Why Do Women Let Themselves Go?

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The other day I received this comment on my post Enjoy the Power and Beauty of Your Youth from an Anonymous commenter:

I actually think you are more beautiful now than at 27! I take one day at a time, for it is all we are given. I’m 34, my body will never again be as it was before 5 kids, and that’s ok. It’s carried 6 babies, delivered 5 (1 miscarrriage), 4 without medication. Everyone told me “the kids will grow so fast”. So, I chose to be a stay at home mom (I homeschool, too) in order to cherish every moment with them. This past year I have lost all but 1 of my grandparents, as well as a beloved soldier in Afghanistan. Wrinkles don’t matter. People matter. Love them while you have them.

She is very right, saying that people matter more than wrinkles, and that we should love and cherish them, but it got me thinking about the wider topic of why women stop caring about their appearance.

why do women let themselves go?
I know I was more attractive at 30 than at 18, and now at 40 I’m still attractive, but in a different, more lived in way. My friend Jan at 59 is also very attractive, she also has an inner beauty that shines along with her outer beauty.

Some of my thoughts after reading the above comment were:

Yes, wrinkles don’t matter when you’re 34, but my friends who are my age and older certainly spend more time thinking about their wrinkles now than they did back then, it’s very easy at 20 to say they don’t matter, til they happen to you.

Is it so bad to worry about wrinkles? It doesn’t mean you don’t love and care for your friends and family.

Is taking pride in your appearance and wanting to look good vain or a self-esteem building exercise?

There are plenty of studies that show that looking after your appearance pays off with higher self-esteem, along with plenty of other benefits (if you’re interested in finding out more about these studies read Survival of the Prettiest: The Science of Beauty by Nancy Etcoff).

With all these studied benefits why do women let themselves go? I remember when I had my first child, for the first while I couldn’t even make myself a sandwich let alone care too much about my appearance (apart from deciding to wear a white t-shirt most of the time so the baby vomit was less apparent). Grooming is the first thing that goes when we’re sick or tired, but after that first few months, my mojo started coming back and I decided to take the time for myself. In fact my daughter (4) loves to sit with me in the bathroom as I do my morning hair and makeup.

When do you stop mattering? Why do some consider self-care so terrible or selfish?

One thought I had about the reason is that as a woman, when you’re pregnant, you give up your body to the baby well before it’s delivered to the world. You are literally taken over by another person. Then if you breastfeed, your body is still not your own, you are an on demand feeding machine. Even after you finish feeding when kids are small, it’s very rare to get time alone in the shower or toilet even, plus there are constant demands for cuddles and being picked up – which you happily do, but sometimes I’ve wished for there to be less demand on me and my body, I crave some peace and quiet and me-time that doesn’t include anyone grabbing at me.

I can see with the demands of motherhood that it would be so easy to forget that you have any needs of your own, that you still matter as an individual, but as a friend of mine (with 3 kids) reminded me as she had a nervous breakdown, ‘if the mother isn’t working, the whole family isn’t working’ which really made sense to me.

It’s important to take some time for yourself, make yourself feel good and look good, as there are many positive self-esteem benefits from taking this time, for both yourself and your loved ones.

What are your thoughts?

Further food for thought – read this great post over at Middle Ageless

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43 Comments

  • Yes, this is a great post. Only after my mother´s death, have I realized, that I too am an important human being. In her way of raising me ( even when she was old and weary), she wanted all the attention. Now I feel so released. I can breathe. I guess somewhere in her mind, she knew this too, because during the last months- she told me, that I would be ok after her death. Sorry, for going a bit off topic here. In my opinion, taking care of yourself shows that you respect others too. What is so terribly wrong with enjoying of your self-esteem, if feeling good makes you want to do good to others too? Btw, Imogen, I just got myself a pair of booties ( I have been searching for them a while) with a 10 cm heel. Do you think that I just went overboard ?

  • WendyB – I can't imagine you'll ever let yourself go!

    Metscan – email me a pic of the booties – they sound adorable! I love that you feel good about yourself now. I love your comment that feeling good in yourself helps you to do good for others – great observation.

