Save. Spend. Splurge.

Do you worry about how pretty or good-looking you are?

Self-image seems to be a problem.

A problem in the sense that everyone struggles with it at some point in their lives, mostly during the awkward years of turning from a child to an adult, and dealing with physical changes and emotional struggles of whether or not you are liked and accepted by others.

You would think that by the age of 19 – 25, this would all be over, and our self-image will just improve because we come to realize that we’re the only ones who truly agonize over what we look like…. yet it continues to plague adults well into their 40s to the point where they overcompensate with horrific, unnatural surgeries to try and regain their youth and “lost” beauty which just makes things worse.

What is it about our self-image that paralyzes us and puts us into the denial of how good we look at this very moment, today?


Personally, I am wondering how much time we spend on wondering how pretty or good-looking we are — individually and as a culture.

I noticed that in certain countries particularly in Spain, women are constantly checking their reflections.


I myself do it once in a while in store windows, but some women just can’t let any shiny surface pass them by without fussing with their hair or makeup, and sometimes for them, it’s clearly obsessive, not just because they think they got some lipstick on their teeth.

It surprised me to observe such behaviour but in light of their beauty culture I suppose it’s kind of what they’re trained to think about from a very young age.

For instance, you will never really see a Spanish woman NOT in heels (even very low ones), or without their hair done, nails painted, or dressed in unfeminine/unsexy clothes which is why I garnered such odd looks from women as to the lack of my caring about my beauty presentability as a woman tourist.


Ever see teenage boys trying to cover up acne with pounds of makeup? No.

(Then again it isn’t really socially acceptable yet.)

They don’t exactly flaunt their bright red bumpy cheeks but they aren’t making the pores worse by clogging them, are they?

As men get older, they get balder, paunchier, and wrinklier, but aren’t under the same pressures to look as young as women do.

20-something actresses are playing 16-year old high school students — “Clueless” the movie is a good example, as is “Gossip Girl”, the TV series.

Once actresses hit 30, they’ve begun to fight to play Hollywood roles that are only available in 2Β categories:

  1. Super sexed kittens
  2. Aunts, mothers or sisters

There seems to be no in-between for age in women as there is for men.

… and if you look old enough (that is, “not young” any longer by Hollywood standards), you are automatically relegated to this Hollywood category without contest.

3. Old Grandmas

The only actress who can play a wider variety of roles is the legendary Meryl Streep, from fashion magnate in “The Devil Wears Prada” to a legendary celebrity home cook in “Julia versus Julia”, even though she would technically have to be relegated to the role of “Old Grandma” in Hollywood at her age.

I think Cate Blanchett will be in that category of being able to play a wide variety of non-Grandma roles (GALADRIEL!)


Although I am not immune to my flaws I am not held prisoner by them.

I know that I have flaws only I can really see (slightly crooked front tooth, dark hereditary undereye circles, wonky leg, etc), but oddly enough it makes me all the more aware that I will never be as young or as beautiful as I will be today at this very moment.


Every day, I get older, and instead of my trying to force back the hands of time, it makes me laugh at my silliness when I catch myself looking in the mirror and thinking: Ugh. Undereye circles.

One day, as a toothless Grandma in a wheelchair, I may look back on that day and think:

Wow, what was I thinking? I looked perfectly fine, and those flaws were so minor, I’m sure no one but me noticed.

With that future Grandma-self in mind, aging, youth and fleeting beauty doesn’t bother me the way it plagues other women, I suppose.


For me, I have limited flashes of vanity and grooming mostly just after I wake up (I always feel I look my best when I’ve rolled out of bed!), and just before I leave the house to meet someone(s) or go to work.

Aside from social functions or work, I am someone who doesn’t need to leave the house with a mask of makeup on, and am happy just wearing nice clothes and accessories at a minimum (you will not catch me in sweatpants outside unless it’s an emergency and I’ve also tied a stylish trench coat to cover these sins).

For practical reasons, I also don’t stay out in the sun because of sun damage, and I seek shade all the time, being someone who gets hot & sweats very easily.

I wear a hat and I try to take care of myself inside and out by eating good food.

When I am in really hot countries with a lot of piercing, unrelentless sun, I also have loose long pants and long sleeves on, which makes for an odd asexual look in contrast to native women who are baring everything they can in skimpy tank tops and bottoms.

