Dear Dr. Archer,
When I was a young teenager I was teased nonstop by my peers, friends and even my own family about my appearance. When I was five, my mother passed away in a freak accident. As a result I grew up without a female figure in my life whatsoever.
At 15 I had terrible acne, messy hair, mismatched, baggy clothing, etc. Since I never had close female friends or mother figures, I didn't know how to make myself look presentable.
Eventually, when I was 17, I grew into my looks. I began to wear nice clothes, make-up, styled my hair and my skin cleared up. Everyone began to praise me about how pretty I looked. My one friend mentioned that she was an ugly duckling, too.
Now my new found vanity has become the best of me. It worries my boyfriend that I cannot even leave the house without wearing make-up and how I won't allow myself to be photographed without wearing my extensions or fake eyelashes.
How can I psychologically overcome the bullying from my past and feel comfortable in my own skin?
What a great and important question! Too often we put our emphasis on outer beauty, when studies show that a healthy self esteem, a sense of humor and self confidence are a far bigger turn-on to the opposite sex than looks.
You may be a beauty on the outside, but your self esteem is sorely lacking. This can cause more psychological damage than being an ugly duckling.
The truth of the matter is that men are not big fans of women who wear heavy makeup. According to editor Nick Leftley of Maxim
, those men polled said that heavy foundation and powders, heavy lipstick (especially when lined), overly-plucked eyebrows, bold eye shadow and blush were all a huge turn off.
Other articles have shown men complaining about hair extensions, blatant plastic surgery, botox, etc…The rule of thumb today seems to be the more natural you are, the sexier you are.
Your boyfriend is trying to tell you something. He's saying you're beautiful just the way you are, yet you don't seem to be comfortable with that. Look at the October issue of Harper's
. Lady Gaga, who is known for her outrageous makeup when she performs, looks absolutely ravishing -- and natural -- on the cover with absolutely no makeup.
In fact, she's stunning, classy and innocent. When she performs, she's in character –and admits it's something fake. When she's not performing, she's the girl next door, au naturale. She's comfortable with and within herself. As she says, "Whether I'm wearing lots of makeup or no makeup, I'm always the same person inside."
OK, on to you. Look, I clearly understand the psychology of being an ugly duckling growing up who then turns into a swan. When we are young the world we view becomes our normal, thus inside your head you will always carry that ugly duckling persona- but that’s fine!
The key is understanding that who you were then and who you are now are two parts of the same person. You never want to forget how you felt back then, that will give you empathy for others and keep you humble. But you also have to accept that you are different now- at least on the outside.
You need to boost your confidence and self esteem and the way to do that is to find other areas of yourself that you like. So analyze your life and make a list of the things at which you excel.
Perhaps you are a true friend, a great girlfriend, a good listener, a good employee, excel at a hobby or are politically savvy. We all have strengths, the key for you is to find what they are and let your self esteem flow from there and not from your dress or looks.
Understand that there is a big difference between being vain and taking pride in your appearance. You need to quit judging yourself on simply your looks, because there's much more to you than that, isn't there?
If you have trouble with your list then ask your friends, family and your boyfriend for help- they will love it. Also one thing I often advise is to get involved in a charity, helping others less fortunate. I have yet to meet anyone who doesn’t feel better about themselves when they are selflessly helping others.
While working on the above you can also start to gradually wean yourself from the make-up and clothes. Leave the extensions at home one day, cut the make-up by half and leave off the lipstick another day. Pick a ‘casual day’ one day a week and only wear sweats or jeans.
Cut it back, and you will gradually see that people will appreciate you for who YOU are, and you won't have to hide behind the makeup. Also remember this: Most men find a woman who can jump out of bed, brush her hair into a ponytail, slip on some sweats and run out of the house, incredibly sexy -- mainly because she's so confident in herself. That should be something you want to strive for.
In the end, Katrina, the only person you should ever need to please is yourself. If you can do that, then you will be free to help and please others as well. If you live your life to the best of you ability, have a giving nature and respect others, you will realize that it's not all about looks.
Beauty really is only skin deep. Good luck.