  • Women (and men too!) let themselves "go" for a variety of reasons. I believe that most of them center around low self-esteem, which may be triggered by depression or exhaustion. Some take the attitude that they will never fit into the confines of what society deems is "beautiful" so they don't bother to try to take care of their appearance at all.

    I speak from experience when I say that it's a slippery slope that further undermines what self-esteem you had and it can be very hard to work your way back. It's hard to overcome the inertia of feeling depressed about your appearance. The worse you feel, the less energy you have for your appearance, the worse you look. Lather, rinse, repeat. Sally at Already Pretty talks about this frequently, recommending to her readers that they try to work that spiral in the other direction (improve something about your appearance in order to make yourself feel better.)

    Also, your skills erode! I lived in Seattle for 10 years and gave up fighting the constant rain. I got a haircut that looked halfway decent if I just let it air dry and stopped wearing makeup on all but the most special of occasions. Now, I find that it takes twice as long to put on makeup, and I've lost the knack for using hair styling tools to do anything more elaborate with my hair!

  • This is an interesting issue, and I can only speak from my perspective. I 'let myself go' for various reasons. An unhappy, volatile marriage where – on the rare occasions we went out in the evening – my husband would say to me 'it doesn't matter what you wear, nobody will be looking at you.'
    I sank into a depression after my marriage ended, where my appearance was not even a consideration to me. I put on over 3 stone (42 pounds) in a short space of time. I was made redundant at work. As my ex said, nobody was looking at me.
    I've gradually started to feel better about myself after quite a long time, and regained my interest in clothes relatively recently. I haven't lost the extra weight yet, and I make minimal effort with my looks still, and I know I need to make more of an effort and it's something I'm working on.

    Anyway, that's my reason for letting myself go.

    • Hey Notsupermum,
      Who said you are not a super mum?

      My husband used to say that my hair looked like a cat was sucking on it (widows peak, thanks hubby) and that no one would look at me because I was fat. After I left him he told me over and over that no one would look at me because I was so fat.
      He also used to whine that my breasts were not the right shape and he wanted rocket shaped ones. I was 19 and a beautiful size 8.

      Mental abuse is a silent killer no one else sees it so they can’t understand why you’d complain? Hubby is a great guy, right? wrong! His public face is quite different from his private face.
      A woman is a mirror of how she is treated.
      Understand one thing clearly – any man who speaks to you that way has no respect or self esteem for himself.
      Take a piece of paper and draw a line down the center or fold it in half length wise and put a small stick figure on one side and a larger stick figure on the other side… then start drawing arrows with all the insults that he has given you. You will notice in a short space of time that the little stick figure (in this instance the male) begins to make the taller female shrink feel lousy as more and more insults and less and less love are enacted. Incredibly he becomes larger to you than he was. As this takes place he achieves his desired result: he wanted you to stay but felt he was worthless; he felt he couldn’t have so he makes you feel lesser than you are so you would begin to lean on him thinking he was larger than you. In the end you feel ugly, don’t want to go out, feel fat, feel lesser of a human being and now the only one in your world and on your horizon is him! How did that work? Negative reaction. It works every time. In your mind you are now worthless, bingo. He wins the prize. Once you felt worthwhile, valuable and loved. Now you need him and crave his approval.
      Get out the piece of paper and try it. You will recognise it when you draw it.
      My partner used to insult my intelligence, my looks, my abilities, my body and I was very beautiful.
      DON’T LET HIS WORDS AFFECT YOUR LIFE
      Get yourself up off the couch, out of the bed and realize you have been the target of HIS insecurities. Rebuild yourself. Print this out, pin it to your bedside and draw that picture.
      MAKE A PLAN and WORK THE PLAN and if you feel downhearted at any time, go back to the beginning and start over. GET OUT with friends and don’t stay alone with those words of his echoing inside your head. YOU CAN REBUILD YOUR LIFE – start today! Tomorrow never comes.
      *Buy a second hand but good treadmill and work out every day using the programmes.
      *Eat right
      *Get a makeover
      ***YOUR NEW RESOURCE BOOKS TO KNOCK HIS OPINION INTO OUTER SPACE!!

