Self Care Ramble: Swimsuit Edition

CW/TW: discussion of weight gain, body image, PCOS, etc.

Similar stories have been told before, and will be told in the future, but I think they need to keep being told in order to remind us of what our reality is.

Hating your body while swimsuit shopping is a tale as old as time. Folks of all genders struggle with this, but I find that myself and other friends who are female or non-binary ESPECIALLY struggle with this because of the way companies, the media, and society in general has groomed us since we popped out of our mother’s womb. I hated swimsuit shopping even when I was a thin little bebe in high school who was fairly close to the “ideal” body type. Prior to this week, the last time I had gone swimsuit shopping was over four years ago, and even then I only went because my friend worked at that store and had found a swimsuit in my size on sale that she thought would look really great on me. Even then, I put off going to visit my friend at her workplace to try on and buy this swimsuit for over a week because I really, really did not want to have to stare myself down in that mirror and see all my nooks and crannies revealed in horrific fluorescent lighting.

In present times, this seemed like an even more daunting task. Because of my polycystic ovarian syndrome I now have more body and facial hair than ever before (something that is greatly stigmatized as being “ugly” or “masculine” on a woman) and have gained a significant amount of weight. I was, and honestly still am, SO insecure about these changes in my body and what I think others will think of how I look. This insecurity is multiplied sevenfold by the industry I work in, where I have patients coming in, who are even thinner and more muscular than I am, to literally freeze the fat cells off their body, or to laser their hair off their body. Although I give my workplace enormous credit for not using body-shaming marketing or consultation tactics to make sales in an industry that is notorious for that sort of garbage, I still seem to absorb the insecurities of patients, friends, coworkers, and relatives like a sponge, and morph them into my own.

With all of these negative feelings bubbling beneath the surface, I still knew I needed to purchase a new swimsuit that actually fit my new size for the summer vacations I had coming up. I scheduled time on my day off, and the morning of I procrastinated on Instagram, watching a steady stream of Instagram stories. I follow @dothehotpants (Dana Suchow) and watched her lengthy Q & A Instagram story that talked a lot about eating disorders, body image, the media, and capitalism, and how all of these entities, ideas, and illnesses interact with each other. I had been aware of all of these things for quite awhile, but desperately needed to be reminded of them.

In case you’re in need of a reminder as well, let’s talk about it for a minute. Who stands to benefit from shaming women about their bodies? Immediately, I think “product companies” and “men”.

So many industries benefit from women feeling absolutely dismal and embarrassed by their bodies! There are entire companies built around body shaming women. Flat Tummy Co. (the name in itself is abhorrent) shills “appetite suppressant lollipops” while making women feel like crap about their weight. Razor companies push women towards a near impossible ideal of hairlessness. Fitness programs guilt women for “holiday weight gain” or “baby weight”. It is literally everywhere. Without this immense pressure and shame I’m sure many women would still buy these items because they themselves want these items or to look a certain way of their own free will, but this pressure makes women feel obligated to look a particular way and ridicules them if they don’t manage to achieve this unattainable ideal.

Men, similarly benefit from this shame. Women who are not confident are more easily manipulated. When the focus is on women’s appearance even in professional settings, it is more difficult for them to climb the ladder and make an impression on employers, clients, etc. that isn’t directly or indirectly tied to how they look.

Women are pitted against each other from childhood and made to feel as if they must compare to other women. Magazines publish “hottest” and “sexiest” lists, girls TV shows feature mean, pretty girls who judge others and characters who compare themselves to other girls, and there are pageants for females of each and every age demographic in which they face off in beauty-based competition. Because of this repeated message throughout our lives, even when we are aware of the factors that make us feel as if we must compete aesthetically, it takes years and years to unlearn this habitual behaviour.

With all of this in mind, I am so grateful for Dana’s reminder on Instagram. Sometimes, we just need that reminder that another woman’s beauty is not the absence of our own, that our beauty does not determine our worth, that there is no one-size-fits-all look that all women should want to look like, and that our shame and insecurities are implanted in us to benefit others. Keeping all of this in mind, I walked into that swimsuit store and quickly and happily found a swim suit that fit me and was heckin’ adorable, for the first time in years. I didn’t feel embarrassed for my belly, body hair, or stretch marks. I felt great and couldn’t wait to head to the pool on vacation! Who gives a damn what I look like, as long as I like what I look like?

I think for myself, a big part of my self-care going forward is to repeat these body positive mantras in one form or another over and over again until I’m able to mostly unlearn these self-destructive tendencies. It’s quite the task, considering how many times negative messages about our bodies have been repeated to us since we were young, but it is such an important task. I hope that you know that your body is absolutely fine the way it is, and you deserve to be happy with it. And if you don’t know, I hope that this is a reminder to take a little time to work on building that self-love, especially if it does not already exist within you.

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FOMO, 2018 Makeup Ban, Content Creators…Not Creating Actual Content

Well friends, in 13 minutes it will be Blue Monday here in Saskatchewan. I hope you are well, and surviving all that January brings!

