I find it really weird that people get so defensive over the importance of appearance when it seems like common sense. For example, we’ve got several rescue cats (thanks to my mom, we have entered cat lady double digits), and you can tell who the new rescues are because they inevitably look haggard, disheveled, and dirty. The cats who’ve been around for a while are sleek and clean and have that look of superciliousness that contented cats have.
Appearance matters, but it doesn’t matter the way that we’ve been conditioned to think. It’s not about meeting stupid beauty standards or cultivating what’s outside over what’s inside. Appearance matters in the sense that it is a reflection of your mental and physical condition. The cats who know they’re safe and cared for walk around with their tails up to show their clean buttholes, and they spend time grooming themselves in between pooping, sleeping, and eating.
I’m not saying that you should go around displaying your butthole, but taking time to care for your appearance is one of the steps towards feeling good about yourself. You may not feel good yet, but after a while, you will. It’s a sort of “fake it till you make it” situation that provides real benefits. If you start grooming yourself, you’ll start feeling like you are worth taking the time to care for and thus plant the seeds for real confidence.
I know this from first-hand experience. I ended up having my kid during a time when I wasn’t able to fully access family and friend support, so for more than a year, I was exhausted and stressed. I was doing almost all of the childcare plus working to support myself and my kid’s father (clearly, we are not together anymore). I barely did anything beyond wash and moisturize my face, and I felt miserable and dowdy despite having an amazing kid who was a joy and a dream to care for. I will say this, though: the times when I had to dress up and make an effort to look good for work were the times when I felt close to being human, and so, even though it’s such a weirdly capitalist-cog thing to say, I’m glad I had to go in to work (and I’m also thankful I could bring my kid along).
Eventually, I made a decision to move to Manila to be with my parents for at least a couple of years, and despite a few sacrifices, I’m glad I did it because my mom took one look at my face and told me that I looked just like the sad little cats that she rescues. She insisted that I stop wearing my ratty bathrobe all the time and put real clothes on even at home. She kept telling me to go for a walk, go to yoga, anything to just get active and healthy again, and despite being one of the most frugal people I know, pushed me towards getting one of the best haircuts I’ve ever had in my life even though it was so expensive, I’m ashamed to tell anyone other than my close friends how much it cost.
And all of it has made a difference. I’m still tired a lot, but I’m not as stressed because I feel good about myself. And it really did start with small things like putting on a nice dress in the morning and some lipgloss.
Personally, I think that the people who sneer at this either have beauty privilege or feel so insecure that they’d rather pretend that feeling good isn’t important. Being dowdy and sad doesn’t make you a more virtuous person, nor does it make people take you more seriously.
It’s not a matter of becoming trendy or fashionable–the important thing is to do things for your appearance every day that make you feel good no matter how busy you are, and perhaps even more important the busier you are. Rituals are effective ways of providing stability and control to our lives, boosting our self-esteem and happiness. By making a ritual around something as small as grooming, we’re telling ourselves that we matter, and that we are worthy of care and attention.
It’s okay to look good. Really.