      THE BEAUTY DETOX FOODS – By Kimberly Snyder $20
      THE BEAUTY DETOX SOLUTION – By Kimberly Snyder $20
      THE BODY SHAPING DIET – Dr Sandra Cabot (eat right for your body shape) $10
      STAGING YOUR COMEBACK – A complete Beauty Revival Guide for women over 45 by Christopher Hopkins (The Makeover Guy) The before and after pictures in this guys book will knock you sideways $25-45 and worth every single penny.

      You can do it,, you are valuable.. you are not invisible unless you choose to remain so.

  • Courtney – I'm sure depression has a lot to do with it for many (though I'm not sure everyone who gives up is depressed or exhausted). I am aware of skills eroding, or just becoming outdated and new skills needing to be learned (which can seem too hard as we age). Thanks for your insight.

    NotSupermum – thanks for your honest and revealing comments. I'm thinking that you can't have completely let yourself go as you're over here most days and take an interest! It saddens me that your ex was so miserable about you, and negative toward you – just because he wasn't looking at you anymore doesn't mean that anybody else wouldn't! Small step by small step you can climb out of that pit of despair!

  • I think people let themselves go at times when the world becomes bigger than you. Hard times put so many things in perspective for people and often the first thing they sacrifice is how they look and feel about themselves. I may be young but for years I let myself go completely and it has only been with recent good times that I'm making the effort to take care of my appearance and of me. Sometimes it can be just as important to appear good to help one feel confident about themselves.

    Wonderful post and blog!

  • I actually teared up a bit when I read this. I totally let myself go when my son was diagnosed with autism. When I wasn't dealing with his issues, the last thing I felt like doing was putting on makeup or pretty clothes. I was aiming for sleep. I put on tons of weight, didn't cut my hair, and wore my husband's shirts. I can look at pictures of myself in the years before he was born, to two years after he was born, and I look like I aged ten years, even though I was only 27 at the time.
    Only now that my son is 11 (and I'm 34) am I getting back into the swing of being "pretty" and "feminine" again.
    I let myself go, in order to put everything I had into my son. Now that he is doing amazingly better, I'm thinking of me again.
    And here I am saying that, and I haven't even brushed my hair yet. LOL!

  • Nettychan – thanks for your insightful comments – hard times often make us forget ourselves. I hope your life is easier now.

    Sarah R – I can only vaguely imagine what having a child with autism would be like and how hard it would be. I so understand that need for sleep being completely overwhelming. I'm glad that you're now able to find some time for yourself.

  • there is also an element of opportunity to consider. for some the clothes, the hair, the makeup, the time are seen as luxuries. and we all know that a 'good' wife/mother sees to the needs of her family first…..
    the time and resources that i have at my disposal at 50 with children grown and gone is amazing to me. in the busy years of actively raising kids this day seemed a long, long ways away. i find that even though i'm interested in (and have) made changes in personal priorities the old habits die hard. frugal/responsible spending vs 'indulgences'??
    i find my self surrounded by pots and tubes and lotions and potions that i never envisioned at 30 :). the one thing i do chafe against, though, is the tyranny of roots. i'm thinking seriously of letting my hair go…..

  • I wrote the post you refer to. Just in case you assume I don't care about my wrinkles because I have "let myself go", I can assure you I have not. I am a fashionista, otherwise why would I bother reading your blog? I just choose to dwell on more important things in life than my crows feet (yes, I have them even at 34.) I do keep my toenails polished shiny red, I put my hair in rollers for a full beautiful style nearly every day. My teeth are perfectly white (and I still have them all!) I don't go out of the house without makeup and take GREAT pride in my appearance every where I go. I always wear skirts and present myself very feminine. I get compliments everytime I go to a doctor appointment because I always look professional and it is uncommon to them to see that. They ask where I work and are shocked when I tell them I am a SAHM. I am also a Christian, and that means I realize there is FAR more to life than just one's appearance. The deaths of my loved ones this year have brought me even more wrinkles and sad lines around my mouth. It is written on my face. The Great Depression caused people to age tremendously in a short period of time. That is life. I hardly think their wrinkles were foremost on their minds at that time. Age happens to all of us, so why fret about it? I know a very beautiful lady in her 70's who has many wrinkles. She has not let herself go at all. She is just what God has made her to be…and that is beautiful in my eyes.

