On Being/Having a Body: Style + Self-care

This spring I've been doing a deep dive into my personal habits and working on revising my self-image. After at least ten years of deeply ingrained beliefs about bodies and beauty, I finally got tired of seeing myself through the male gaze, and I am giving it up for good! It's hard, painful work, but it's so rewarding.

And since it's about all I've been thinking about lately, I wanted to share thoughts on two areas I've had a few breakthroughs in: style and self-care.

GIF by Sharon Liu

GIF by Sharon Liu

I've been thinking a lot lately about how personal style can make me feel more powerful and beautiful than ever. To work on this, I've been reading the book Women in Clothes and then scrolling through the hundreds of personal style surveys compiled on their website. I particularly love the multitude of answers to their very first question: 

"When do you feel at your most attractive?"

I can't get over what a good question it is. How do I know it's a good question? Because I honestly have no clue what my answer would be! And trying to figure out my answer has me realizing that I feel attractive in all sorts of scenarios I never considered. What are your answers, friends? When do you feel most attractive? Please tell me. I'd love to know.

As much as these reflections on personal style have me feeling empowered about crafting an all-me aesthetic, I'm still wary of the consumer culture that can undergird such an effort. So in addition to reading about clothes, I've also recently been re-appreciating this age-old content about being "pretty."

"If you are clean, are covered enough to avoid a citation for public indecency, and have bandaged any open wounds, you can wear any color or style you please, if it makes you happy."

The best part about developing personal style, I realize, is that it's personal. The only person your appearance should please is you! ...that said, I'm sure you are a brilliant, challenging mistress to please! So it may take some work to please yourself with your appearance. But I hope you can find kind, caring ways to take pleasure in styling yourself for yourself.

GIF by Angela Landiyan

GIF by Angela Landiyan

This leads me to the second area I've been thinking about a lot lately: self-care. Last weekend, I went on a four-day no-phone-no-laptop retreat with my partner and spent a few wonderful days sleeping and eating and doing little to nothing else. It was a real joy, but when I returned I felt completely overwhelmed by catching up with everything I'd put down for a few days.

Somewhere soon after I came across this article and the following quote:

"True self-care is not salt baths and chocolate cake, it is making the choice to build a life you don’t need to regularly escape from."

Damn. I thought I was doing so great with my vacation as self-care, but I'm seeing now that I need to build more vacation habits into my day-to-day life so that a full shut-down doesn't seem quite so necessary and the shock of re-entry isn't quite so tough. This shouldn't be such a surprise since I wrote an essay on this last year ... but sometimes we can't hear our own advice, am I right?

Amidst my many other projects, I've been mulling over a #loveyourgut womanifesto lately. I want to make something that clarifies the intentions and actions I've cultivated as I'm learning to love my body and find myself beautiful. Any tips or tricks you can share? All advice is welcome.


This post originally appeared in modified form in my monthly-ish amelioratic newsletter. You can sign up to receive that in your inbox here.