I was raised by a mom who wore no makeup, used zero hair products (except shampoo), and wore a basic wardrobe. (She did like her jewelry, surprisingly). She viewed her no-fuss approach to her appearance as a virtue; but later I came to recognize deep-rooted insecurities she harbored about her outward and inward make-up. Rather than take risks and exercise creativity with her appearance, she played it safe and used scriptures like Proverbs 31 to justify her insecurity as virtue.
Now, there were some pros to being raised by a mom who was not vain. My sister and I were told we were pretty just the way God made us. We didn’t get caught up by superficial pursuits of beauty in our teenage years.
But for awhile I wrestled with fashion and beauty in general. I had an innate interest in all things pretty, but I felt these areas were taboo. I feared that if I started wearing mascara or got a curling iron or splurged on an outfit, I would be in danger of vanity, pride, addiction–namely, sin. If it took me more than 15 minutes to get ready in the morning then surely I was too obsessed with my looks.
So for awhile I went the ‘tom-boy’ route. The funny thing about that is I put just as much thought and effort into dressing ‘simple’ as I would have into dressing feminine. I was still uncomfortable and insecure because I wasn’t fully expressing my true self. Everyone has to dress ever day, and whether intentionally or unintentionally, our outward appearance reflects our inward state of being. Once I made this connection, I realized there was nothing wrong about using my outward appearance to exercise my inward creativity and joy and preferences.
As I grew into womanhood, I slowly found freedom from this legalistic view on femininity. And of course the more I grew into myself and learned about my likes and dislikes, my fashion point of view evolved. I embraced the fun of trying a new lip color. I exercised creativity in putting outfits together. I invested in some good skin and hair products–not in vanity but to take care of my body in the same way I exercise and eat healthy things.
Interestingly, there was a correlation between my outward and inward appearance. As I stepped out of my comfort zone by wearing statement earrings or heels or trying an A-line bob haircut, I became more confident in who I was as a woman. And as I solidified my identity, I was more game for changing up my look.
There is a constant check not to let my outward identity be the only validation for my inward identity. There is a balance between taking pride in how I put myself together and not letting fashion and the pursuit of outward beauty consume me. There is a fascinating tension there. But there is that tension in every aspect of life. And within that middle tension is found something life-giving: freedom.