    • Excellent thoughts. I read of Christians imprisoned for their beliefs who have gone pure white overnight. Stress can be erased through a faith that moves mountains. I guess they didn’t worry about nails, hair or skin at the time. The uppermost thought was likely hanging onto a positive mental outlook via faith. Jesus was hanging on the cross naked, not in loin cloth as the movies portray. He wasn’t thinking about his hair I can guarantee. A year or so ago I began to focus on the beginnings of wrinkles around my eyes at 47. I have around 3 per eye. I looked up info on the net and scoured my wardrobe and began to buy jewellery, a thing I hadn’t even thought about before. I invited 2 of my sisters to a group makeover. One sister said to me she wasn’t coming and when I asked why, she said, people who make themself the focus of their attention, worrying over this and that and paying undue heed to minor details in life age faster than those who are content and happy. I have had 10 glorious days of holidays. I came home and saw all the jewellery, shoes, watches I had bought to match this and that and the mess I called clothing hanging in disarray and chucked out the lot. Yep the lot! Brand new shoes, newly heeled shoes, tonnes of Napoleon makeup that I had saved to buy, nail polish and 2 whole garbage bags of stuff went. Goodness me, I felt so free. I hung up the things I had purchased on holiday, pulled back my hair, went out makeup free and jewellery free and felt wonderful. In fact the glow of happiness was so evident I had not a few compliments that day.
      I believe it is said best this way: why do you worry about what you will eat or what you will drink or what you will wear? Aren’t you worth more than that? Isn’t the body more important than clothes? You cannot add one inch to your life by worrying about these things, so why do it? Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things that you seek will be added unto you.
      In other words – get your life in perspective – if you had two weeks to live you wouldn’t spend them organizing your wardrobe. You would suddenly have different priorities. In my case I had 10 days away and what a refreshing blessing it was.
      MOST OF THE TIME it is stress and responsibility overload that makes us think if we tweak this and that things will fall into place, but conversely the opposite is true, less is more.

  • I think any major life-changing event – divorce, death, loss, even moving cities – can cause us to lose interest in keeping up appearances. It DOES, after all, take energy and effort. And if those things are in short supply, grooming and style fall to the bottom of the priority list.

    But eventually we remember that the investment pays dividends: That putting in energy and effort means we FEEL better about our bodies and selves. And that's when the cycle of self-care can resume.

  • My mother has always used that saying about the mother and the family working. When I had my daughter I was so overwhelmed for so long it was all I could do to work, maintain a house and parent – which when you think about it is a massive amount of work! I'd like to think I wouldn't let it happen again but you don't notice me giving it another shot 🙂

  • This post, and the comments are fascinating. I think it all depends on the individual how important HER perception is of how she looks.
    I have never let myself go, even when going through that (for me) torturous experience of breastfeeding. But I don't think this is healthy. The way I look has always been an obsession and I have developed a theory that, in many cases, women who feel unloved and unattractive as a child, become obsessive over their looks. Unfortunately, circumstances where and when I was brought up led to me feeling extremely unloved. At elementary school, I had a best friend who was by all standards beautiful. Her parents doted on her. Her mother called her "my little lamb" when she addressed her and I am tearing up just writing this. That's the emotional impact this period of my life had on me. I thought If I were pretty, then I would be loved. Period. As I got older, it became worse as boys routinely referred to me as "the ugly one." So when I was married to husband #1, I had a nose job. Therapy helped me understand why I felt unhappy and ugly all the time but, at a deeper level, the pain remains to this day. Since then, I have made a career out of beauty and health journalism and remain fascinated by the subject of appearance and how it affects our wellbeing and perceptions of ourselves. The Look Good Feel Better campaign for women having cancer treatment has really helped them feel better about themselves.
    I have had a few things adjusted in the name of beauty, a lower bleph to remove a line caused by a mask I wear for glasswork, a second nose job when the first caved in, and an upper lip lift so that my upper teeth show when I smile. I don't feel guilty in any way about these as they have really helped me feel better about my appearance and more confident. I know I smile more at home and in my heart too.

