“So, is it okay to care about what we wear or put on make-up,” I am often asked when talking about body image and self-acceptance.
And I always love that question. But before I can answer that question here, I want to share with you want informs my answer.
To me, radical self-acceptance is the notion that I am not fundamentally wrong because of my history or physical body. It’s the realization that I am fundamentally right because I am neither my history nor my body. It’s the choice to recognize my humanity just as I recognize and respect the humanity of others. It is the realization that my worth is not conditional. It is not based on the smoothness of my skin, the size of my nose, a number on the scale, the length of my hair, the labels on my clothes.
Sadly, in our culture and in our time, accepting ourselves is really radical. It’s not common. It’s not expected. And, yet, it can be the greatest difference maker in moving forward gracefully in doing the work we are meant to be doing in this world.
I fundamentally believe that loving ourselves means treating ourselves with respect. For each of us, that respect has to begin with self-care. While self-care has some absolutes: we all need to embrace fueling our body in a way that allows it to run well, hydration, rest, moving in a way that brings us joy and health, and some personal time for just us, there are also ways that self-care can reflect our personal unique expression. What might be one person’s unique expression is training for endurance events, what might be another’s is showcasing her creativity through how she puts together an outfit. Neither is better or worse; it is simply true for the person embracing that expression.
Embracing self-acceptance doesn’t mean that you cannot enjoy dressing or applying make-up. Self-acceptance and style do not have to be mutually exclusive. If you want both style and self-acceptance in your life, you can navigate those desires in a way that allows you to stay true to you while enjoying the creative expression style allows you, and, as all good things do, it begins with balance.
Taking a self-accepting approach to style means you inherently know that your style does not create your worth, it simply is one of many expressions of how you see yourself. You also inherently know that others’ are not defined by their style either. When you are operating from a self-accepting place, you understand that style does not change your capabilities. You can go without make-up without feeling like you’ve lost yourself. If your dry cleaning isn’t ready and you have to go with a different outfit choice for an important presentation, your ability to deliver what you would’ve in the power outfit doesn’t change. Only your clothes change.
And, so, every semester, as a little experiment in recognizing how inherent our worth is, I ask my students to join me in going ALL natural for a day. We don’t just take off our make-up. We also take out the hair extensions, take off the wigs, put away the polish, perfume, contacts, and hair product and show up just like we were originally designed.
Want to join us this semester? Then, on October 17th (this Friday), feel free to take a shower, put on moisturizer (as long as it is not tinted or light-reflecting), brush your hair and your teeth but that’s where the primping ends.
Here are some things that should not be part of your All Natural Day:
Contacts (yep, wear your glasses!)
Wigs, weave or extensions (the clip in kind. If it’s sewn in, you can keep it there!)
Hair products (shampoo and conditioning in the shower are fine– no leave in conditioner, de-frizz or straightening products)
Flat Ironing/ Curling/ Rollers/ Blow Drying
I am sure I’ve left something off the list so, here’s the deal, if anything feels like it could be an enhancement, it probably is- so skip it. And while it would be tempting to just throw on sweats (and pull your hair back into a pony tail if you have longer hair), I encourage you to dress nicely for the day (whatever that means to you– just not sweats) and to wear your hair down- showing yourself that you don’t have to be dressed down in order to forego enhancements and forgoing the all or nothing thinking that often plagues us (if I am not wearing make-up, I don’t deserve to pay attention to myself or my body in anyway, sound familiar?).
If you are a trans or gender-variant person, participate by not using items that you would consider appearance enhancements but please feel comfortable using items that are part of your identity.
Want to take the challenge one step further? If you are on a social media site, share a picture of yourself without the enhancements (#nofilter as I jokingly reminded my students) and encourage your followers/ friends to do the same.
Want to talk about this experience on social media? Do so under #allnaturalday.