles for husband-pleasing and child-bearing, in that order. In an even more complicated twist, "purity" aka celibacy was held in such importance that young people were quietly encouraged to remain purposely unattractive to the opposite sex in order to avoid "defrauding" them. I wasn't allowed to shave or wear makeup until I was 15, but those 4 years between puberty and when I was allowed to begin looking like a woman were torturous indeed (even my long skirts didn't cover up all that wiry black hair on my legs!) And even after I was allowed to begin more mainstream hygiene practices like shaving and wearing a bit of mascara to church, I was still prohibited from wearing anything that showed the shape of my body or drew attention to myself in any way (read: no colors, no heels, sleeves to the elbow, hems to the ankle and necklines to the chin). I still can't wrap my brain around the fact that there were adults of both genders enforcing these rules on their own offspring. Of course they had mostly good intentions I think and thought they were protecting their beloved children from the evil world--but complicate those intentions with a corrupting chain-of-command power dynamic, and you've got a mess.
So then when I got independent, my self-image was a mess and I did a lot of things just because I could. I wore embarrassing (to me now) amounts of makeup, feeling free
since I could finally make my face look "perfect". I bought ridiculous heels and then gave them away because they hurt so bad to wear. I wore funny hats because I thought they were chic, and got the most radical choppy bob just to look rebellious. It was great fun!!! And I still look back on those times fondly. It was wonderful to be able to play around and I was still me, going barefoot down mainstreet just to scandalize everyone, probably in reality not being nearly as wild as I envisioned myself.
Fast forward to now and I don't shave my legs unless it's summer and I'm going out somewhere in shorts, my hair gets cut when I have the energy to plan for it, I haven't worn makeup in 6 years, and my wardrobe consists of flannel shirts, jeans, my beloved wool socks, hats I crochet myself, and shoes that I can hike in. I have gone through a lot of phases to get here, but I think I am here to stay. I like that all it takes for me to get ready is water
and a towel, and in reality I don't have time for much more than that. I am grateful that despite all of the strange and confusing messages I got from my parents, I was raised without a lot of toxic makeups or perfumes, and I was taught more about functionality than fashion when dressing.
Something that is interesting to note here is that I now manage my husband's company, or at least I handle the accounting and anything that needs to be done with banks or lawyers or other fancy official things. For those occasions I still wear jeans, but with a pretty blouse and leather boots
that have a good platform heel. Why do I wear heels? Well in part I think it's because I get taken a lot more seriously as a rather girlish-looking 20-something when I'm in them. But the real reason I got boots with heels on them is because they raise my foot off the ground and that keeps me 50% warmer while walking around or standing in lines (thanks covid!) on cold wet concrete
. It's true! And as someone mentioned earlier up in the thread, heels on cowboy boots were also invented for practical safety reasons. If it weren't for the cold I'd never wear another heel because I am ideologically, principally opposed to the idea, and also because they make me an even bigger giant in a country of...well, let's just say I'm 5 foot 6 inches (1.52 meters I think) and when I'm barefoot I tower over most of my friends and neighbors.
So far as hair dyes, I am awaiting anxiously the day when my hair begins to gray. Perhaps I am wishing for something I'll regret, but I haven't found that looking youthful has given me many great advantages in life. It makes other women jealous and mean, and it makes men chase me which has complicated my life considerably on several occasions. I can't wait to be a non-threatening "older" woman who won't be automatically rejected by half the population based on their own self-esteem issues. 😉