Coming out of lockdown- look at me now!

9 mins read

Trigger warning: Discussions of body image and weight.

There was a lot of free time to fill up in lockdown. The perfect time to experiment with your appearance- dye your hair, transform your style, stop shaving! Who cares if it goes wrong? Nobody could see you. Until now.

While only 14% of adults reported feeling ‘better’ about their appearance since the beginning of the pandemic (House of Commons), Brig had the opportunity to interview some people who are stepping out of lockdown with new-found confidence.

Katherine Atkinson, a Stirling student, gained self-confidence by exploring her fashion sense.

Katherine before lockdown and now

Katherine: “My appearance now is different from the beginning of the pandemic, because the clothes I wear and the way I style myself makes me more happy, confident and allows me to feel like me.

“My style has become more personalised and expressive to me. Additionally, I don’t wear makeup everyday because I don’t feel I need it anymore and I have fallen in love with my face naturally.”

Do you feel you have a better or worse relationship with your appearance since the beginning of the pandemic?

“My body has changed naturally as I started eating better but I didn’t set out with the goal of weight loss. It was self care in a way. I wanted to express myself through my clothes regardless of my size and because I am doing that now, I almost couldn’t care about my weight or the way I look now because I am me inside and out.

“Stop caring. I used to care what other people thought of the way I looked far too much. It was almost as if I was dressing for them and not for me.”

It’s challenging to feel confident in a body you’ve known your entire life, but even harder to accept a new one that doesn’t yet feel like your own.

Elsewhere, in India, Aditya Tiwari opened up about his revelation of self-love during the pandemic.

Portrait of Aditya by Purvika Chuckal

Aditya is a queer activist and poet who has struggled in conveying his identity while growing up as the only openly queer person in a small town, an experience he described as “both liberating and daunting”.

Having gained weight in lockdown, Aditya was confronted with a setback to his growing confidence.

How has your relationship with your appearance changed since the beginning of the pandemic?

Aditya: “Before the pandemic I was very flamboyant and expressive as a queer person. I used to wear a lot of makeup and feminine clothes. I was very androgynous. I was skinny, and most importantly I was active. Now, I’m witnessing the repercussions because I didn’t take care of myself during the lockdown.

“My way of dressing up has changed a lot now that we have to wear a mask. Sometimes I enjoy looking like a boy now and I prefer not to wear make-up, whereas before I was more comfortable looking androgynous.

“I didn’t need makeup, I had good skin but I wore it as self-expression. I wasn’t hiding nightmares with concealer, I was doing it because I loved it. I would look in the mirror and feel powerful. Now, I’ve realised I don’t need makeup to be powerful.”

When things return to normal, do you feel nervous about how people will view you?

Aditya: “It’s sad because I don’t see a lot of empathy in people. Recently I met with some friends and they looked at me and said, “OMG bitch, you’re fat!” Everybody looks different now! Not just me.

“It made me nervous for a long time. I wanted to hide somewhere and not meet anybody. Friends wanted to catch up and I felt my clothes had shrunk or I had grown. But then I realised this is the way I look and if they don’t appreciate that, maybe they’re not my friends.

“Even when I want to look like myself back in the day, I cannot. I’ve learned to accept it and live with it. I’ve decided I’m going to go out there and be myself. If somebody judges me, let them judge me. My purpose in life is much bigger than to look a certain way.”

A lot of time has been spent inside during the lockdown, with limited face-to-face interaction and for some, the prospect of being seen again is exciting.

Iona Brownlie, a Stirling student, can’t wait to show off her progress with chronic acne.

Iona’s skin in December 2019 and then August 2020

Iona started Roaccutane treatment a few months before the lockdown, after suffering from chronic acne for 11 years. Six months later her skin was “finally clear”.

How has your relationship with your appearance changed since the beginning of the pandemic?

Iona: “I feel 1000x better. It’s even small things like not having to worry about always carrying concealer just in case or feeling the need to hold my hand at my face.

“It just felt weird coming into my 20s still having acne so I feel so much better and not as insecure. Although it was relatively annoying that it was then mandatory to wear face coverings so I had to hide my skin again!”

Do you feel nervous about how people will view you now that lockdown is easing?

Iona:  Not really no, because of social media then I guess people have already seen it all because I literally showed everyone as soon as my skin was finally clear. I’ve even posted so much more on social media because I’m not that bothered anymore so I guess no.

“If anything I’m more excited for life to go back to some form of normality because I want people to see my new skin and that for me is the new normal.”

When life went virtual in lockdown, the only faces we were seeing were those on social media. Many of us forgot what natural bodies looked like, live and in the flesh, unedited and imperfect.

Insecurities came to light that may have been unnoticed before; even little things like the way your eyebrows look because the beauticians have been closed, or a few pounds gained from comfort meals.

It’s more important now than ever to be kind, to encourage body-positivity and self-love, not to judge based on appearances.

Brig also spoke to people who have struggled with their relationship with their appearance during lockdown. See this article here: Coming out of lockdown- the fear of being seen – Brig Newspaper

Featured image credit: Canva

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20 year old queer poet and journalist 😎

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