Sunday 24 October 2021

Breaking out of the boxes I put myself in

Last week I bought myself an anti-aging eye cream. It promises 5-in-1 actions against the dreaded aging process: it supposedly combats dark circles, crow's feet, bags, puffiness, and crepey lids (which I first read as creepy lids, and was quite intrigued by: you never know what the diet- and beauty-industry comes up with next, and I thought they had moved on to creepy lids. Not yet, but it's only a matter of time).

Do I believe that the cream will magically "turn back the clock" and make me look like I'm 31 again?
No. That's why I parted ways with pretty much everything beauty-related a few years ago, determined to learn to love myself the way I am.
And it worked. I am more comfortable in my wrinkled, aging skin now than I was in my dewy 20s and early 30s. But I also did something that I wasn't aware of until quite recently: I put myself in a box. 

I started putting eye cream around my eyes in my teens. I have a broad face; Rich always says that I look oriental with my round face and slightly slanted eyes. Wherever I get it from, what it does is that I've had laugh lines for as long as I can remember. When I smile, my eyes crinkle, which means the skin around my eyes crinkles. 
You can't see it, but trust me: my eyes are crinkling (I'm on the left; my little sister is on the right). 
No smile=no crinkle
Wiiiide face. Me at 6, on my first day of school. 

I became aware of that fact when I was 14 or 15, and I proceeded to gently pat eye cream into my so-called "problem areas" for the next 20 years. 

A few years ago I stopped, having learnt that I didn't need to buy into the lie that only smooth, unlined skin is beautiful. 
It was immensely liberating and gratifying. For several years I used nothing but a moisturizer with PDF 30, and I was happy as a clam. 

But slowly, without me noticing, not using beauty products became more than a choice; it turned into a cage. I subconsciously started to believe that I could never use any of that stuff again or I would "betray my beliefs". Did anybody tell me that? Of course not. Nobody cares. 
It's something I put on myself all by myself, without any outside input. It's utterly ridiculous - but here we are. 

Except, we are not here anymore. Did you know? It's perfectly okay to change your mind - I checked. 😉 
You can believe in something and still do stuff that, for others, may look like you're contradicting yourself. 
Case in point: my over-priced eye cream. 
First off: I don't owe anyone an explanation. Neither do you. None of us does. If I feel the sudden urge to rub some cream into my skin that I know, deep down, won't deliver any of its promises, then it's my business. 

The reason why I bought it is two-fold: the area around my eyes has felt drier than usual lately, and the cream is helping a lot. The other reason is that it makes me feel like a movie star from the 50s when I open that little jar with its golden lid, delicately scoop a tiny bit onto the tip of my little finger, and gently pat it in. 

In a life where I wear farm clothes or scrubs most of the time, feeling like a film star for a few moments twice a day is amazing! No regrets. 

The other box I put myself in (for safekeeping) was the one of being an introvert. I didn't clue in that I am an introvert until I was 34, and it was an immensely satisfying discovery. It explained all the things I had fought against so hard for so long: my need for alone-time to recharge; my secret impatience with a lot of people who were perfectly fine, but annoyed me in a way where I preferred my own company to theirs; my lack of need for a "best friend" whom I would have to check in with daily. No thank you, that's way too stressful. 

But then again, I've used my introvert-box as an excuse and a shield a few too many times. Like many introverts, I'm actually quite outgoing when it comes to hanging out with my friends. But since I also have anxiety (which I didn't know until last year), I've used my introvert box to hide in when my anxiety was too strong to get out of the house.

There's nothing wrong with honouring your feelings. With or without a mental illness, it's absolutely essential to listen to your needs. 
But I've been dealing with my demons for so many years now that I can tell the difference between a true anxiety/depression-attack as opposed to hiding behind that shield because I'm simply afraid.

There's a difference. If I'm full of energy, bouncing off the walls, playing a hundred different scenarios in my head of how it may go, and mentally going through every item of clothing in my closet, even though I keep telling myself I don't want to go, then I'm just scared. Which is totally normal and happens to everyone, even extroverts. But every single time so far, without exception, the event turned out to be fun, and I was SO happy that I went. That's why I push myself on those occasions. 

I know it's my anxiety and/or empty introvert batteries telling me not to go when I'm catatonic, buried under the covers in my bed, with barely enough energy to text to tell them I'm not coming. That's a completely different scenario, and one where I stopped feeling guilty for bailing. It's like getting suddenly sick; I simply can't make my body move. 

Still, I am more aware now to distinguish between a true "I need Me-time" moment as opposed to "I feel shy/nervous" one. Huge difference. 

The reason why I fight so hard against it is that I am determined to live my best life, despite my anxiety and depression. I have them; they don't have me.    
As long as I'm alive, I will fight against them, because there is a lot of life I still want to live.
And it's way easier to experience it outside any boxes!


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