I spent about an hour this morning cleaning up my email inboxes, I’m sure you all know the feeling, you subscribe to a blog to get updated when they post next because you really enjoyed what they wrote and then you do it again with another blog and then you sign up for a 6-day free course on cooking-asparagus (just me?) and before you know it, you are drowning in a sea of useful information. It happens to all of us at one point or another. Not to mention all the regular, run-of-the-mill scam emails that come out of nowhere, those are what really irritate me. It makes it difficult to actually see anything that’s important, plus they are getting even more sneaky in their endeavors to swindle; a lot of the scam emails now-a-days look legitimate. But electronic mail is not the point of this post so let me just pause this rant.
You may be wondering about the title of this post, Low-Maintenance Vs. Self-love. It’s something I’ve been thinking about for awhile because, I used to be insanely low-maintenance, like just the basic showering type low-maintenance. Why? well, for a number of reasons.
First off: society.
If you look at most advertising and movies, especially from when I was around 11-16, you had a few types of characters depending on what you watch. The girl who is “ugly” who gets a transformation and is then beautiful and desirable. You have the evil, preppy high-school girl who is super fashionable, wears makeup and all the boys love her (aside from our hero who is literally the only one, aside from a handful of nerds who we don’t really think count, who doesn’t find her attractive and falls for the “ugly” chick instead and saves her from a life of loneliness). So the message that young girls are getting is “don’t be like the “high-maintenance” chick because she’s self-absorbed and mean” and inevitably it translates as “all girls who love fashion, wear makeup and are attractive are self-absorbed and mean,”. So obviously, as a young girl you would avoid anything “girly” and any girls who were “girly”. I was proud that I didn’t wear makeup, I was proud I never curled my hair or did my nails. I scoffed at the idea that I had to be “girly”. Because if you’re the complete opposite of the “high-maintenance” chick you’ll be the one who ends up with Prince Charming and live happily ever after, right?
Seeing as how I was the complete opposite of ‘girly’, I usually hung out with the boys because the girls talked about how much they liked the boys and I wanted to actually go be friends with the boys. I figured if I hung out with them and showed an interest in what they did (which happened to be stuff I enjoyed anyway) that they would like me, but I heard them talk about the other girls, they complained about them and the time they spent on their hair and makeup and what not. (And, bear in mind, I didn’t go to public school, I was homeschooled so my interaction with kids my age was confined to Church and homeschool gatherings, but there were still plenty of the same typical society splits.) So, there was another reason for me to strive not to be girly. I hated the color pink, I wore camo, I wore dark colors, I carried a big-ass knife everywhere (okay, little me was kinda cool in some ways but embarrassing in others). But you know what I observed as I grew up and pretty much gave up on the guys in my circle ever liking me? THEY MARRIED THE GIRLS THEY COMPLAINED ABOUT.
I know some of this can be attributed to “kids being kids” and the whole “ew girls/boys are gross” and then people grow up and they realize “hey, you’re not actually that bad,”. But at the time I was totally confused. I mean, I had long since gave up on those guys so I wasn’t that upset, mostly just baffled. I’ve always been very “act first, analyze later,” so it was kind of a weird realization that everything I had thought I understood about guys was wrong because it had been programmed into me from a young age by the societal structure.
As a kid I didn’t have that many close girl-friends. I had a few but I vividly remember feeling like girls were mean, they caused drama and I didn’t want to be their friend, but the thing is, I only had maybe one negative interaction with another girl and beyond that everyone else was nice. As I started to grow up I realized how much of what I thought I knew about social interactions was wrong. I enjoy having women friends much more than male friends as an adult, because with women (heterosexual women anyway) you usually know exactly where you stand and there isn’t much awkwardness. We can compliment each other, encourage each other, hang out and talk for hours and there’s not any wondering about “do they like me?” because it’s obvious you’re bonding with a fellow human and not seeking a spouse.
One thing I have been learning about the whole “low-maintenance vs high-maintenance” thing is, it’s divisive and it’s destructive.
Because what does “high-maintenance” actually mean? it kind of depends on who you talk to. I’ve always heard guys use this term to mean anything from a self-absorbed woman to any woman who uses makeup. So, when you hear this term being used for practically anything women do beyond regular hygiene care then it doesn’t encourage you to take care of yourself or explore all the different ways you could express yourself with clothes and makeup.
Obviously people shouldn’t be self-absorbed, but there’s self-absorbed and there’s self-love. Self-love isn’t bad. If you continuously ignore your needs you will eventually burn out and you can’t help anyone else if you are burnt out. I can’t speak for men as I’ve never been one, but for women at least you have to be able to take some time for yourself in order to feel human. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that.
Ephesians 5:29 “For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church:”
In Matthew 22:36-40, Jesus tells us that the second greatest commandment is “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.” learning to love yourself is an important step in loving others.
