Whether it’s changing our hairstyles or losing weight, the promise of a new year inevitably causes us to think of ways to improve ourselves. However, we must examine our motives for desiring change as transforming ourselves just to please others is not healthy for our own personal self esteem. On this month’s episode of Relationships360, I sat down with my long time hair stylist and makeup artist plus wardrobe stylist to discuss how our outer appearance impacts our view of ourselves. Both women agreed that hairstyles, make up and clothes can have both a positive and negative impact depending on one’s intentions.
For example, the widespread myth that women of color, especially black women, relax their hair to look like their white counterparts does not hold true for women of color who simply desire to make their thick, kinky hair more manageable for a comb or brush to run through without breaking. Additionally, straightening their hair with a chemical relaxer prevents women of color from having to pull too hard to get the comb through, which can be very painful and damaging to the scalp. Another racist notion is that women of color wear hair weaves in an effort to have silky, straight hair that is natural for most white women. However, many women of color wear hair extensions for the versitility they provide as well as fullness for their naturally thin or thinning hair as they grow older.
Don’t get me wrong, there are still many women and men who feel straight hair looks better and is more socially acceptable. Likewise, the men in women of color’s lives often place a lot of pressure on their wives, girlfriends, sisters and daughters to keep their hair long, not to cut it, and to get their hair straightened due to their own personal preferences about what constitutes a beautiful head of hair. Thus, one can conclude that it is pressure from the opposite sex, not women themselves, that create unreasonable expectations about beauty that cause women to have a low self-image if they feel to live up to such expectations set for them by the men in their lives.
Speaking of pressure to be beautiful, I asked my wardrobe stylist and makeup artist, Jolie, if she thought beauty pageants boosted or injured children’s self-esteem. Her take was that these children struggle to develop inner self-confidence due to the intense focus on maintaining a perfect facial and bodily exterior. Additionally, she felt that the models she works with on photo shoots and fashion shows possess a more fragile ego than plain Janes and Johns who are not in the limelight. One only need to look at the latest celebrity headlines to find support for her argument.
Even celebrities most of us seemed to think had it all together – America’s darlings – like Chris Brown, Whitney Houston and Britney Spears (she’s not that innocent) have experienced total emotional breakdowns. And of course, one could not ignore the biggest celebrity of all time – Michael Jackson. Decades of living in a fishbowl with accusations of sexual abuse eventually led to his well documented abuse of prescription drugs to mask what appeared to be severe anxiety and depression as a result of the extremely high expectations for him to maintain the music success he experienced in the first four decades of his life. I mention all of this to say that regular people do not experience the type of pressure to be perfect like celebrities do and are therefore more likely to be emotionally stable and self-confident. If you disagree, I’d love to hear your point. Just drop my a few lines in the Comments section on this site.
Also, please know that I’m not here to pick on celebrities. I merely want to draw awareness to the fact that people who seem to have everything – looks, money, power – may be some of unhappiest people on earth and that we should be sensitive to the fact they may require more attention and love than others. This goes for women who go to bed and wake up with a fully made up or a teenage boy who won’t be caught dead in anything other than designer duds or the girl that is 5’10” and weighs 98 pounds, but think she’ s still too fat. Yes, we all need to pay attention to how people feel about themselves on the inside and be willing to help them heal their feelings of insecurity and self-hatred. Hopefully, this blog provides the tools to help you with that goal.