In a world where a tap of your phone can make you feel inferior coupled with the pressures of your life as women, it is little wonder that beauty and mental health are closely interlinked. The impact of pregnancy/raising children, work pressures, romantic relationship and the relationships with your friends and family can all impact our mental wellbeing from time to time.
The relationship between mental wellbeing and the constant bombardment of so called “beauty” fascinates me and worries me at the same time. I was fortunate enough to have some women share with me how their mental wellbeing affects their view of beauty and how to overcome this fragile relationship.
“I work in mental health, I really shouldn’t be experiencing mental illness, should I?”
Beauty for some is in our behaviour rather than having supermodel looks. As Cat explains.
“When I look around at those I see as beautiful, external beauty alone just doesn’t cut it. it’s in the kindness we show another in their time of need; the good deeds we do; the positive impact we have on the world; the love and compassion we show everyone, especially those who have hurt us the most.”
For Cat, mental illness has the ability to distort your internal beauty and allows your head repeatedly to tell you lies like “I’m not good enough” and “I’m hopeless;” leading to you losing all beauty within yourself.
“My greatest piece of advice these days is: keep it simple. Let’s quieten that mind, let’s meditate, lets focus on the small positive things in life when it gets overwhelming and fucking crazy let’s ground ourselves, let’s remember why we are here.”
Sarah* provides some insight from a perspective of somebody who has endured physical mark and not just a general insecurity.
“I was born with a birthmark that looked a bit like a pink Hitler moustache on my upper lip. I plastered specialised makeup on and knew it looked a tad overboard.”
A turning point for her was embracing the field on which her feelings were constantly focused on- beauty therapy.
“Gaining my qualification in beauty therapy has on some level boosted my confidence. I know how the body and skin works.”
I find the name beauty therapy ironic, the meaning of therapy alongside something we can view as superficial but it isn’t. Looking good is what the majority of us perhaps admittedly strive for, however for some this can have much deeper consequences than being pissed off with how you look in a group photo.
When looking back on younger years when you first played with your mums make up stash it was more about plastering on foundation and covering your face in blue eyeshadow compared to contouring or having maintained eyebrows. Everybody bought Rimmel, not Mac because who the F had the money for that then.
Sarah* further explains,
“I have worked through some other factors with my psychologist, however, I can’t deny feeling good about yourself is a main offender, has a major impact, and a lot of the time I don’t.”
The next challenge for Sarah* is the motherhood transition.
“I have fleeting fears that I will not be a good mum, but I want my child to feel they can speak to me about anything and love themselves, and I’m determined not to be someone who puts themselves down in front of their child.”
From what I gather, motherhood is a time in a women’s life where everything just flips- your routine, your identity, your sanity the whole thing (I want to add that happens in a good way?!).
Obviously the menace that is self-love is stamped all over with the new pressure of being a perfect mum. It is no longer a case of acceptance of yourself but the awareness that there will be a little person who will look to you for support, for inspiration and a way t learn how to be happy with themselves – the enormity is something I cannot express with words never mind the fact I have no children myself.
Becoming a Mrs is another pivotal milestone in a women’s life, you always have a friend talking about their dream wedding dress and how they will just survive on dust for the sake of the wedding photos- as if the person they are marrying hasn’t seen them with a stage 9 hangover before.
For Jen, planning her wedding is another test of recovery from herself – harm.
“Planning a wedding is a feat in itself, never mind when you have the ongoing debate between your heart and your brain. The pressure to look beautiful for one day in which you are meant to relish with your soulmate can turn into a wrecking ball.”
Self–harm has a more visible link with beauty. For people who self -harm the feeling is one of relief, to get a sense of comfort and to take some control in an un controllable situation as Jen explains,
“I’ve never been beautiful on the outside. I’m overweight, been going grey since I was 20 but I’ve always smiled and laughed. During my depression I never thought I would understand the word ‘beauty,’ let alone label anything beautiful again.”
Having bad days when you hate everybody and everything can become exhausting. For Jen this came in using a camera, meeting with an old friend and having the opportunity to get back to work .A photography hobby transformed her outlook.
Venturing back into the work place gave a purpose, a fresh start and a chance to meet others to support and have a laugh with again.
The recovery doesn’t stop there though. These bravely shared reflections highlight the strong links between the term beauty and mental wellbeing. It is much more than the shade of lipstick but the way in which we can all feel supported no matter what life can throw at us. The free beauty therapy.
*Name has been changed
Author: Vikki Sinclair
Author Bio: Vikki is a writer, blogger, welfare worker, and student. Growing up in Scotland and moving to Australia at the age of 25, she is a fan of floral, leopard print, notebooks, and all things vintage.
Link to social media or website: http://www.thevintagevik.com