I hope you’ll indulge me if I share a personal story for this month’s column. It’s one my mother told me about her life BC (before children) and it made a huge and lasting impression on me. It came to mind when I was doing an interview with one of the local radio stations – I’ve done several spots over the past few weeks, discussing DIY beauty hacks we can all do at home. During one interview, it was suggested that such pursuits were lesser in some way than other weightier past times which could be undertaken whilst we are all on enforced lockdown. I vehemently disagree; such regimes contribute hugely to our self-care, and at times like this, self-care is vitally important.
This was a lesson my mother learned in her early 20s. After surviving a childhood in wartime London, she concentrated on her studies as a way of moving forward from the past. She won a place at university and eventually qualified as a history teacher. In the early 50s, and with her first post secured, she travelled abroad to visit some of her extended family whom she had not previously met. Aunt Regina was elegant, chic and as far removed from the shabby East End of London as could be imagined. At this time, Mum felt herself to be dowdy, overshadowed by her super-glamorous older sister. Regina took one look before marching her straight to the local beauty parlour and ordering a facial ‘toot suite’. She then took her shopping for clothes. At this point, Mum had what could be most kindly described as a functional wardrobe – clothes for work and scruffs for home. She had one formal dress, made for her by my great aunt who worked in the fashion industry, and that was it. Regina made her try on a fabulous knitted two piece – too fashion-forward for the state school where Mum was to teach, too casual for an evening do, too expensive – or so Mum thought – to consider buying with no justification other than it looked great. Aunt Regina disagreed and, further, encouraged her to buy the pretty dress which had also caught her eye. “She made me buy clothes I wouldn’t have thought of wearing – just things for me, not for work. Aunt Regina made me feel empowered to buy and wear these things and this gave me a whole new picture of myself. I had always thought that pretty things were for different people, with different bodies living different lives. She helped me to realise that it was worthwhile dressing for myself.”
As Regina helped my mother to realise this, so my mother has helped me. When I dip down and am feeling blue, her advice invariably involves some form of treat or nice thing which I should do for myself. Obvious, and easy to say, but the underlying message is clear: no matter what, you deserve nice things. It needn’t be a great indulgence, or even involve any sort of financial transaction, but the point is to acknowledge that I am worthy of my own consideration.