People say, “You keep insisting that one shouldn’t be influenced by what others say or think like it’s so easy but it isn’t.”
Of course, it isn’t easy and don’t I know that. I grew up in a culture that places the appearance of women under great scrutiny. It is also completely normal for people to make nasty comments even to complete strangers.
“Look at that fat cow in her horrible coat. Doesn’t she realize how stupid she looks?”
“I’m sorry where did you buy this jacket? Because it looks absolutely hideous on you. I’m just shocked that anybody could pay money for such an ugly piece of clothing.”
“Excuse me, you don’t know me but I can’t keep silent. I can see that you have a huge problem and I want to help. I have this really great diet that I want to recommend. Maybe it will help you.”
As a result of growing up in this environment, I often felt terrified to leave the house. I never felt that I looked flawless enough to show myself in public. Once, I spent three days, three whole days trying to get dressed to go to school and failing completely. If the outfit was good, the makeup didn’t match it. Or the shoes would not be ideal. Or the accessories.
And then I got fed up. I just heard this voice in my head, screaming, “Enough already!” The worry about what people might think or say was consuming my life to the point where I had no life of my own left. And it wasn’t just about appearance. It was about things I liked to do, my opinions, my tastes, my preferences. I decided to stop living this miserable passive voice life.
So I picked a ratty outfit (which would be considered quite fancy here in North America but was ratty for my appearance-obsessed compatriots), put on no makeup, grabbed a handbag that everybody ridiculed but that I loved and set out on a walk around the city. It wasn’t easy to show my imperfect face and body outside but I kept thinking that having people think I look stupid is a lot better than being stupid and castrating my existence for the sake of somebody’s opinions.
It took some effort but, eventually, I got to the point where I think that people who have negative opinions about my life, my choices, my appearance should just all go and stick a carrot up their noses. Because that’s the only thing they can do even to make me notice their sad existences.
And, you know, it feels great not to put oneself at the mercy of somebody else’s expectations. No matter who that somebody else is.