Yes, you’re probably reading this with scepticism and thinking that the title promises some weird, spammy post that mixes both beauty and mental health and tries to reduce mental health disorders to natural beauty (or lack thereof). Well, it’s actually the opposite. Although some people may be unable to do this as everyone is different and every mental health disorder is different too, it has helped me so I am sharing it with you in order to spread awareness and possibly help a few of you, too. Fashion and beauty have definitely interested me for several years, and before this, there were other beauty and style blogs that I shared looks and outfits I liked. However, this one is a little more mature and not only mentions beauty but also mental health. So, why not create a post talking about one has affected the other?
In previous posts, I’ve talked about alter egos and how they can really help you if social anxiety might present a problem in daily life. When I went you counselling earlier this year and was given results regarding which types or forms of anxiety that affected me most, social anxiety was up there, alongside Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD, for further reference) and Separation anxiety. This means little things that might not be difficult or nerve-wracking for others are terrifying to me, and I might go to certain lengths to avoid such things. No, this whole post isn’t about Social Anxiety (SAD) but I want to address it first. Things that might be horribly frightening for me include ordering at a restaurant, going to a formal event or assembly at school, offering an answer in class, meeting someone in public, or even tiny things such as standing in a line at a restaurant, wearing certain things in public, or making even the tiniest noises on public transport. Yes, there are a few ways to deal with the level of anxiety I deal with and lower it slightly, but there isn’t one fixed way I can eliminate any feelings of worry or anxiety (although wouldn’t that be great, am I right?). So, I’m going to elaborate on one fairly simple, inexpensive and individualised way to reduce your anxiety when in public spaces or out by yourself that I use very frequently and have found very useful.
Alter egos help with anxiety so much that even Zoella herself wrote about using one in her book, Girl Online, where the main character deals with her social anxiety, reflecting Zoella’s own mental health. Ocean Strong, the alter ego in Girl Online, is a very bold and bubbly character who doesn’t struggle to deal with the panic attacks that Penny experiences. Although hundreds of other mental health blogs write about them, this was the first example I saw and I think it introduced me well; three or four years on and I still use this technique, not even just in social situations but also when my anxiety is taking over or if I’m worrying for no apparent reason. Below are ways you can customise and create an alter ego that works for you, how you can use interests such as fashion or style to become less anxious, and also how you can use the concept of having an imaginary person to your advantage when it comes to anxiety.
Creating An Alter Ego
The whole point of creating your own alter ego is that their personality slightly resembles yours, or one you’d like to be. For example, I’m often quite bubbly around the people I’m comfortable with, but with those I don’t know as well, I can be shy and awkward and often go to certain lengths in order to avoid seeing or talking to them. I would then make my alter ego very bright and not shy at all, she would be comfortable with talking to people she didn’t know too well and wouldn’t say anything awkward or rude because she wanted to escape the situation. As social anxiety tends to make those who suffer with it awkward, shy, scared or intimidated in such situations, the personality of your alter ego could be the complete opposite or could be similar to you; the whole point is to tailor it to how you want them to be and how you would like to see yourself so you are able to morph into their personality when necessary.
This is where the blog post title becomes relevant. I would definitely add details such as style, beauty and any little things like hair colour, what type of shoes she would wear, her voice and any weird habits that make her unique to my alter ego, so she is more like a real person and a little more complex than a basic person figure with no individual traits. So, if I’m using the alter ego that comes alive in awkward or stressful situations, she wears casual clothing and pretty much lives in jeans, has waist length blonde hair, is a big fan of statement earrings or necklaces, wears rings wherever she goes, and has a huge collection of vegan makeup as she refuses to eat or wear anything made from animals. Yes, she resembles me in a few ways, but not totally.
If you’re into style and love to create customised outfits and dress up with gorgeous accessories, this is definitely an idea for you. Although at first it may seem irrelevant, I think doing this can actually provide a distraction; say you’re meeting a friend in town and you take the bus there, go over what your alter ego is wearing that day on your journey. Think about even tiny details such as rings or her (or his) socks as that will help to create a more realistic version of them in your head.
Using an Alter Ego
It may seem strange trying to convince yourself that you’re another person whilst on the verge of an anxiety attack. Whilst fighting your fight or flight response and trying to stop the all too familiar sweaty palms, hot temperature, racing heartbeat and sick feeling, it seems so unnatural to just stop and try to become someone else. Almost as if you’re disregarding your own anxiety and immediately focusing on someone else; the natural thing to do would be to complete your reaction and wait until you calm down, whether that takes ten seconds or an hour. But the point of an alter ego is that it allows people to slip into character without physically doing or changing anything. You can stop being you and change into another character to potentially avoid any anxiety attacks or anxiety in general; the concept of pretending you are someone who is designed to reflect yet also be different enough that you are not simply being you is difficult to comprehend. I mainly use mine in situations like ordering in restaurants, out with friends or family, doing something that might be out of my comfort zone as it helps me relax and impersonate a more confident character.
Beauty and fashion have helped with things such as being out in public that may be stressful or anxiety-inducing regardless of the situation or who I’m with; by taking an extra ten minutes in the morning to choose and plan an outfit I really love, it has a huge effect on my confidence. Not only style but also beauty; by investing in a few new makeup items and changing up my look a little after scouring YouTube for good suggestions, my makeup look is now very different and is also helping my mental health. Not that I was particularly insecure before or I didn’t care about beauty or fashion, but how I harnessed it and used it to my advantage was so useful; being out with a friend has become more enjoyable since switching things up and becoming braver in the fashion department. Instead of wearing generic Superstars and jeans, my style is more varied now and a few of the recent additions to my wardrobe have been items I never thought I would even dream of wearing. Now that dream is reality and I am so lucky that something such as fashion has helped me so much. Often, if you match what you wear and what your alter ego might have chosen that day, you can channel those vibes and choose a certain style or clothing item to give you something to focus on if you feel an anxiety attack coming on. After seeing this on a friend’s anxiety blog and thinking it could be a waste of time, I reluctantly gave it a go and the technique is startlingly effective, so don’t write anything off, even if you think it may be unhelpful.
If you feel that school is sometimes quite stressful for you and you can feel yourself becoming worried at the thought of a certain lesson or teacher, this could be something to consider. Depending on your school regulations you may be able to give yourself a confidence boost by changing how you look a little, trying something new and therefore gaining some self-confidence which in turn impacts your mental health.