I’ve said it before but I don’t really care if people (if any) giggle at how silly I look being covered up with a hat on a day most people would wear as little as possible to get a “healthy” tan.

I know it’ll come and bite them in the ass when they’re in their 40s or earlier and moaning about their sunspots, wrinkles and overall skin damage which in and of itself is my vanity showing itself, because I am thinking of preserving my future looks!

Maybe I’m just delusional but I’d rather be happy than worry about whether or not I’m prettier or younger-looking than the next woman. What a waste of brain cells! I have better things to do.

So if we all have flaws, we can’t all be beautiful (although we can try with nice clothes and a bit of slap) can’t we just accept that we all have them and call it a day, rather than obsessing over them?





  • Sage @ The Dream Team

    I really enjoyed this post because I think just about all of us at one time or another have felt physically inadequate in some manner or form regardless of how amazing those around us may view us from the outside. I’ve never forgotten when a friend of mine in High School stated during lunch that you could take anyone, no matter how beautiful and confident they may seem and if you had enough people randomly walk up to them and tell them they were hideous, over the course of just one day, they would internalize that to some degree. As a whole though, I feel as though societal norms are growing away from an obsession with beauty due to the advent of so many campaigns geared to make us look toward inward attractiveness, while simultaneously moving in the wrong direction, due to cosmetics and cosmetic surgery being an ever growing thing. It will be interesting to see how things continue to go moving forward, especially with respect to bullying among children.

  • Barbara

    Oh my, this made me smile and reminded me about a lot of the things I had forgotten. Also, it reminded me to take advantage of the now because it can never come back to me. Thanks for such a thoughtful post.

    Lagos, Nigeria

  • Biki

    one of the great things about age, is that you tend to get less wrapped up in things you have no control over, one being your looks! How I feel about my looks largely depends on which city I’m living in. If I am in Berlin, I can totally go to the grocers with just a slick of lipbalm on, as the beauty culture here is unbelievably relaxed. However, I would not dream of this in Lagos where the standards there are much higher. In fact, when i was in lagos, on more than 2 ocasions, I had my ma ask me incredulously: ‘Biki, are you going to leave the house with no make up on, i cant see any powder, lipstick…!’

    • save. spend. splurge.

      I think I’m at that point (being a new mom helps with the “I don’t care, I just birthed a human” attitude)… but I’ve never really been hung up on my looks in the past, because I’ve always been ugly and have only recently had my teeth fixed and eyes corrected in the past 15 years, so I still feel like an ugly duckling.. but one who doesn’t care any more πŸ™‚

  • Julia

    My only concern is my overweight at the moment. Not that I care much how I look, but because I have extra pounds I can’t wear clothes that I really want to, wear nice dresses that would fit perfectly. There is also health issues that come with extra pounds. So I am working on it now.

  • Mel @ brokeGIRLrich

    You know, you’re right about the looking back thing, I think. I look back on pictures now of me in high school or in my early twenties and actually think I looked pretty alright. And back then I always felt like a chubby frizz ball. I’ve been trying to convince myself that 10 years from now Mel will believe that late 20’s/early 30’s me looked just fine too.

  • Kassandra

    I used to be a commercial model for several years in my twenties as it helped to pay for college and university. I had no choice but to be concerned about my appearance back then. I always wore heels and was a clothes horse, but I never liked wearing make-up. The most I’ll wear everyday is some mascara and lip gloss. I believe in being proud of your natural beauty so I always make sure my skin is hydrated. Nowadays, I still believe that presentation is important but I’m all about being comfortable in what I’m wearing.

  • Bridget

    I definitely don’t think about my looks as much as I used too — and I have a new-found (past 2 years) acceptance for my natural looks: no-makeup and air-dried/unbrushed hair.

    I feel I’m becoming way less vain as I get older, looks just seem so much less important. I’m careful with my nutrition and workout a lot, but it’s not so much for appearance as it is for health. I think this is a much better perspective than I had in my early 20’s.

    • save. spend. splurge.

