March results of the Image Experiment

What I learnt this month experimenting with my image:

  • I lost 5% of my body weight without any conscious effort.
  • I discovered a new rendition of beauty
  • Pantene is the oldest, cheapest and best thing for silky hair
  • Pinterest is the best thing for figuring out what you want to look like

Throwback to what the Image Experiment is. Basically, me, a pretty average-looking millennial girl, who isn’t very appearance-conscious, just enough to own a few Marc Jacobs bags and Hermes scarves, but not to wear them very often, trying to follow the cool kids’ image trends.

Null hypothesis: for a woman with no obvious image problems, there is no benefit in working on her image by using popular make up routines (I have changed this to following trends and paying more attention to how she looks in general). H1: for a woman with no obvious image problems, there is a benefit in working on her image by following trends and paying more attention to how she looks in general.

I.

I lost 5% of my body weight without any conscious effort.

Numbers? 3 kg, or 7 pounds, in one month. No hunger. No gym. No BS, as they say. Not even a new fancy water bottle.

Historically, my appetite goes up and down, for months at a time, and there doesn’t seem to be much rhyme or reason to it.

As a consequence, my weight has always fluctuated. I wish it didn’t because I end up with a proliferation of different size clothes, but fighting it is a monumental investment of energy I am not prepared to make. Thus, I go between a BMI of 22 and 26. My self-esteem follows closely.

I wonder if doing my Image Experiment caused this latest appetite decline. One of the premises of the experiment was that “when we signal to others, we signal to ourselves, just a little bit.” I am starting to think that this is indeed true. After all, when you are aware that others are looking at you, you behave differently. Not necessarily better or worse, just differently.

Being more cognisant that I am not alone in this world, I guess I became more in tune with my belief that a certain range of weight is fundamental to looking maximally well. (Sorry I am not more #bodypositive). Since I do want to engage with people around me, I want to make it is easy as possible. And it is easier when you look well. Hence, the weight change. Or so I hypothesise.

II.

I discovered a new rendition of beauty.

I have done the dirty deed of using the discover section of Instagram. Usually, the cat photos cheer me up. The photos of people’s lifestyles? Not so much. Yeah, yeah, don’t compare yourself. Yeah, it’s a highlight reel. Yeah, they are all edited, often professionally – and taken by photographers. But still.

This time though, I was cheered up alright. I found an ethnic girl who was really stunning. Does she look beautiful in the usual Western, Hollywood sense? I don’t think so. Her eyebrows are weird, her chin is too pointy, her lips aren’t big enough, she doesn’t try to go for the same type of sexy look that we’re used to seeing.

There was something refreshing and life-affirming about seeing this. It’s not quite beauty in all shapes and sizes, again sorry #bodypositive people, but it is something to do with diversity. (P.S. To annoy supporters of social constructionism even more: despite being indoctrinated with images of people like Charlise Theron and Michelle Pfeiffer all my life, I still think this girl is stunning. Explain?)

Me by very talented @soposoposopochka 🖤

A post shared by Tamuna Tsiklauri (@tamunatsiklauri) on

III.

As for the goodies you see in the photo, all of them are 5/5.

I heard a lot of bad things about Pantene: that it makes your hair fall out, etc, but I’ve used it at various point all my life and I think it’s great. And very cheap for what it is. Hair was super silky and light after using the conditioner and the 1 minutes ampoules. The ampoules in the box are actual real plastic ampoules, you have to break the top off, as if it’s heparin or something. They would make you feel very much like “stand back, I am doing science”, if you’re a five year old, that is.

The L’Oreal clay facial wash with charcoal is actually black, which feels odd, but it’s nice and leaves your skin supple.

The Freeman clay mask with sea minerals is phenomenal. One of the best I tried. It’s violently electric blue though, so apply privately and in confidence.

The Seba Med thing came in the Birchbox, it is like paint stripper, only it didn’t cause excess dryness, to my great surprise. I would still use sparingly. Birchbox is increasingly useless, but anyway, I will keep subscribed for the time being.

I also tried the Herbal Essences Dry Shampoo. It was a lot more palatable, I should really say more tolerable, though some does inevitably make its way onto your soft palate, than the more common Batiste variety. Even though it’s not tinted, this dry shampoo wasn’t very noticeable in my hair, which is a great thing (because the tinted varieties prevent you from touching your hair, unless you’re planning to wash your hands straight after that or look like a coal miner). But you really, really have to shake it like a gin fizz. If not, you’ll end up with wet hair like I did when I first tried it.

IV.

To figure out what it is I want to look like, I made a Pinterest board. It really helped, and it’s great for making shopping lists. All these beautiful people have done the hard work of figuring out what goes well together and so all I have to do is pick and choose. Or basically, copy what they did. Handy!

The only downside is that now I am convinced I need an Yves Saint Laurent bag.