Even when it comes to body hair, I’ve always struggled feeling feminine. I’m sure most women understand that feeling. I was so incredibly sensitive about the dark hair I had growing above my lip and practically all over my body. My first ex wouldn’t let me shave my face and instead insisted he use tweezers and remove all the hair for me. Do you know how de-humanizing it is to lay there while the man who says he loves you plucks all the hair from your face and doesn’t listen when you say no? I remember hiding in the bathroom removing my facial hair while he was asleep because I didn’t want to go through that again. When I left him he told me I must be a hermaphrodite because of how much dark body hair I grow. Now that I’m an adult and have taken the time to ignore the ignorant statements of little boys (who, lets face it, have also be programmed with this kind of thinking from a young age) and actually get to know other women I’ve realized I am not alone in this and am not ashamed to tell people that yes, I do in fact shave my face because we are not all blessed with baby-fine blond hair that we can elegantly ignore and I highly doubt I could rock a mustache half as well as my father (seriously, just think Tom Selleck and that’s basically my dad.) but I’ve embraced it as part of what makes me myself. Having to shave my face is a small price to pay for having the nice head-hair I get to style in whatever fun way I like.
My life up until a few years ago has been lived predominately as a ‘low-maintenance’ woman. I wouldn’t call myself ‘high-maintenance’ now, because first off I
HATE loath that term because of it’s divisiveness, but second, I don’t always wear makeup, I don’t go get my hair and nails done; there are a lot of low-maintenance things about me still. But my closet is full of brighter colors now, instead of just having the minimum amount of hygiene products I could possibly have, I have more. They aren’t unnecessary because using them makes me feel like I took time on my appearance and that is a healing experience when you’ve neglected yourself for most of your life. It’s taken a long time to get to this point for me, if you’re in a similar boat please don’t feel guilty or like you’re doing something wrong for being feminine because you ARE feminine. Everything you do as a woman is feminine because you are by definition a female! I don’t care if it’s walking the red carpet or climbing Mount Everest. People need to stop shaming women for being feminine and making fun of them for being “masculine”.
Even now as an adult I’ve noticed there are so many compliments that guys give that are so messed up if you think about them.
“You look better without makeup.”
“I like that you don’t wear makeup,”
“You’re prettier than her,”
“You’re cooler than other girls.
“You’re not like other girls.”
“For a girl, you’re so easy to talk to!”
“Your clothes are cool, it doesn’t even look like you’re trying.”
“You’re just like one of the guys!”
Get the idea yet? If you’re a guy reading this, please don’t think that I’m hating on you. I’m trying to bring some awareness to this whole situation, if you use these compliments and genuinely think they are nice, please re-examine how divisive they sound. Most of these give the message that the woman/girl you’re speaking to is set apart from others, which as romantic as that sounds, is more divisive than anything else. If you want a girl to feel like she’s the only girl you’ll ever love, use words like: “I love you,” “I will love you forever,” because that translates your intention (as long as it’s matched with the action of putting her emotional needs before other women) without being divisive and unwittingly setting up a competition.
Here are some more alternatives to these compliments in case people want them:
You look better without makeup.” Try “I am so glad you feel free to express yourself with makeup,”
I like that you don’t wear makeup,” Try “I absolutely love your natural look,”
You’re prettier than her,” Try “Yeah, but you’re beauty is so uniquely you. I wouldn’t want you to change,”
You’re cooler than other girls.” Try “You are so cool,”
You’re not like other girls.” Try “I love how (insert quality you think is unique) you are.”
For a girl, you’re so easy to talk to!” Try “I really enjoy talking with you,”
Your clothes are cool, it doesn’t even look like you’re trying.” Try “I love your casual style,”
You’re just like one of the guys!” Try “I enjoy having you around,”
Being compared to other girls growing up didn’t help any of us become better, it gave us eating disorders, depression, anxiety, low-self-esteem, divorces, and a plethora of other negative things.
But the mindset of being low-maintenance is more than an outward appearance, the majority of women who are the typical low-maintenance women usually have lower standards, and I’m not saying this in a bad way. We tend to require the minimum amount of effort in a partner because we think it will make our partner care more about us because we don’t require much. We don’t speak up much because we don’t want to cause drama, you don’t have to give us expensive elaborate gifts because we will feel like we owe you and it makes us uncomfortable, we don’t have strong boundaries because we want you to like us, to accept us and to think that we are the best girlfriend you’ve ever had. But it’s slowly killing our self-esteem because we don’t speak up when we see you flirting with the waitress, so you think you can get away with disrespecting us. We say “it’s fine,” when we don’t really mean it because you will say we’re being dramatic if we have an issue with what you’re doing.
A high-maintenance woman knows what she wants and what she deserves and won’t hesitate to leave when you disrespect her because she would never expect you to put up with her disrespecting you.
So honestly, I feel like all of us low-maintenance women could stand to take some lessons from the high-maintenance woman’s handbook and be a little bolder, set a few more boundaries and love ourselves enough to not settle when we know there are men out there who will respect us as much as we respect them (and ourselves).
I hope this was enlightening to some and hopefully not too painful for others, we all have seasons of growth and no matter how painful that season is, growth is always a positive thing.
Be blessed, friends.