I think everyone is driven by appearance. For girls especially, if you wake up, look in the mirror and hate how you look, you tend to have an off day. Whereas, those lucky days where you wake up and you look in the mirror and are happy with what you see, you tend to smile everywhere you go, and it seems like nothing can touch you. How you perceive yourself effects your mood, I am still unsure of whether or not this occurs with men, but it most definitely effects a woman. The days when I take time to pamper myself, I take a long shower, paint my nails, put on make-up and a new perfect outfit, those are the days I feel most impenetrable when I venture out into the world. For a few months at work, I was feeling quite like a zombie. I woke up, pulled my hair back in a ponytail, put on my work clothes, and went off to work, make-up free. Then I worked my long shift, came home, and collapsed back into bed. I gave up on my appearance, and at the same time, gave up all ties to happiness it seems. I made the commitment that I would try and wake up before work and at least put on a little bit of make-up. A little mascara works wonders. Before I knew it, I was smiling at work again, socializing with my co-workers and the customers, making plans outside of work, etc. So why is it that appearance can effect me so much? Why does it effect us all?
I always attributed my own insecurities to my experience in high school. When I look back at my yearbook pictures, it is with pure dismay. I was not popular, and in most cases, with the exception of my small group of friends, I was pretty much invisible. Let me explain. My graduating class was one of the largest in 20 years at my high school. It was about 187, if I remember. I could pretty much name every single person, probably in alphabetical order, especially those in my home room. Granted, I have a pretty exceptional memory, but I feel like most of the people from my high school would agree that they could do the same. So, a few years ago, imagine my surprise as a kid from my high school who I hadn't seen in probably 4-6 years walked into my favorite bar in my college town. I smiled at him in acknowledgement, and noticed he kept looking at me. I have changed a good bit since high school, especially changing my hair constantly, so I figured he was probably trying to figure out how he knew me. After an hour of him looking at me, and me simply smiling in return, he approached me. He commented that he couldn't help but notice my smile, and I replied by saying that it had been awhile. He looked confused, and I proceeded to say his name, to confirm it was him and he appeared even more confused. Then I mentioned that I had gone to high school with him and he asked me when I graduated. I told him the same year as him, told him my brothers name, my cousins name, etc. When I told him my name, he didn't even recall. He asked who I hung out with in high school, and as I proceeded to name every single one of my friends, as well as a couple of boyfriends from high school, he knew every single one of them, including what they were currently up to. Yet, he did not know me. At all. Not my name, not my face, nothing. That's how invisible I was. There were a good bit of people, popular or not, who I was not invisible to, but I was often the punch line to their jokes, them mocking me for my lack of fashion sense, or my crooked bangs, or my long-term boyfriend in high school. When I looked in the mirror, I actually was content with what I saw, but to the world around me, it was nothing short of pathetic. Around my junior year, I started to grow out my bangs, joined cheerleading, and it seemed like the teasing slowed a bit, I really started to grow into myself. By my freshman year in college, I had put on a bit of weight so I was no longer a stick figure, I grew boobs, and as a result grew more friends. Before I went to college, my brother sat me down and explained to me that at college, boys would pursue girls, more adamantly than in high school and that they would bend over backwards for a hot girl. I took this knowledge to my advantage. My looks became my secret weapon. I'm not saying I find myself to be a spectacular beauty or whatever, but looking good became the way for me to get what I wanted, notes for class, free drinks, and that oh so satisfying acceptance I had always craved. Ever since, my mood is influenced by how I look. If I think my hair, make-up, and clothes look okay, it is as if I could conquer the world. However, sweats, a pale face, and messy hair to me mean that I need to hide in my apartment and avoid the world.
It is no new idea that the media reinforces such ideals and beliefs. Even post-college, people still judge harshly by appearance, and actually, I get stereotyped more now. When I feel my best, I often get put down for being unintelligent (I am far from stupid, trust me), or fragile (I can throw a mean punch when needed), or overdramatic (okay, perhaps I'll give you that one). But it's so sad to me that this is the way the world works. I'm not saying I don't participate in it. I mean, I am the girl who judges her day by how she looks. I do rank other people in their appearance. But it makes me sad that sometimes someone's appearance is worth more than their work ethic, intelligence, or any other personal characteristic. This is just how the world works, and there's not really any way to change it to be honest. It's just....sad.