Screen Shot 2018-03-24 at 01.17.40

The ROI of beauty

Empirically, the most accomplished, intelligent people I know couldn’t give two fks about beauty standards.

All the same, it is super popular and desired. Being beautiful seems to serve a purpose beyond health and attraction. I am wondering what that is.

I followed Jessi Kneeland a few years ago after seeing a recommendation on Greatist. Obsessed with HIIT, the fitness-junkie in me rejoiced at finding her, fit as a tennis ball.

 

So many women- clients, friends, and strangers- off handedly apologize to me or feel shame for not "having their shit together" like I do. Which always strikes me as strange, because I don't have my shit together either. We all have gifts. I just found a way to pursue and teach mine. But trust me, I have just as many "issues" as anyone else. I like to think I deal with them compassionately and patiently, but that doesn't mean they're not there. I don't see any particular reason to spend time lamenting stuff I suck at, because focusing on my gifts is so much more fulfilling! So I guess what I'm saying is this: stop giving all your power to the stuff you suck at. Stop comparing your gifts and weaknesses to other people's gifts and weaknesses. Just find some shit you're amazing at, and do more of it. Focus on your gifts, and enjoy the absolute shit out of sharing them. #mindset #selfesteem #confidence #dharmayogawheel #yoga #bodyimage #remodelfitness #gifts

A post shared by Jessi Kneeland (@jessikneeland) on

In the last year, she switched from being a fitness guru to a body image coach:

“Here are some of the boxes which a modern woman must check in order to be hot. (You’ll notice that many of these are actually “achieved” through effort, skill, time, and money, rather than inborn):
➡️A thin/toned hourglass body
➡️Big perky breasts
➡️Long femme smooth hair
➡️Youthful appearance
➡️Big doe eyes
➡️Kardashian level makeup
➡️Smooth and hairless skin
➡️Well-fitted clothing and high heels
➡️A particular way of moving, speaking and posture.” Source

I think this is a really interesting point: hotness is down to the amount of energy you put into it. My personal experience would be congruent with her ideas.

“Women were taught that our purpose in life was to be desirable enough to “snag” a good partner.”

That is certainly the idea being thrown around by “empowering” publications. I think any woman who was told this and bought it already had issues with her self-respect.

I went through a rebellious phase when I was around 12. Sporting short hair with a touch of pink, I was asked to stay behind after class. The teacher didn’t bring up anything academic. She told me that she does not approve of my image and that women ought to have lovely long hair.

I told her that I don’t subscribe to her standards of what women “ought” and could she please refrain from biting into my after school time unless absolutely necessary.

Being a rebellious teenager seems to be like chicken pox. It’s better to get over it when you are a teenager.

I’m not immune from societal expectations. I do admit to feeling a little ill when seeing some of the casual modelling that goes on on Instagram.

But if I were to feel bad when watching the Oscars for not being a movie star or feel bad when going to a gallery for not being an artist, that would be silly.

It’s best not to confuse societal expectations and your own. But this is where it gets interesting:

“Beauty standards got invented to help women be more competitive in the man-snagging market, and the whole thing escalated endlessly until we all have to look like airbrushed celebrities in order to be “good enough”.

Indeed, what is the point of beauty standards if not to attract a partner?

“I wondered if women who aren’t attracted to men might worry less about looking “hot,” since the whole women-as-beautiful-sex-objects thing was made by and for men, right?”

Basically, she asked LGBT women. As an experiment, this didn’t control for the “looking for a partner” aspect, only for “looking for a male partner”.

“The feedback I got proved this shit has nothing to do with men at all: being gay does *not* seem to offer ANY freedom from the pressures of the male gaze, beauty standards, or insecurities…

It’s not for men. So then what are doing this all for?”

What if we tried to control for “looking for a partner”? Ask married people? Well, they still have to “maintain a parter”, so that’s out.

So why do women do it?

A lot of men do the male equivalent, but it seems that that’s not quite as common.

Is it literally being gullible? These standards are floating out there, so we adapt them with the idea that… That what? It will make us better people? Plug holes in our self-esteem?

Or is it literally just down to being a more attractive partner? But that doesn’t add up because (from what I can tell) a lot of men don’t like women who fulfil the “hotness standards” outlined above.

So, either the purpose of looking hot is to find/maintain a partner, only the method is miscalculated, or there is some other reason. Let’s consider proving your worth as a reason.

Traditionally, men had other ways of proving their worth, e.g. their work. That’s increasingly popular with women. In that case, looks should be less important in today’s society than they were 200 years ago. I have no way whatsoever of testing that.

It’s well known that beautiful people are assumed to be more persuasive, trustworthyintelligent and generally better.

The question then arises: is it worth it?… Cause it is hard work – as Jessi has shown us above.

Curious as to what you think!

UPD: This is a really interesting perspective on gender issues.