  • I'm posting anonymously for obvious reasons. Here are reasons why I have let myself go in the past.

    1) I was sexually abused by my dad for 7 years. As I entered puberty, I gained 30 pounds and hid in baggy clothes.

    2) Growing up, I used my youthful beauty as power against men.

    3) When I got married, I used "letting myself go" as power against my husband.

    Now that I've been through therapy and don't see all men as the enemy, I'm starting to take care of myself again.

    I think we often use our beauty for power and control.

    Letting onself go could be passive-agressive anger at one's mate.

    Great article as always!!

    • Interesting. My sisters partner was planning to marry a swedish woman while he was living with her and had 3 children to her. He had multiple partners which she knew about. What was her plan? She let her self go so that he would find her unattractive? She forgo shaving, haircuts, wore whatever was ugliest and he eventually married a beautiful blonde with a 3 story house. Her plan worked for and against her.
      Its amazing the games we play with ourselves to protect ourselves.
      Now 3 marriages broken later for him – he rings her everyday and she is his confidant.
      Now she owns a home and acreage and has her body and hair in shape and he can’t have her.
      Poor Relationships are often a maze no one escapes from.

  • Great post! A few points:

    1) I don't really think wrinkles make a person unattractive, I consider them softening.
    2) That said, there are people who completely let themselves go. I suspect they do it because they know they can't measure up to society's standard of beauty, so why bother?
    3) In my own life, the first sign of recovery from a period of depression is often a pedicure, or some other resurgence of energy to try. I can also jumpstart a recovery by a little focus on the self: a bubble bath or buying new makeup or cleaning out the closet.

  • Anon at 11:58… BRAVO to you! I agree appearance and attractiveness is important, but there are FAR more important things than this in the whole scheme of things. I care about beauty, style and my appearance too, but when I look at things in light of eternity, I'm reminded that these superficial things won't last and that a life well lived, as evidenced by my relationships with others and with God is what really matters. Not that I don't care about looks & all that, but I stress about that less when I put things in perspective.

  • When I was in high school, I was pretty sure that all attempts at visual beauty were part of an elaborate conspiracy to humiliate me on a daily basis. I didn't feel pretty and I had no idea how I would even begin to go about looking like the popular girls did–glossy, smooth, straight, blonde hair, pert little noses, clear skin and all. So I never even tried; I wanted to make it clear that if I was going to lose at their game, I wasn't even going to play. After I graduated from high school, I quite by accident bought a pair of jeans that fit. I was under the impression that I was, as it turned out, four sizes bigger than I actually was. Suddenly I had a figure, a butt, a waist. That pair of jeans kicked off a slow, but powerful, transformation for me–I went from looking at fashion and beauty as tools of my oppressors to tools of my liberation. I call it "normal people drag" when I wear my preppy clothes, and I have to regularly flex the dress-up muscles, putting my skirts in rotation and remembering to take care of my hair. (Makeup can still bite me. It's awful for my skin and if I'd stopped using commercial cleansers years ago I might have realized sooner that plain water works just fine on my face.) The perception of fashion as "unworthy," I think, stems in large part from a rejection of things associated with femininity–sexism is still rampant, as any woman with wrinkles or white hair can attest–but, in the US at least, also from the Puritan ethic that nothing but God is worthy of devotion.

    • Try a raw food diet. Check it out. Google it. Watch a few youtube clips on it.
      Your skin will become pure. Your eyes a perfect shape and you will be eternally grateful

  • I "let myself go" because I just don't have the time. Being a single working mom, there is always something to do and there is never just enough time in the day. I think a person makes choices about what's most important to them, and if appearance is not high on the list, it's probably one of the first things to go.

    Right now, I'm the definition of low maintenance. I wear my hair natural, I set it once a week and let it do it's thing until it's time to set it again. I rarely wear make-up. And if I do, it's just bronzer, lip gloss, and blush. And I work from home, so don't even get me started in clothes, lol. I'm not sure if it's affected my self-esteem, b/c I still feel pretty happy with myself. I know if I wanted I could be super gorgeous and I do myself up occasionally if I need a reminder. But overall, I feel like I'm me no matter what I look like on the outside and I'm happy with that.

