From reporting on the latest advances in skincare technology and vampire facials to writing about the emotional associations of perfume, Anita Bhagwandas knows a thing or two about beauty. Never afraid to think outside the make-up box, the award-winning journalist shared what she's learned about trusting your instincts when it comes to finding a style that truly expresses who you are.
From the moment we’re born, so much our ourselves belongs to other people. Our carers pick the clothes we wear until we’re old enough to pick them ourselves. Our bookshelves contain the tomes lauded in verbose newspaper reviews we’re told are epic and so often our careers are chosen from a mixture of parental, societal and economic choices we make.
Our beauty choices follow the same path – scarily pre-conditioned and seemingly impossible to make totally autonomously. Our earliest forays into make-up came from copying our friends huddled around one illicit Heatherberry lipstick stolen from Boots (sorry mum) or what we gleaned from teen magazines as a barometer of cool. And yet – if you think about it, I mean really think about it - we’re still following that same approach.
Somebody else is actively picking our beauty choices for us, albeit in a grown-up guise. Red lipstick is chic and classic but green lipstick even though you love the colour? Well, that looks like you’ve been smooching a leprechaun – accompanied by quizzical stares, confusion and smirks from those too scared to push a boundary. Maybe you want a rad tattoo that reminds you that you survived depression last year and got through it? Yet a conversation with your pals results in you being talked out of it to save your wedding pictures (it’s just one day guys.)
The problem is – none of these decisions are truly ours. We’re given them. The same applies when we look in the mirror. Try it tonight - clothes off, full length. Our perceived flaws take centre stage. That’s because we’re not looking ourselves through our eyes but through the eyes of the perfect Facetuned bloggers we see on Instagram posing as ‘real’ or the fitspo bunnies mainlining broccoli water like it’s liquid crack. We so often look at ourselves not through our eyes, but through the male gaze, causing us to criticise and come up so lacking. How do I know? Because if it were you or I talking to ourselves, as a friend, we’d be far less critical, much kinder and far softer – and we wouldn’t be doing the squat challenge just to get a model-esque behind.
Our parents aren’t choosing our clothes anymore (thank the lord – mine dressed me like a brown Victorian doll until I was 13) so why would you let anyone else tell you how to look? My plea for 2019? Unfollow anyone on social media who doesn’t reflect your true self, follow that surge of joy when you see something amazing in a shop before doubt takes hold, get that tattoo you’ve always wanted because life is short and buy the crazy lipstick that you adore the colour of AND the matching nail polish.
Our lives are so full of other people’s opinions and choices (social media is after all, a collection of other people’s tastes) that we so often forget to connect with our own loves. Authenticity might have become one of those marketing words used to convince millennials to part with money for distressed looking things in shops, but instinct isn’t. It’s wound into every fibre of your being and it’s your gut reaction – so let’s start living again from that brilliant, joyful, instinctive place.