The “why” of fashion and makeup has long been a topic of heated debate. There are staunch critics who argue that makeup specifically is inauthentic and is simply a mechanism to hide flaws and one’s real self. They continue that both makeup and clothing are choices that reflect not who one is but who one wants to be.
On the other side stand those who applaud those choices for reflecting who one truly is and how they’re feeling; an external representation of inner creativity and personality.
I hate to sound wishy-washy, but I fall somewhere in between on that spectrum of belief.
In my journalism lecture, we spend a lot of time discussing the use of social media. While students and professor alike tend to agree that social media is intended to reflect our authentic selves, in actuality it is (or can be) so meticulously curated that, instead of offering a peek into our real lives to the entirety of the internet, it creates mini reality TV shows through witty tweets, well-thought out Facebook posts, and filtered Instagrams.
As a college student, I often find myself thinking about this culture, especially when considering Penn Face and Duck Syndrome.
Essentially, these maxims describe the culture of students acting happy and self assured while, in reality, they are indescribably stressed out. Duck Syndrome, especially, speaks to the use of social media as inauthentic. It describes young people curating their social media in order to appear carefree, interesting and as though they’re having fun regardless of how stressed they are, the way a duck appears to glide effortlessly over the water while actually paddling furiously beneath the surface.
While I believe these behaviors can be severely detrimental to mental health, I do understand the appeal. I’m a big fan of the expression, “Fake it til you make it.” In my experience, I’ve found that when I act confident, I am more confident. So if posting an Instagram depicting a fun moment is a stress reliever or at least a confidence booster–so long as true happiness isn’t being derived from the number of “likes” the picture receives–the practice isn’t as harmful, even if it isn’t truly authentic.
The same practice, I think, applies to fashion and makeup choices. While I’d like to believe I’m unaffected by others’ opinions on how I choose to look and behave (because those choices are just that–my choices), sometimes a swipe of red lipstick or an especially flattering dress helps me work towards actual self-confidence. It isn’t even a matter of impressing other people with my appearance. Rather, it’s about feeling more put together. I’m just as willing as the next person to walk to my 9a.m. class in leggings and a t-shirt, but more often than not, I feel more put together when I look more put together. I try not to base my self-worth on how I look, but sometimes, taking more time to compose my external appearance helps me feel a little bit more composed mentally, as well.
I believe how you choose to present yourself externally is a two-way street. This is where my stance on whether makeup and fashion are inauthentic or a reflection of creativity comes in. While I utilize fashion and makeup choices to reflect my mood and creativity, I also employ those choices in order to help my internal appearance reflect how I look on the outside. These choices allow me to present my ideas and personality in a simultaneously authentic and curated way.