    It's funny b/c I work from home, so I see a lot of images of people in magazine, online, or in movies. And it has me feeling like I probably should do myself up more and lose those last 10lbs. But then when I go out and see everyone around me, I feel a lot better about myself. Not saying normal people aren't attractive, b/c there are beautiful things about everyone. But more so b/c I get to see "real" people. And not an idealized person of what I should look like. And then ofcourse, I'll read something by one of my favorite designers about "those people who don't try" and start my cycle all over, lol.

  • Downthegardenpath – I've always wondered when was it decreed that a 'good wife/mother' cares for others but not herself?

    In my mind it's not about expense – we all wear clothes, we can all brush our hair – this is not a cost thing, but taking 5 minutes for yourself a day – which is not much in the 24 hour scheme of things.

    1st Anonymous – thanks for commenting again and I'm glad that you haven't let yourself go – especially with all the demands you have on your time! Sorry to hear about your recent losses.

    Sal – yes the effort pays dividends!

    K.Line – I've been through PND and know how hard it can be, and I'm sure that taking some time for me was one of the steps away from that state!

    Rosina – thanks for sharing your very personal experiences – I'm so sorry that you didn't ever feel pretty – when you obviously are! It makes me think about how my acne made me feel growing up and that is probably partly why I've been interested in all things image – I spent years and lots of money on many products looking for a cure for that to help me feel better about myself.

  • Christian Fashionista – thanks for your comment – something I've always thought is that if God make nature beautiful, and we are creatures of God – why do so many feel that caring about appearance is anti-Christian in many ways?

    2nd Anon – thank you for sharing your experiences – very thought provoking. I'm really sorry to hear that you were abused by your father – that is criminal and would destroy your trust. I'm glad you've come out the other side of this experience with a new vision. I too was sexually abused when a child, fortunately not by someone close to me, so I didn't lose that trust.

    Rebecca – thanks for your perspective – What I've noticed is that style and attrativeness are not about traditional ideas of beauty, but I think many get them confused, so assume they can't compete (when did it become a competition – unless you're in the pageant industry)?

  • Kristophene – Tools of your oppressors became the tools of your liberation – what a great thought – thanks for sharing your experiences!

    3rd Anon – I think your version of letting yourself go is not as 'gone' as many – it sounds like you still care for yourself in a more limited way – motherhood can consume us and our time completely if we let it. As they say 'somethings gotta give' and for many women it's themselves.

  • Yes, I agree with everyone who said this is an excellent post. The only times I have 'let myself go' are when I'm really not feeling good about myself/my life. Taking the time to get my hair cut and coloured, think about what clothes I'm wearing, put on some makeup in the morning – they're all part of remembering that I exist in and of myself, and not just as an adjunct to other people.

    I know a woman who has really let herself go – she wears ripped trackpants and stained sweatshirts to school pickup – and although she sometimes jokes about it, I think it's because she put on a lot of weight, and she's 'punishing' herself. She's now in the process of losing some of that weight, and I've noticed that her clothes are improving also.

    It's also true that it's a cycle – the more you tell yourself you 'don't care', the harder it is to care …

  • Last year when I was sick with IBS I did let my appearance go as I barely had the energy for going to work let alone dressing well. After I found out how to control the IBS one of the ways I started to rebuild my confidence was by taking care of how I look. In particular I started dressing well which always makes me feel good about myself even if my stomach is not 100%. A year on I can honestly say happy, healthy and looking good.

  • Tiffany – I think there is also a 'value' relationship with weight and clothing (see my very first post)

    not skinny= not worth investing the time into

    Maria – it's not just women who have kids who do this – but more commonly found in those who do have kids.

    Career Changer – being sick takes away so much motivation to do anything – any kind of chronic pain does. But the reason I volunteer for the Look Good Feel Better cancer program is that it's been proven to work! Glad that you're feeling a bit better too.

