Is caring about your appearance shallow?

As a personal stylist and advocate of body and self confidence this is sometimes a conundrum....

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This is a question that regularly bounces around my little head. I often find I have diametrically opposing views to my very own thoughts and feeling on the subject of appearance and self worth and quite frankly it’s not just a little confusing. Being a personal stylist of several years one would be forgiven for thinking I’m all about the ‘Look’ whereas in fact that has never been the case. Yes I love clothes, always have. Since the moment I could open my own wardrobe door, according to my mother, I’ve been dictating what I will and wont wear. But I’m just as interested in the psychology of personal style and how that can positively or negatively affect our sense of self worth and belief.

I think when it comes to weighing up the appearance versus shallow vacuous’ness debate one would have to look at each individual’s personal motivation. If one just wants to be pretty or beautiful for being aesthetically pleasing’s sake then yes one could consider it a little shallow. But who are we to judge? If my mother taught me one thing it was ‘live and let live’, that was of course after she’s told me to pick up all the clothes I’d removed, tried on, preened in, discounted and then strewn across my bedroom floor in a diva like fit.

Personally clothes, fashion and style have always been a hugely positive feature in my life. I find the whole putting a look together creative. I love playing around with colours and yes I like making things look attractive. I see no harm at all in wishing to present the very best me to the outside world. It helps boost my self-confidence and self-worth , sometime providing that shot in the arm when inside I’m feeling like lumpy custard.

Its’ a fine line though. Caring about how I look has also had hugely detrimental effects on my health. Years of battling anorexia is no joke however you look at it. But, it would be dangerously naïve to say that eating disorders are simply caused by vanity though. It simply isn’t the case. They are about control and hatred and despair and cries for help, not about how pretty or slim you look that day.

So in conclusion, when answering the above question I think you have to ask yourself what it is you get out of ‘caring about your appearance’. If its predominantly happy, positive things like enjoyment, bolstered self-esteem or a sense of creativity then how can that be wrong? If you slavishly follow every trend and nuance the fashion pack thrust in to the general consciousness – again, if you enjoy it – who the hell cares? But if you don’t, don’t do it! As long as we all realise there’s a lot more to life than a new hemline or a fabulous pair of Choo’s then I think we’ll all be just dandy.

Susannah Hebden


Person centred/existential counsellor, stylist, mum of two, adoptee