Sister, Beautify Thyself

By Zile Elliven

In the not-too-distant past, I used to wake up, drag myself out of bed, find a way to get my sleep-addled brain to feed the kids – and myself, stuff them into their clothes, and finally, finally get myself dressed. More often than not, the result of all of this was that, when I came home from dropping the boys off at school, I got a shock when I caught a glimpse of the drab, scary lady in the mirror.

After enough of those shocks, I asked myself, “What’s going on here? I used to make more of an effort. Why did I stop? It can’t be the exhaustion. Back in college, I only got about four hours of sleep at night because I would get up early to spend an hour on my hair, face and wardrobe.”

I spent some time thinking about it and realized it was because, in the past, I had been getting myself dressed up for other people rather than for myself. Once I started to work from home, I had no one to impress but myself and, after a couple of years of being out of the public eye I had totally let myself go. Yikes.

I wasn’t a giant fan of this revelation, so I vowed to spruce myself up a bit. I traded my yoga pants and nursing tops in for my pre-kids wardrobe. Unfortunately, while I began to enjoy taking time for myself every day, I didn’t like the end result. The waxy, red, Vampirella lipstick of the past and the tight, “look at the girls!” tank tops I used to wear weren’t exactly play date friendly gear. Increasingly, I felt uncomfortable in my clothes and fake behind the makeup.

The problem was that I was dressing for who I used to be, not who I am now. Clearly, wearing the club-hopping clothes of the free-spirited girl I was before kids wasn’t going to suit the lifestyle I have now. The flowing, gauzy skirts alone were a nightmare to contemplate in the world of mashed bananas, impromptu tackle-hugs and drive-by booger attacks I lived in now.

I had to figure out the “new me” – someone who could comfortably take rolling around in the mud and crawling on the floor while simultaneously managing to be happy with how she looked doing it. In short, my style needed to evolve.

The only way I could do this was to pitch everything I knew about being pretty right out the window. I now had to factor in comfort and durability as well as style. I also had to embrace some of the staples I just couldn’t live without. Let’s face it, ladies, yoga pants are magical, and I could truly give less than a monkey’s hairball about what someone thinks is trendy these days when it comes to my comfort.

Which leads me to the next thing I did – I stopped worrying about what other people thought of me and started worrying about what I thought of me. After all, I’m the one who has to live in here! No combination of clothes and makeup was going to make me feel good if I wasn’t happy with the results.

Once I had a new mindset, it opened me up to all kinds of possibilities. I tried out subtle eyeliner colors – colors I would have sneered at in the past – and loved them. Alternately, I also chose bright, “notice me” shades of lipstick I had never been comfortable trying before. “Forget what everyone else thinks,” I told myself, “If you want hot pink lips, you do it!”

The culmination of all of this experimenting was a newer, brighter, more comfortable me. A me who felt beautiful because I wasn’t trying to fit into a mold of who I thought I should be. Instead of dressing up to impress other people, I dressed according to what I wanted.

Then something pretty cool began to happen, I got compliments all the time! When I had the nerve to press people for details, the majority of people told me I looked happier and more myself than I had before.

What a crazy idea. When I pick out clothes and makeup I like, it actually looks good? It was a revelation – one I grabbed tightly and ran with. I started wrapping brightly colored scarves around my hips to give those yoga pants some decoration. I let my hair grow long and refused to put it in a ponytail because, why not? Who cares if it’s a bit messy? It makes me happy and, apparently, a happy me is a pretty me.

I may not look my best one hundred percent of the time, but I no longer get the “scary lady” shock I used to because I’m wearing something I feel good in. And regardless of how much effort I put in on myself on a given day, I still feel good because I make sure to take a little bit of time, just for me, to show myself how important I am. And I think that’s beautiful.

About this writer

  • Zile Elliven

    Zile Elliven

    Zile Elliven is a writer, cat goddess, and full-time mom. You can find her on Twitter (spending far more time than she should) @ZileElliven.

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5 Responses to “Sister, Beautify Thyself”

  1. Love this! So true about allowing who you truly are to shine through! Congrats!!

  2. Roop says:

    Absolutely beautiful and so well-said. We all have to re-evaluate who we really are over time, and start fresh!

  3. Linda O'Connell says:

    Coming into our own happens to all of us. I enjoyed your take on discovering the new you.

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