Picture the ending of Mean Girls when Cady Heron has her whole monologue about there being peace amongst the student body: no longer are the "desperate wannabes," "unfriendly black hotties," and "Plastics" at each other's figurative throats for supposed rulership of the school. One of the nice parts about being a grown-up is that you don't really care about that stuff anymore because being the most popular anything doesn't really matter.
But that doesn't mean that you just stop feeling similar feelings. When your brain starts writing a grocery list of how you wish you looked like X or why can't your hair just behave like Y, it's not the easiest thing to just tell yourself "just don't think that!"
I found myself recently reflecting on the fact that I haven't had long hair in three years... and then suddenly wishing my hair was Venus-in-a-clamshell long. Being blonde leaves my ends in constant need of a trim — it's just so much easier maintained short. But then I lament all the cool braids and hair-whipping I could be doing with long hair, plus the general princess-tial nature of having long hair. Extensions are out of the question since the break would be too obvious with my just-above-shoulder-length hair. It's just a prescription of patience (and maybe letting my hair grow back to its natural state) needed to fulfill that desire.
But then it snowballs easily to all the times I wish I was at least three inches taller (mostly all the time), that my boobs were just a bit bigger (my entire adolescence), that I had one of those cool genetic anomalies like David Bowie's heterochromia, and also my hair wasn't as coarse and stubborn as it is but had a cool natural beach-wavy texture.
They're all meh-intensity naggings until I witness someone who possesses the types of traits I want in myself and then my inner-pout spreads this lazy gloom cloud over my brain. It's not Death Becomes Her levels of passionate envy, but it's a strange alienation of feeling lacking simply for seeing something I admire in someone else, which is a sucky way to "admire" something. I have to constantly remind myself that most of it is largely informed by the beauty ideals I was bombarded with growing up (ie. pretty white girls on TV) anyway.
The genesis of such feelings of self-deprecation generally happens while creeping on random Instagram girls who have five-figure followings just for posting selfies of their admittedly otherworldly gorgeous selves. And as I double-tap, I think, "How. Do. You. Look. This. Perfect. I do not understand!"
And then I try to remind myself that I have other good qualities, like being good at bad puns, making really delicious sandwiches, and knowing really effective strategies for video games involving hordes of zombies. But that doesn't, you know, make me look any more like Isabella Rossellini or Kim Basinger — or all the other Instagram/Snapchat models a decade younger than me, who somehow are appear way more womanly than I see myself.
Obviously, I'm not the only person who feels this strange self-dissatisfaction in the face of beauty. It sucks when my otherwise solid sense of self succumbs to superficial beauty standards. Because then I feel bad about that, like I was tricked into letting something so "frivolous" get to me. Seriously, what am I supposed to do when my brain is like, "I will never have a body like Chrissy Teigen. Commence being mad about it... now"?
Here is what helps though: Put on your most badass face and go about your business. Mine looks like this:
"Pretty" is the type of thing that feels like it needs some sort of public validation. There's nothing wrong with wanting to be pretty, but it doesn't make me feel validated, honestly. Strength does it for me, culling everything that makes me feel powerful. Knowing what actually does validate you and why is important — maybe the most important when it comes to exploring weird feelings that come out of nowhere like this.
When I consider all the things that I feel as lacking, looking at them through the lens of validation definitely helps to put it in realistic perspective. Sure, I'm short and a bit heavy in the thighs, but so what? They look bomb in my favorite black leather pants which make me feel tough and badass.
I might miss my long, dark princess hair, but my short jagged blonde bob brings me thismuch closer to Debbie Harry, aka the coolest woman in rock-and-roll history.
Beauty doesn't have to be a sort of institutional ranking to live up to — it's equal parts armor as it is your utility belt to showcase exactly how you feel and who you are at any given moment. My own grasp and autonomy with beauty helps to make me feel awesome about lots of stuff that often has nothing to do with beauty — but that's kind of the point, isn't it? The transformative properties (internal as well as external) of taking your image into your own hands is not to be underestimated. The decision alone to do so is a power in and of itself that bestows the kind of confidence I doubt any hair extensions would grant me.