      Same here. I used to pile on the makeup when I was younger, but now I go out barefaced.. although it’s partly because I’m trying to achieve perfect skin, and makeup doesn’t help

    • MelD

      @Bridget: Since I was never a cute, leggy teen I got hang-ups early on, along with bad skin from age 13 to go with the glasses. But I did grow into my early womanhood and feel lucky now that I got through the difficult teens pretty well, however my skin remained bad or worse for many many years. In fact, only since I have stopped using anything on my face has it really cleared up – and I’m 50 this year. What does that tell you about the industry and the money I have wasted?! My figure has always been curvy and just got curvier over the years and I’m not tall, either, but these days, I have finally accepted myself much better. I let my naturally curly hair go grey, rarely wear make-up (occasionally eyeliner or lip colour – my lashes are dark so I don’t even bother with mascara any more) and only wore contacts for a few years (I find glasses simpler and they frame my eyes…). Personally, I think I am much more attractive now than many women of my age who seem to me to try too hard and get too skinny/stringy – I like to look decent but don’t worry about how I look once I’m out of the house. These days I feel sorry for the beautiful young women who, in our culture, will fret over their appearance when they lose that youthful look, it’s sad. Much easier to have been average looking and grow old fairly gracefully!! I find my present attitude gives me confidence.
      I was a lot vainer when I was younger and always thought I was fat – now I look at old photos and regret that I didn’t see that I was just normal :(. BUt I don’t dwell on that, it’s just a fact. Ah well. So glad my daughters don’t seem to have suffered and have healthy attitudes!!

      • save. spend. splurge.

        I agree with you. Women of your age group who are confident and happy in the way they look are far more beautiful than those who are trying far too hard to be skinny and ‘hot’ even at 50. No one can compete with 18-year olds, so why try?

        As for bad skin, I have tried to NOT use anything on my skin, just washing with water and it made it so much worse.. I think I’ve finally hit on the recipe, and that’s to wash my face in the morning, exfoliate as well, and wash during the day if I get sweaty, and wash again at night to remove the dirt and debris of the day (even if I am just at home all the time). That, and my diet can’t be too fatty.

        My skin has finally started to clear up from this constant washing because I think it is just too sensitive to be left alone.

        At least your daughters grew up with healthy attitudes πŸ™‚ I’ve never had a body issue, even when I was younger, I only had a skin issue (still do). Right now, even 15 pounds over my original weight pre-baby, I still feel good.. I just wish I could fit into my pants again. It’s my only thing πŸ˜‰

  • NZ Muse

    I used to. Somewhere in my early/mid 20s I stopped giving a shit.

    I don’t think it helped growing up with a mother who (I thought) put a little too much emphasis on looks (she would always criticise celebrities, my friends at school, and I’ll never ever forget her saying that I wouldn’t be pretty anymore the day I got glasses).

    That said she also put even more emphasis on academics, so she got that right.

    My first FT job was in a male dominated office and the women were fairly low maintenance. My second job was female dominated and there were a few very groomed ones but overall again pretty low key. My current job is female dominated but again everyone is low maintenance esp. in my team. Yay!

    One summer I worked in the magazines department of my company and that was a weird and scary place. I did not belong among those glossy Barbies.

    • save. spend. splurge.

      What really annoys me is how perfect they make out celeb skins to be. If you have ever seen an untouched closeup of their skin, they have bumps and pimples like the rest of us, it’s just covered heavily in expertly applied makeup. Models too.

      We’re all pretty low maintenance in my industry, but if I don’t wear makeup, people take me less seriously (I look younger.. and perhaps less competent).

  • Cassie

    You have to admit, it’s a little funny that we don’t care about our looks now (big hat and baggy clothes while on vacation), so that we can preserve our looks when we’re older. Granted, there are legitimate reasons to engage in these behaviours (skin cancer, etc…), but the irony of the beauty aspect isn’t lost on me.

    As for whether or not I’ll leave the house without out makeup: almost daily. My job has me alternating between working in an office and working in a dirty machine shop. In the shop, it’s no makeup and hair in a ponytail. In the office, it’s mascara and hair in a bun. Do I think about my looks and care about them? Sure I do. I’m not a slave to them though, and I don’t think I’m ugly without the makeup.

    • save. spend. splurge.

      *LAUGH* YES! I agree. I wear a hat and try to preserve my skin so that I can age gracefully πŸ˜‰

      Some people can’t leave the house without makeup. I am not one of them. Sometimes it just takes too long..

