Maybe if we care for ourselves with a focus on how it makes us feel, rather than how it makes us look, our inner beauty – the type that belongs truly to ourselves – will be more able to shine.
It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a woman in possession of a manicure must be in want of a brain. (Clumsily) paraphrasing Jane Austen, rather succinctly conveys the way many people feel – subconsciously as well as consciously – about the act of caring for oneself. The lurking sense that thinking about the way you look is vain. That wanting to look nice is shallow. That being conscious of the way you are visually perceived, and wanting to control the way that others view you is not something that should occupy the thoughts of an intelligent woman. But how is being told not to care about your outward self any different than being told to care about your outward self? How is one less arbitrary than the other? It’s a complex issue to unpack.
We can’t deny that society’s obsession with the superficial, and the value that is placed on appearance can veer into unhealthy territory. Self worth should not be determined by how strangers feel about your appearance. Instagram likes are not metrics with which to measure your success as a person. But a person is a whole person. A person is a multifaceted thing; made up of ideas, feelings, achievements, and weaknesses. Made up of features and flaws.
A few years ago I interviewed founder of Semple, Maggie, for a feature. We spoke for a long time, and we covered a lot of things. One of the things that we spoke about for the longest, and that we shared a passionate belief for, was the idea that caring about your outward appearance breeds self worth, acceptance and confidence: it can make you powerful.
The small acts of self-care that we practice every day are myriad, and it is easy to get bogged down with where necessity ends and vanity begins. Tooth brushing? Fine. Moisturising your skin? Okay. Dyeing over grey hairs? Hmm, watch it. If it’s okay to cut your nails, why should it be frowned upon to have a manicure? Are we supposed to be bargaining with ourselves, trading one act of self-care off against another?
Maybe if we care for ourselves with a focus on how it makes us feel, rather than how it makes us look, our inner beauty – the type that belongs truly to ourselves – will be more able to shine. Caribbean-American author, civil rights activist and radical feminist Audre Lorde once said: “Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.”
Caring for yourself is not a guilty secret to keep hidden. Let’s reclaim it. Let’s get comfortable with feeling powerful. Let’s start a war.