Vanity as Ritual

I used to struggle with my vanity. My love and appreciation for dressing and painting my body and my face in ways that are considered beautiful or sexy or strange got all tied up in confusion about what I thought was supposed to be important to me. I secretly feared that I relied too heavily on how I looked so that other aspects of myself might get lost. My intellect. My feminism. My spirituality. My lesbian identity.  I felt so much shame around this simple thing that fed my soul that it became something that I pretended to ignore. I spent more than a decade wrestling with this shame, the meat of it festering as I got into the beauty industry. I spent years wallowing in self doubt and insecurity and self loathing. I felt more shame around it than I could even admit. I was ashamed to admit that I was ashamed, and this simple thing that once fed my soul became a kind of sickness in my soul. By now, It’s taken me years to unravel that shame, and I suppose I owe my struggle with hair loss to aiding it’s unravelling.

Having a job where the expectation is to look put together or stylish or pretty or cool was sucking so much of my life force, once I worked through cancer and realized my hair was gone forever. To do my job effectively, and to gain confidence and trust from my clients, it is necessary to exude confidence in my appearance. For a time, in order for me to do this, it took a lot of ‘faking it til I made it”. Pep talks, affirmations, finding the stuff inside that made me feel bold and confident and sure of my space in the world were crucial. But all that took energy, and I found myself exhausting limited resources by writhing under the weight of the painful things that had happened to me. It was painful to face my appearance. It was painful to face my reality. I could no longer pretend that I naturally or effortlessly looked any certain way because it took work and effort and thought to look any way at all. Then, boom! Reckoning with that truth was an important piece of the puzzle. That reckoning is what brought me face to face with my underlying shame, easily ushering to the surface all of the shame around caring about the way I looked. It highlighted the shame I carried in struggling to find my authenticity in presenting as a pretty peacock one day, a fierce androgynous warrior the next, and some days wanting to throw on a hoodie and some sweatpants and fade into the background. There was shame in hiding that I might not know who I really am inside, so I have to pick something, my personal shield, and embody it. It forced me to reckon with the realization that I am a dualistic human person who enjoys varying ways of looking and being. It forced me to realize that what makes me authentic is not fitting squarely into any boxes, or checking any physical attributes off of any lists.  How I looked on the outside was suddenly a blank canvas, and I decided to play with it.

I can summarize stages or steps of my journey to self acceptance and whole embodiment, and will always be in some stage of it as well, as I am ever evolving. Some of those steps were doing my boudoir shoot (for me!), using Rogaine to grow a little hair and wearing a bleached buzz cut, even getting a weave for a while… But here I just want to skip ahead to the part where I started to tie ritual for rituals sake into my self love practice. Mindfulness in my self presentation has become an integral part of my daily practice, and takes up as much space as it needs to. To put it bluntly, I have given myself permission to love what I love, prescribing the medicine of accepting and revelling in my own beauty. In the most important discovery in my healing spiral, I caught on to a way of relating how I present as expressions of various aspects of my Spirit.

I take delight in many things; cooking,eating,bathing, reading, writing, running, dancing, loving my partner and my animals and my friends. But one thing that gives me deep joy and satisfaction is spending time laying out my look on the altar. I create altars all over my house for different purposes, and my dressing area is a shrine to my devotion to self creation. When I was a kid and then a teenager I would lay out my outfits before school every night. I put thought into how I would style my hair the next day and I would lay out the styling tools as well. Somewhere along my shame spiral I had abandoned that practice. Once again, I now ritualize the act of getting ready for my workday, this time doing it with the intention behind it, with awareness fueling it. I set out one of my heads with the wig of choice. I lay out jewelry. I may select a certain lipstick or a shadow palette. I hang my clothes on a dressing mannequin beside my vanity. I consider the experiences that I want to have in my body, how I want to feel in my clothes, the vibe I want to put forth, the essence that I want to embody. The way I present in the world is no longer something I can ignore or pretend to ignore. I no longer spend a lot of time behind the scenes primping and pruning myself and then pretending as if I didn’t put any effort in. I must recognize that I am many things and all things; I shine out what I want the world to see, and what my Spirit wishes to express. These acts of ritual signal that I am worthy of this attention to detail. They are a celebration of my freedom of expression. They honor the permission I have given myself to PLAY. They are a recognition that what I create for others to look at is something of a reflection of my own Spirit, shrouded in layers of the colorful collective consciousness, and all that draws or ever drew my attention. In honoring my appearance as a work of creation, I release the bonds of programming that tell me that how I am interested in looking or what I am interested in looking at has any bearing at all on my intelligence, my ability to “succeed”, or my role in society on any certain status level. I denounce any negative associations I have attached myself to about why I should decorate my body or how I should relate to it. I have integrated this playful way of being in and enjoying my flesh as necessary and crucial to my well being. My self presentation becomes the essence of Spirit Embodied.wigs

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1 Comment

  1. I have such issues with my looks and how I deal with my appearance when I go out into the world. I won’t leave that mess here, but thanks for your honesty and sharing of your journey. It is good to see. Always love what you love. That’s one the mantras for my life.

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