  • You totally describe my experience with motherhood and its demands, Imogen! And I do think it's very important for mom (really, for everyone) to take time for oneself and do things that make you feel better.

    In general, moms put their needs last. Why this is (some vestige of our biology?), I don't know. But for me, it takes a huge effort to overcome the guilt associated with buying something for myself, doing something for myself, meeting my needs first before attending to others.

    Now that my kids are older, I'm getting better at carving time out for myself, and have been wholeheartedly throwing myself into a style redo. But there's still a little nag in my head telling me not to be selfish!

  • I have never let myself "really" go but at times feel down and unable to care. It sounds like depression (going from the comments and my own experience) really does play a big part. I think it is important to keep up grooming, exercise etc as it does make you feel better and it sets a good example to our children. Good grooming and exercise can cost nothing so it is in the head when we let ourselves go. Great post.

  • I'll agree this is a great post. And being American that has experienced the 'traditional' Puritan upbringing, I think mothers 'let themselves go' because they try to put everything in front of them.

    I'm a million months pregnant with my second child. I could totally ignore myself and do nothing to keep myself at least looking pulled together, or I could follow the French example and set aside time for myself and grooming. Because who will take care of me if I'm unable/unwilling to?

    I believe it comes down to the aspect of self love. If you love something, you take care of it. And this is a lesson everyone should keep in mind. Simply, because we can affect more by loving ourselves than just letting go of who we are.

  • After a series of devastating health blows – my own, and those of several loved ones – my 30s was really about letting myself go.

    I'm now in the process of trying to "spiral back up" but it's much more difficult than I'd imagined. Having put on extra weight; no longer feeling as though I understand what looks good on my heavier body or on a woman of my age; having fallen out of practice when it comes to putting on makeup each morning or exercising each night… It's not impossible but cultivating new habits (or re-establishing long-dormant ones) is always a challenge. I want to thank Imogen and others who create fantastic sites like this which are slowly prodding me back into making an effort just by gently discussing simple ways we can all look better.

    I have to say, I also found that where I lived impacted my efforts, too. Has this happened to anyone else? In one American metropolis, there were heaps of dishy men; fashions at all ends of the size and price spectrum and the majority of people didn't seem at all "judgy" about what I wore (if i dropped into a store on the way back from the gym, for instance, I'd unfailingly receive the same friendly service in my running pants as I did if I shopped in my cashmere twin set). I really made an effort while living there and felt happy doing so. But when I lived to a European capital where style is king, I found that people could treat one horribly depending entirely on what one wore on any given day; I didn't find the men there at all attractive and I couldn't squeeze into practically any of the clothes sold its stores. These factors definitely made me feel a bit defiant and not making an effort was absolutely partly a "f*** you" to a culture I felt (still feel) is ruthlessly superficial, especially when it comes to women's looks.

    So, as much as we know that style and elegance is important, I sincerely hope that all of us here will try to cut other women a bit of slack when they don't look the way we might think they should.

  • Important post, Imogen, thanks!

    To me, "letting ones' self go" means no longer meeting standards imposed by society and/or ones' self. There are many reasons for doing so, temporarily or permanently as others have so eloquently posted.

    I wish that women would face these times in their lives with self-acceptance and compassion, not recrimination.

    I do not consider the evidence of aging as "letting go" and am sad when women (or men) criticize a woman for showing evidence of the natural cycle of life.

  • I just spent two weeks on vacation in the sun on the beach and by the pool completely erasing 6 months of regular retin-A use. I know that I'm going to regret it…but maybe having a tan was my way of compensating for the fact that I've gained weight after spending so much time in front of my computer.
    So thank you for this post. I needed to be reminded to not let myself go, neither by too much sun exposure nor lack of exercise.
    I do feel better when my clothes fit and my face looks appropriate for my age, not overly wrinkled.

  • I love this post! I've always maintained that those who champion always looking shabby and disheveled have a deeper problem that needs to be resolved. When I hear that caring for yourself is just a form of selfishness I want to cringe. Again, deeper issue needing to be addressed! The outside ALWAYS speaks to whats going on inside. Without fail. I think there are times we all "let go" a little. I had twins in January which meant 3 kids under 2. My life is controlled chaos and most days of the week you'll find me in my workout clothes with no makeup! But to counteract the casualness of our day-to-day survival, I love getting cleaned up every chance I get. Even if it's a quick trip to Costco. I feel so much better when I do. When I have that balance I feel like my best me. Thanks for your thoughts on this. I so agreed!