  • neurosciency

    i don’t think about my looks a lot, at least i don’t think more than most women, but i always feel the pressure to be “prettier,” whether it’s hearing my friends’ discontent with their bodies or my mom’s (who was 1000x more stylish than me when she was young) relentless beauty advice. i think you are right that certain cultures emphasize beauty standards more than others (and those standards are sometimes conflicting!). it’s a crazy world out there, most of the time i’m just glad i’m healthy even if i don’t wear a lot of makeup or fancy dresses.

    • save. spend. splurge.

      A culture that takes beauty to the extreme is Korea. I find Koreans really spend a LOT of time perfecting their skin.. they even have a 10-step process just to clean their faces. O_o

  • GirlinaTrenchcoat

    I used to be super-duper conscious of my looks because of a scar on my cheek, but then I got older and realized people don’t even notice it unless they are looking super close!

    Nowadays I can, and do, go out of the house without makeup (mostly on the weekends) because I just want my skin to “breathe”. The one thing I won’t leave the house without though is sunscreen, because I finally realized my mom was right and sun damage is bad! Wish 16-year-old me had listened to her all those years ago. πŸ˜›

    • save. spend. splurge.

      OH yea I’m the same. I want my skin to breathe and I am wearing sunscreen a lot as of late, although finding a good sunscreen is hard.

      I need a natural one that won’t break me out or turn me white, so it’s been a process.

      • GirlinaTrenchcoat

        @save. spend. splurge.: You may want to try Josie Maran’s Argan Daily Moisturizer w/ SPF 47. I’ve been using it lately and it’s quite a good moisturizer/sunblock combo. There is a bit of a white cast when first applied but just wait about five minutes and it disappears.

  • Charlotte

    Hmmm I’d say I fall somewhere in the middle. I try to put my best foot forward when it comes to my appearance but at the same time, I rarely wear more makeup than a swipe of mascara. I prefer the ‘natural’ look and classic outfits as opposed to a really ‘done’ look that is popular in so many cultures. Neat post, definitely something to think about!

  • AdinaJ

    I sometimes joke that I won the genetic lottery for undesirable traits: I’m a ginger, super duper pasty, imperfect teeth, almost as blind as a bat (I had to wear glasses as a kid, back when hipsters didn’t exist, and glasses were most definitely not cool). None of these things really bother me anymore (except maybe the teeth). But a lot of people seem to find some of them extremely personally offensive, and love to point that out – especially on the internet. I don’t get it.

    • save. spend. splurge.

      Oh STOP you. πŸ™‚

      Note to all other readers: Just go visit her blog, you’ll see that she bears a striking resemblance to Emma Stone OR Christina Hendricks. I’m leaning towards the latter, and they’re both foxes.

  • debt debs

    I can go out of the house without makeup, in fact I do more days than I don’t. I wish I did less sunbathing as a teen and young adult. Wrinkly neck is starting to come about so take that as a warning all you young ‘uns!

    • save. spend. splurge.

      I’ve only just recently started taking sunbathing or being in the sun as a serious matter, although I have been wearing hats and being careful with my skin most of the time (I’ve never just sat in the sun and tanned)..

  • D

    The movie is called ‘Julie and Julia’

    I’m not so obsessed about how my face looks but how my body looks. I love the summer and the water, but I absolutely hate going to the beach bc it means I need to put on a bikini. No thanks.

    • save. spend. splurge.

      Hmm.. my body doesn’t bother me as much, probably because BF doesn’t like a very flat stomach, he likes a little round belly, so I’m set on that front πŸ˜‰

  • Liquid

    I like how Cate Blanchett can speak in English, American, and Australian accents so she can play a wide range of characters. I think she won an Oscar for Best Actress in Blue Jasmine. That’s one of the best movies I saw last year πŸ˜€

    I don’t think about my looks very often. I think it’s harder for women to ignore their looks than it is for men. There’s a lot of pressure on the ladies to look good not only to attract guys, but also to intimidate other women. Appearances mean a lot in this world. You don’t start a conversation with a stranger at a bar because of his or her loving personality lol.

  • Midori

    The sun is a death ray to the skin…. hahahaha… so true. πŸ˜› But we have to get some vitamin D sometimes…

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