By Paige Kiser, Regular ContributorAugust 24, 2015
When you have a chronic illness or condition (which is usually categorized as a condition with long-lasting effects), it’s easy to feel like you have little or no control over your body. Sometimes you could even have a considerably okay day, but suddenly the smallest of events could overwhelm you and become too much to handle. The worst days are when there is no apparent reason for you to feel poorly, but you do... and with that comes more frustration and guilt.
I don’t remember what it’s like to go through an entire day without feeling any sort of anxiety or the side effects that can come with it.
I can, however, remember the days and moments in which I felt the most in control. They all involved decisions made about my appearance, which, even now, feels embarrassing to admit.
But I shouldn’t feel embarrassed, and neither should anyone else who wants to spend time and effort to express themselves through what they look like in order to feel better or even empowered.
People are criticized for paying too much attention to their appearance and are often labeled as self-centered or vapid, but people are also criticized for not paying enough attention to their appearance and are labeled as lazy. You can’t please everyone, so you might as well do what makes you happy and is in your best interest.
image via thebodyisnotanapology.com
Sometimes the outside of my body seems like an obvious focus for me when there is nothing that I can do about the inside. It’s something that I can actually control, and making my own decisions about it is a way of reclaiming a space that often doesn’t feel like it truly belongs to me. If time allows, I can choose to take the time to apply as much makeup as I want and experiment with application methods and styles that I haven’t before. If I get tired of my hair color or cut, I can just change it. In the past year alone, I have had four different hair colors and have gone from having a mostly shaved head to growing out curls that fall below my ears. These phases have been partially dependent on wanting to feel refreshed and like I’m entering a part of my life that is different than the negative part I’m experiencing.
When you have to accept that there is no permanent cure for what is wrong with your body, you are accepting that you may have to try harder to live the life you want. You’re going to have to allow yourself time to deal with problems and the bad days and be comfortable with the fact that it might take much longer than you would hope. The expression “putting yourself out there” takes on a whole other meaning when it can often be difficult for you to simply introduce yourself to someone, let alone make all of the wonderful, interesting facets of yourself known.
That’s why any form of expression that you can bring yourself to attempt is incredibly important. It’s not egotistical or a waste of time.
It’s just finding a way of letting yourself and others know that whatever condition you have doesn’t stop you from wanting to be the best version of yourself that you can be, by whatever definitions you choose.
And if that means dressing up when it isn’t necessary or cutting off all of your hair when everyone tells you not to, then that’s okay. It means something to you.
How do you like to express yourself? Do you ever change your appearance to feel more empowered? Tell us below!
Paige is a film production student who is passionate about social justice and encouraging people to love themselves. She enjoys black coffee, movie marathons, Halloween, vintage fashion, comic books, and telling everyone she knows why RuPaul’s Drag Race is the best thing ever. When she isn’t at a movie theater or asking a tall stranger to help her reach for books on top shelves, you can find her on twitter @paigevsreality.
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