I have currently gone 19 days without buying makeup, which I am quite excited about. Looking at my Sephora order history in the past I’ve had a tendency to buy makeup at least every two weeks if not every week, so I think this is progress! I recently moved and with the hassle of moving, I realized how much of my collection I don’t actually want or need. When I move I tend to unpack things as I need them, and there’s a chunk of my makeup collection still buried in a moving container somewhere that I’ve had no desire to dig up. As I was unpacking my favourite items too I found myself throwing lipsticks and mascaras out left and right, as I didn’t want them in my new space at all. I’ve been tempted a few times to place an order or check out new products as friends tag me in them, but each time I see something new my mind instantly reminds me that I already have like three of nearly the exact same product and I quickly back away from that idea. Even just scrolling through Sephora, I haven’t really felt that same “I need that!” urge in awhile. I feel that I owe that partially to social media beauty gurus, as lately I’ve felt really overwhelmed by their unboxing videos and product reviews. Lately even local MUAs have been getting more and more into unboxing videos, particularly on Instagram, and I’ve wasted so much time watching them. The one morning I sat through about five different Instagram stories that were just MUAs or makeup enthusiasts unboxing PR packages they had been sent and saying vague statements like “This is from *such and such company* in collaboration with *so and so* and I’ve heard such great things about it!”, and I just got fed up. How are these videos helping me in anyway? They’re repeating the same useless comments over and over, and just showing products that I either don’t give a damn about or I’m already aware of. It’s less informative than a professional advertisement, and far less helpful than a genuine review. There are just so many other ways in which I could be better spending my time, whether it be practicing my own makeup skills, messaging a friend, sleeping, hanging out with my tortoise, reading, writing, etc. In a way I’m almost grateful, because this product overload and spammy unboxing content has kind of scared me away from enjoying the idea of makeup shopping right now.

In fact, this sort of sponsorship overload minus actual quality content has me really sick of social media in general. Instagram is filled with product ads on personal accounts and skin clinic sponsorships, and then Twitter is filled with really horrifying political news and misogynistic posts from people who I previously considered to be admirable authors. Facebook is a strange mix of politics and memes. I guess that with makeup purchases consuming less of my addictive little brain’s focus, I’m becoming more aware of my gross social media consumption habits are. I downloaded an app that tracks how many minutes a day you spend on your phone, and ended up deleting it because I was really embarrassed. Not even 3/4 of the way through the day and I had already spent 5+hours staring at my phone. Ridiculous, really. I’ve tried to deactivate and delete in the past, but the fear of missing out (FOMO) has always dragged me back kicking and screaming. If I delete twitter then I miss out on mental health advocacy chatter, #CanLit drama, daily news, and snippets from my hometown. If I delete Facebook I miss out on family updates from family members I never see (I have too many relatives to be able to realistically text/call/write/email them all and keep up with their lives that way), my tortoise keeping groups, meme tags, and pictures of local cats that have been rescued. If I delete Instagram I lose all of the makeup and pet accounts I follow, as well as updates from long distance friends. Do I come up with a system that will enable me to keep up with all these different people and communities but allows me to go offline? Do I limit my screen time, despite numerous failed attempts to do this in the past? Do I quit cold turkey and suck it up? I don’t yet know what the right answer is.

Have any of you cut back on social media? How did you do it and what tools did you use?

Self Care for Retail Workers

Working retail has probably been one of the most physically and emotionally challenging and draining things I’ve ever done, even if I have really enjoyed most of my retail working experiences. Even when you’re working in a super healthy environment, it can be really easy to get run down and burnt out. Here are some self care ideas that have worked for me, and that you are welcome to try!

  1. Invest in your feet. Love your feet. Take care of your feet. You are on your feet all day and if your feet aren’t properly supported and taken care of, you’re going to end up with all sorts of other aches and pains too.

    I used to just wear cheap black flats to all of my retail sort of jobs, and found that my feet hurt too much and I was wearing out my shoes and having to replace them after only 3-5 months. I thought I was saving money by buying cheaper shoes, but it ended up hurting me and my wallet in the long run. With my most recent retail position I invested in a good pair of all black athletic shoes with good support, and I have not regretted it. Because my shoes were so comfy and fit the dress code perfectly, my manager and a few other coworkers went out and bought the exact same shoes! I also bought mine in half a size larger than what I normally wear, but can still comfortably wear, as my feet swell so much during the day. For me, this helped reduce the amount of blistering I got.

    Pedicures are super expensive, but it can be nice to give yourself an at home foot scrub and soak when you’re able to. You can get decent foot products for relatively cheap that will last a long time. I’m a huge fan of Gehwol products personally. I use their foot anti-perspirant in the morning before putting on my work socks, and I leave the Gehwol foot and shoe deodorant in our back stock room for myself and my coworkers to use.

  2. Detox from customer comments and general work chaos at the end of your day.  Anyone who has worked retail knows that customers can often be really rude and condescending, particularly during the holidays and/or if they don’t get their way. It can be really easy to internalize negative comments made by customers, or even management or your coworkers, but if you let that build up it’s going to wear you out so quickly. I find that their negative comments hit me the hardest, because I can’t simply retort “You can’t treat me like a dumbass! I’m more educated than you will ever be! You have no idea what you’re even talking about!” to a customer unless you really truly want to get fired on the spot, and not being able to respond just fuels my inner rage, resentment, and sometimes even depressive feelings if I’m not self-aware.  I like to take a moment at the end of each shift to just take a few deep breaths and let all those anxious feelings disperse. If I’m still a bit riled up and I have the time, I’ll go home and take 30 min to an hour to just lay in bed and zone out with a book or Youtube and reset for the rest of my day.
  3. Stay hydrated and always have snacks! I always underestimate how much staying hydrated and fuelled up helps me get through my day until I skip breakfast or forsake my water bottle for a few hours. I keep a water bottle at work and granola bars stashed in the staff room and my car so that I never have to worry about forgetting them.

Hope all my fellow retail workers are doing well this holiday season, take care!!