From the Archive: Why Caring About Your Appearance Is Valuable to Self-care

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There are plenty of people who still believe that style is a frivolous pursuit. Plenty more maintain that caring for and loving your body is a waste of energy and that it’s what’s inside that matters – intellect, creativity, emotions, personality. Here are the reasons I disagree with both:

In order to move through most peopled societies, we are required to wear clothing. Nudist colonies aside, we’ve all got to get dressed every day if we want to leave our homes for any reason. Of course, economics, geography, body shape and size, ability, and many other factors can limit available clothing choices. But with thrift and fast fashion, online shopping and expanded sizing options, most people have more options now than they did even five years ago. Many, many people have choices when they dress, and what they choose to wear reflects at least a small portion of their inner lives. And in my opinion, since we’ve got to get dressed anyway, we might as well do it expressively and in ways that feel good. I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again: Dress, grooming, and overall appearance constitute the first levels of information about ourselves that we offer to the observing world. They may not be the most important, but they are the first, which makes them worthy of effort and attention.

As for the argument that working toward body love is a waste of energy, the related argument that loving your body amounts to vanity, and the idea that your exterior self is just a vessel for your superior, interior self? All I see there is imbalance. I’ve already acknowledged that how you look isn’t the most important thing about you. You can pore over nearly eight years of archives and you will NEVER find me making that claim. But thinking of your body as a brain-and-personality-holder strikes me as short-sighted. Consider this: Someone who focuses virtually all attention, care, and love on their body is generally considered to be vain. So why would focusing virtually all attention on your intellect, creativity, and personality be any less imbalanced? You’re not a zombie – a body that moves through life without a functioning brain. But you’re also not a brain in a jar – thinking and creating in the abstract alone. You have a body. As long as you are alive you will have a body. In fact, without your body, your intellect and creativity and personality wouldn’t exist. Pitting your mind against your body is like cooking up a personal civil war.

I’ve known I’m smart a hell of a lot longer then I’ve known I’m pretty. I spent a long time trying to hide my body with clothes and wishing that my body didn’t exist at all. But I feel a lot more balanced, serene, and complete now that I’ve accepted my body as an integral part of my identity, and chosen to utilize style to express my personality to the observing world. We are thinking beings with corporeal forms. You can’t have one without the other. So why not work toward respecting and accepting both?

Image courtesy Andrea Parrish-Geyer

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