Last week, Grace Atwood from The Stripe was getting dressed for a big event. She put on everything she brought on her trip and none of it worked. Predictably, this left her feeling a tangle of emotions. Emotions that I have felt many times.
Tonight, I’m joining Grace for an event in D.C.. Choosing a dress for this event turned a simple task into a spiral of negative feelings. I put on every dress in my closet. Most did not fit. One fit so poorly, I had to have Kyle tear me out of it (and not in a fun, sexy way). The entire experience nearly had me puddled on the floor.
There’s so much pressure on women to look just right. There’s even more pressure on women who make their money talking to other women about clothes. You can’t just look good, you have to look your best. You have to look like your readers expect you to look. Even when you eschew the entire “influencer” ethos as hard as I do, the insecurities still find you.
Two years ago, I brought Kyle to D.C. for an event that we were looking forward to attending. A tornado of factors was making this night feel more important than it was. I was back in D.C. for the first time in months. Kyle was well-dressed as usual. And we were going to two events where there would be people snapping photos, before meeting with friends for a night out.
I’d gone for a blowout, and my hair looked like I stuck my finger in a socket. The dress I brought had a stain from a luggage spill. And the backup was a Reformation wrap dress that was barely staying closed.
I was wandering around our AirBnB screaming curse words, loudly and at no one in particular. I looked like a crazy person. Kyle, having never seen this kind of meltdown, was basically hiding in the living room hoping the storm would pass by him.
Finally, after re-doing my hair, safety pinning my dress together, and finishing the look as best I could, I stood in front of the full length mirror and felt empty. I didn’t know what I was hoping to look like, but this wasn’t it. My only thought was, “I used to be pretty.”
The darkness had crept in.
Putting his hands on my shoulders, Kyle looked me right in the eye, and told me I looked beautiful. I knew he meant it, but I didn’t feel beautiful. I felt gutted. Somehow in all the planning for this event, I’d let my self-worth get caught up in how I looked.
We exited the car at the Belgian Ambassador’s Residence for what should have been a fun night. Kyle squeezed my hand, and I summoned whatever positive mojo I could find hoping to salvage the evening. But walking through the foyer, another blogger helicopter-whispered to the PR-person coordinating the event, “Geez, Belle got fat.”
When I turned to look her way, she just sort of shrugged at me. As if I couldn’t be mad at her for speaking the truth.
It still stings every time I think about it. I don’t know how I resisted the temptation to throw a Stella Artois chalice at her head.
Insecurities are real, and they live in all of us. The fear of not being enough can be crushing. But you just have to remember that sometimes the way you see yourself is more funhouse mirror than reality. You see the flaws, but other people often don’t. Partially because they may only exist in your head and your heart. Partially because no one is harder on a woman than herself.
It seems silly to be 37 and still worried that you won’t look just right for a party, but it’s difficult to undo decades of conditioning. (Don’t even get me started about trying on wedding gowns.)
I just have to keep working on trying to remember that I am enough. Even if my hair is poofy. Or worse, flat. Even if the other bloggers’ outfits are better. Even if the zit on my cheek feels like it has its own zip code, and the roll of fat on my abdomen is pinched by my waistband.
The girl under all of that is still enough. That’s just exterior. The more I work on strengthening the interior, the less I will care about the exterior.
Who am I kidding? I will always care if my hair goes flat, but I can leave the rest behind.