Last week, on a painfully bright, boiling hot day, I got out of bed, caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror, and knew with the inexplicable conviction of a clairvoyant that this was going to be a bad, bad day.
My gut was bloated solid, my hair looked forlorn, I had a throbbing rash behind one knee, and my complexion, although perfectly fine the night before, now hosted two angry-looking zits.
The physical symptoms came hand-in-hand with emotional ones. Sadistically, I scrutinized every inch of myself in the mirror—willing the dark under-eye circles to vanish, willing the zits to collapse into themselves, willing my soft, jiggly bits to miraculously grow taut. When, as expected, they did nothing of the sort, I felt my spirit slowly succumb to the murky depths of insecurity, where I would remain, shipwrecked, for the rest of the day.
It was to be worse than a bad day, in fact. It was an Ugly Day, rearing its horned, mottled head.
I’m sure many of you have gone through the same ordeal. You wake up to an ordinary morning, and before you even see yourself—before anything actually happens—you feel completely and utterly horrible. Even when the looking glass reveals a lovely face, something inside you just feels off. Like a misplaced daub of paint that takes a portrait from a beautiful likeness into a strange caricature, you can’t quite pinpoint what exactly It is—but It drives Its stakes into your thoughts and emotions, setting up house, forcing you to dwell on It for as long as you possibly can.
That’s what happens when we have ugly days—we pick out the little things that, in our minds, render us unattractive, and we prod and poke and push ourselves until we end up in a dark place where the insecurity can fester undisturbed.
But the clear, simple, unembellished truth—which I’m sure we are all aware of, and which, time and time again, bears repeating—is this: It’s all in our heads.
Now, I’m not saying that acne, eyebags, limp hairdos, flabby thighs, and overstuffed tummies are little more than apparitions—if they’re there, they’re there. But when you find yourself face to face with these annoying realities, remember three things.
First, nothing is as bad as it seems.
Second, everything can be remedied.
Third, you are not defined by your physical appearance—and you shouldn’t try to be.
Vanity is what leads our eyes to believe what is beautiful and what is not—and vanity, at its core, is a treacherous mistress. On good days, it inspires meticulous grooming, impeccable style, and a queenly sort of confidence that binds every lock, frock, and shade of lipstick together. But on ugly days, when our hair and skin and bodies don’t seem quite up to par, vanity betrays us to the follies of criticism and self-degradation. And we start to believe we aren’t good enough.
But that’s just a lie we all buy into. It’s all in our heads—this impression of ourselves as unattractive, unworthy people. The problem only grows when we feed it with a poisonous desire to be impossibly perfect; when we exacerbate the situation with misplaced disappointments. You can’t change how you look today—blemishes, body fat, and all—but you can change your perception of yourself. That, in a nutshell, is the best way to avoid the Ugly.
Of course, that’s easier said than done. Confident or not, many a girl has hunkered down and prayed for night to come because she didn’t feel pretty on a particular day. Take it from me—I once taped a sarong over my mirror because I didn’t want to deal with it!
When that happens, I fall back on one basic rule: Fake it ‘til you make it. I pool all my clothes, shoes, makeup, and accessories; glean from them what is appropriate for the occasion; and camouflage my qualms with one impressive, ego-boosting look.
That’s one of the reasons why I love fashion. It cloaks you at your most vulnerable moments, but it also has a metamorphic quality which eventually turns the disguise into a reality. If you don’t feel great, you might as well look great—and the better you look, the better you feel.
Need specifics? Read on for my style solutions to five common Ugly Day habits.
(Photo from The Princess Diaries courtesy of Warner Bros.)
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