How My Vanity Helps Fight My Depression

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I like to look good, but I admit I don’t always dress the part. On occasion my hair is a disaster and in need of a good washing, and sometimes my outfits are a little on the questionable side. What can I say, my depression gets the better of me sometimes, and it makes getting dressed and doing my hair feel like climbing mountains. I know this because I climbed a mountain once in the heat of the Vancouver sun. I thought I wouldn’t, but I made it to the top.

Depression itself is a lot like climbing a mountain. You just keep going and going looking for the light, the break in the trees, the place where it all levels out. The summer I climbed Grouse Mountain I started paying attention to the details, and perhaps it is for this reason I still remember the signs warning climbers of mountain lions in the area, of the possibility of imminent danger. This is also what depression feels like: that at any moment something could just come out of nowhere and take you out without warning. It is both exhilarating and exhausting to live on this edge, this divide between beauty and the beast.

When I got to the top of Grouse Mountain I looked like shit. I know this because I took a before and after photo and my straight platinum blonde hair had turned into strings that dangled from my head like pieces of rope. Despite the accomplishment, I was ashamed of my appearance and of the sweat that told the story of my struggle up the mountain and how even when I came out on top, literally, I didn’t look at the top of my game. This bothered me. I never showed the photo to anyone. If Instagram had existed then, no filter would have salvaged my confidence.

A big part of my life since the depression started seeping in has been keeping up the illusion that my depression does not exist. I have my vanity to thank in part for that. Appearances have become quite important to me, and looking good has become my best defence in this battle. I have found solace and strength in the deception—and I have found a special kind of hope that comes from looking after yourself. Keeping up appearances has prevented me from plummeting to new lows because it proves to me that I still love myself enough to care.

Eye shadows and red lipsticks have become my weapons in this war. Strokes of smoky purples and dark eyeliners have become my armour, and a crisp chiffon shirt or a tight black dress (worn with pumps or a good pair of boots), my uniform. Maintaining my roots and upgrading my wardrobe have given me the confidence to fight this battle. These are the tools in which I use to combat my depression. They may not be the most noble, but they work.

Women do these little things everyday, but it is these little things precisely that make the difference when you’re depressed. When you put the time into your appearance you feel better, and feeling better is the ultimate weapon in this struggle. Feeling better gives you the strength to put your brave face on and persevere. When you’re feeling better you look better and this makes you more approachable. It allows you to maintain relationships with your coworkers, to hold down jobs, and find success in your endeavours.

If I let myself go, which is rather tempting at times but never an option, I know I would become much sicker. I would fall back into the depths of depression and I would feel ten times worse. There are other tools in this fight—medication and therapy, mostly—but I have found neither to be quite as immediately effective as taking the time to inject self-love back into your daily routine.

Self-love comes in many forms. For me it also comes in working on my body in healthy ways. I go to the gym, ride my bike to and from places, and practice yoga. Being active encourages me to eat healthier, both of which are proven to help lessen depression. Not only does this make me feel better mentally and physically, but it encourages me to work on myself, which ultimately assists in other areas of my life as well. It makes me more accountable and dedicated, and forces me to set goals and work towards them. Feeling a sense of accomplishment is yet another tool in this battle. These small things, even though they stem from a place of vanity, have helped me push forward even when it’s felt unbearable.

Depression is a brutal and debilitating illness that makes doing any of the above feel impossible at times. I am not always able to put on the mask. But it has taught me how important it is to take an active role in your recovery, and to take advantage of any methods that work for you. Depression can make you feel stuck and the best thing to do when that happens is move. I love the excitement that comes with the physical act of getting ready to go somewhere. It indicates that I am moving—and movement, as they say, is life. When I’m feeling really low and I need to shake it, I just get up, put some music on, curl some waves into my hair, and slap a little lipstick on. Depression may not be pretty, but that doesn’t mean I can’t be.

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How (My) Fashion Impacted My Confidence

There is no doubting fashion’s effect on your confidence. Everyone’s style will change over time, and so will everyone’s satisfaction with what they wear. Personally, I went through three big stages recently. One was through high school and college where I only really wore anything that wasn’t form fitting, the other lasted for a couple of years after college where I was experimenting with layers, and now I am in a fairly womanly stage, finally! Looking back, I know what I wore affected me more than I realized at the time.

1) The Comfortable Years

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My first stage, or “the comfortable years,” was full of hoodies and jeans. Oh, and t-shirts and jeans. Wait, did I mention baggy sweaters and jeans? Don’t get me wrong, I still wear all those things, but at this point my whole wardrobe doesn’t consist of it. I always loved colour, so the only thing I’ll give my high school and college self is that what I lacked in structure, I made up for in spunk.

At the time I was perfectly happy with it, and perfectly miserable about my weight. I liked feeling like I was perpetually in my pyjamas, but looking back, I know I was never excited to open up my closet and I was never excited about trying something different. I always felt like my body wouldn’t look good in other clothes, so I needed to stick to what I knew. As opposed to standing up tall with my shoulders back, I had my shoulders constantly slouched forward with my hands in my pocket. That’s not confident body language at all, and perhaps that just perpetuated my feelings. I didn’t wear certain pieces to reflect my mood since the one “mood” of my wardrobe screamed that I was distracting you from my self-consciousness with bursts of colour. This apparent war on fashion fought hard, but alas, died out.

2) The “Doctor’s Coat”

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According to Vogue, “In preliminary findings from a study published on the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology’s website, subjects who donned white coats that they thought belonged to doctors performed better on tests than those who wore street clothes, or those who thought the coats were associated with artists.”

That is exactly what my second stage was like. I felt more feminine and I was experimenting with layers. I was finding my way in fashion and despite not doing a great job at presenting myself the way I wanted to come across, I was gaining confidence because I threw on my own version of the doctor’s coat. I lost some weight and I actually started feeling happy about the clothes I owned. I started wearing skirts, and I even bought a dress! Things were beginning to change for the better. From the same Vogue article, Katherine Bernard wrote, “…if you have a strong cultural association with a garment, wearing it can affect your cognitive processes.” That was the transformation I was beginning to take. I started wearing clothes that reminded me of confident women, and I honestly started to feel a change in my approach to fashion.

3) Womanhood

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Now I am in the third major stage, womanhood. I love to wear dresses, and every morning I can find something that reflects my mood. All the bright colours are still there, but now there are more structured and collared shirts, as well as skirts, khakis, dress pants and of course jeans.

Another crucial element to this stage is that I opened up an Etsy shop last year selling knitwear. This allowed me to actually create pieces I could wear, and in turn, has made me feel even more confident as it makes me feel connected to what I’m wearing. If I’m sure of one thing, it’s that what you wear can affect your confidence. These days if I go to an interview, I have my go-to blazer and dress that give me the extra boost I need to feel at ease. Even if I’m at home and I need to have a productive day, the first thing I’ll do is put on a nice blouse, like one I would wear to the office. Without fail, it always sets the tone puts me in the mood to get stuff done.

There is no doubt my confidence would have been higher if I skipped over my first stage and started on my second. My style has changed over time, and because of it, I’ve learned how much it can affect me. Looking back, I know that what I wear right now is a good representation of the woman I am inside.

Jackie Amodeo is the Owner of Lively Loops, Head Writer/Performer & Producer of her comedy troupe, Steezy as well as a Blogger, Video Blogger and Social Media Specialist.