  • Great post. I like your blog for not only the useful fashion tips but the thoughtfulness with which you talk about beauty and society.

    As a teenager, I was slightly overweight and was told often by my parents that they were ashamed to be seen out with me and that I was ugly. So I didn't concentrate on my looks; instead, I was the class valedictorian who got along with everyone. One of the smartest, nicest, good-looking guys in school was my close friend and wanted me to go out with him but I rejected him because subconsicously I couldn't believe it. My friends were all surprised as lots of girls wanted to date him.

    Even now, almost two decades later, I still carry that image of myself but I am more aware of where it comes from and know how to deal with it. A large part of it is attitude.

    I have a chronic illness and there are many days when I wear no make-up, don't dress up, or style my hair but still get random glances from men on the street and find them flirting with me. And I know honestly I am no great beauty. But those are days where I happen to be happy and confident.

  • Hi! I liked your site so much!

    I am from Athens, Greece. I have a blog named neonear.blogspot.com (neon ear means a new spring in ancient greek) about middleaged persons, who refuse to be old and weak and remain ageless and dynamic.
    May I post some of your articles (translated in greek) from your site, mentioning of course their origin?

    Thank you!

    xrysoula

  • anyone seen Revolutionary Road?
    The film itself is a great film but I noticed that all the men of the generation were always well dressed and the women were always well dressed in the morning, in the middle of the day and in the evening. I mean, she had on an evening dress for her husbands suprise birthday party with just two children and him around a cake.
    Look back to the 1700’s, 1800’s, 1900’s 1920’s, 1930’s, 1940’s, 1950’s women were always dressed impeccably at any tick of the clock and it was common for them to see one another at the beauty parlour or even up until my younger years, my mother would take us grocery shopping with her hair in curlers and a scarf tied around it and we would stop and chat for as long as she liked to other women in curlers and scarves… we never complained or whimpered, if we got tired we would hop from one foot to another and finally sit or crouch down. Then she would go home and prepare dinner and then do her hair for dad to come home.
    What’s changed? Well, women now want a career, recognition for simply being a woman who can think (as if once they once didn’t) and their children are no longer trained and educated to discipline and order. The TV or screen of some kind became the babysitter. The creche or the kindy around the corner became the rule maker in the home… and mum now had to wear a number of hats in different scenarios. Friendships had to be scheduled in, kids had to be scheduled in, fitness had to be scheduled in, sex had to be scheduled in and child training had no time. So.. the inevitable result was that women were not neglected, they were pushed beyond their endurance and never had a moment. Breast feeding wasn’t a time sucking thing until demand feeding came along and made children demanding. I’ve breast fed 6 children and my breasts can still hold their own without a bra under a nice nightie. Who remembers the old shows where the family were sitting around the table talking and dad was complimenting mum on the meal and the kids were watching dad be respectful and complimentary and all the while learning how to treat a woman? Who remembers seeing Mothers shopping with handbag, hat and gloves and nice shoes all the while showing their daughters self respect.
    I still know families like that today, but I think they are called “fanatical”
    If you take the time to have a family and raise them well and they see a loving father, a devoted mother and happy, respectful children who aren’t absorbed in themselves… mothers have time.
    What was it the Japanese Prime Minister said when he came to America? He said that he found it amazing how “the parents obey the children instead of the children obeying the parents”
    We run after them for sports and their social events. We want their accomplishments so we can brag to our friends and have the reflection on us and so we pay the price.
    If you don’t have time for yourself, take a look at your life and re-priorise.
    Like the woman said, the one who recently decided to shop for $50pw and now has around 50,000 followers “go back and think about how your grandma used to do things, it was much simpler and cheaper”
    Revamp your wardrobe to make life simpler, at the same time as you revamp your life. Its amazing how many things in life own us instead of us owning them.

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