Moving to a new country does lots of things to your daily life. But what I didn’t expect it to do was to change the way I look at myself – not only who I am and my capabilities, but especially my looks. Yes: I am 30 years old and suddenly have the self-confidence of an 18 year-old. Let me tell you what happened.
Southern focus on looks
Dallas is notorious for having inhabitants that focus a lot on their outward appearance. Many people do facials, plastic surgery and have the fake nails and lashes. They also often care about designer clothes and having their hair and make-up done pretty glamorously.
And even though I love how people here dress up and make actually an effort (contrary to The Netherlands) this did make me a little less nonchalant about the way I look, and how I feel like I fit in society. I put a lot of effort in now, and with higher hopes automatically comes a higher risk of failure.
But what really doesn’t help is that somehow suddenly my brain is only focused on those people I described here. There are a lot of normal-looking people in Dallas. There are a lot of people who don’t have the time or f*cks to give to care a lot about their appearance. There are even more people who don’t have the money to invest a lot into their looks. But somehow, my brain does not register these people. I automatically filter these ‘average’ people out, and only see the very good looking people, because those are the wants I want to compare myself with.
I think this is something a human brain does when you move to another country or even continent. It is human to want to fit in, to compare yourself to others, and see how you relate to society. And it doesn’t help that the only people I am comparing myself to, are people I only see in public or on social media.
Compare to reality
Because this is a very unfair comparison. I don’t know these people, so I don’t know how much time and money it costs them to look like this. I don’t know what they look like without make up, waking up in the morning with a hangover. I haven’t seen them at their worst. But I do know my my worst looks like. So in a way, I am comparing my worst, with their best. And that’s simply disastrous for the ego.
This is also why in The Netherlands, I feel a lot more secure and confident. I have my friends and family there, so I much more compare myself (or measure myself up to) ‘my crowd’. And these are people I know through and through, who I’ve seen without make up, crying, with a hangover, in the absolute worst hours of their lives. And I fit right in there with them!
Add an unhealthy dosis of perfectionism to the mix and you get what most rational people would simply call a purely poisonous mindset. I am so hard on myself that I say and think things about myself that I would never say about my friends. And the worst thing is: no one else really cares what I look like. I’m literally my own worst enemy.
But hey, I’m working on it. Life outside of everything you know comes with weird plot twists I guess. I will practice talking a little bit more kind to my own reflection. And always remember: don’t compare yourself with people you don’t even know!