Why do Women Let Themselves go?

pop art fear Why do Women Let Themselves go?

After my post last week about why I dress the way I do, even as a SAHM, I have been inundated with comments, emails, tweets etc, all asking me to expand on my thoughts and to answer so many questions you all have around this topic. One of the key issues that came out of those emails was this questions – Why do women / mothers let themselves go? To which I believe there are different answers for Mothers vs. Women in general although they do share similar territory. So here goes with my opinion on the subject…

Firstly, what is “letting yourself go”? In the most truest sense of the term, I believe that it is letting go of the essence that makes you YOU and then allowing that to translate into what we put on everyday. The hair that hasn’t been cut in months, the ill-fitting outfits, the various shades of black and grey ad nuaseum. Letting yourself go outworks itself in different ways for each of us, but the common factor is the lack of sparkle, the lack of joy and the, frankly not giving a toss anymore.

It is a usually a slow process, creeping up on us like that poor frog in the pot of warm water. It begins the first time we think, “Oh, well, it’s just the post office, I don’t have to get fancy for that,” then schlepping down makeup free and unbrushed hair.  And slowly, this slide becomes the norm until the only time we “dress up” is for work, big dates and perhaps the odd special occasion.  But the question is WHY do we do this?

Because it is HARD not to. The construct of our modern society is such that the parameters of what is acceptable dress and behaviour have slipped so markedly that no one raises an eyebrow if you head out for milk in your pyjamas. Fifty years ago such behaviour would have been looked upon as one step away from being hauled off to a rest home for a spot of recovery and a hand full of pills. Yes, what this amounts to in its simplest form is really peer pressure, Keeping Up With the Joneses, and not rocking the boat.  And when the Joneses are heading off to pick the kids up from school in their trackies, it is no wonder that so many don’t think twice about doing the same. Society’s dress code slippery slope is another big issue, but we’ll only graze the surface for the purposes of this post. So, suffice to say that if your neighbour has also let themselves go, there is safety in numbers and you don’t feel that sense of shame as you did on that first trip to the post office.  Multiply this factor times fifty and you start to see this dress code as the norm, rather than for what it is.

Because we WANT TO HIDE. When all around you are wearing green jumpers and you are the only woman in red, you attract attention and it is often attention you don’t want. Thus we chose not to challenge the commonly accepted dress code as it will mark us out from the crowd. We choose to hide as we often feel we have nothing of real value to add, that somehow should we become visible, that everyone will see our flaws, our guilt.  That by being visible we are putting ourselves up for judgment by the masses. And so, to avoid any potential embarrassment, we cloak ourselves in the uniform of the day and go about our business unnoticed.

woman hiding in wardrobe Why do Women Let Themselves go?
Image from The New Black Conspiracy

Because it takes EMOTIONAL ENERGY and we have none left to give. Everyone in our lives wants something from us. You must be Mother, teacher, wife, friend, model employee etc etc..  And every role takes something from us each time we give it out. Constantly we hear the mantra from lifestyle mags and well meaning best friends, that we must “do something for ourselves”. And while this is 100% correct, the problem is that when we do, it is seen as a special occasion. Take for instance those pampering packages. Go on, treat your mother.  Poor old thing hasn’t had a massage in a year. Why not? Because she was too bloody busy making sure your clothes were washed and your costume was made for the school play! We should not act like slaves to our lives, with ourselves bottom of the To Do list. Because when you get to the bottom of the list, there IS nothing left.

Because YOU’RE DAMNED IF YOU DO AND DAMNED IF YOU DON’T. And that is a hard battle to fight. Letting yourself go may be something we seek to improve ourselves from, but it is also the path of least resistance. When  you get those highlights and start taking yoga, your friends pat your on the back. “You go girl.” “About time you had some me time.” But start scheduling a weekly massage, always wearing your best dress and putting on your favorite lipstick before even getting the kids out of bed, and watch them change their tune. ” Hmmm, those poor kids.  Their mother must spend so much time in front of the mirror she never looks at them.” ” Who does she think she is?”  And this little gem, ” Oh no, better not invite Mrs X. to the drinks night, or my husband will start wondering why I don’t dress like that.”

Because we JUST DON’T KNOW WHERE TO START. Life can take over so far that we no longer recognise ourselves.  We do not know what music we like, we have trouble filling in a profile page on Facebook, and our topics of conversation always turn to the minutia of our lives, as that is all we are consumed by.  The girls we were, those we spent hours indulging with gossip sessions, beauty experiments and glee clubs are gone; and yet we never really spend anything like this time exploring the women we are to become.  It just happens.  We wake up one day to a bathroom cabinet filled with eye creme instead of cherry gloss and the other shoe drops. We are not some fabulous new specimen of women handed a glittering crown and a sash as we enter the best years of our lives.  We are little girls in women’s bodies who have lost the road maps to our passions – and it sucks.

And this my friends, is why so many women just give up and let themselves go.  Because it is all just too bloody hard.  And upon reading this sad state of affairs, you pity these poor creatures in whom you may recognise a little or a lot of yourself.  It isn’t glorious to spend your days in tracksuits, and you cannot convince me that a facial once a month is enough to feed your soul.

“Do not go gentle into that good night..” Dylan Thomas

*If all this reading isn’t too much, and you ‘d like to see a space for my thoughts on being, let me know!*

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Candice DeVille

Specialty Vintage Stylist, Blogger, and Presenter; Candice DeVille has been writing Super Kawaii Mama since early 2008. Based in Melbourne, Australia, she's always in search of the next glamorous adventure. Bringing you vintage style, glamour and inspiration for the 21st Century.
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  1. Just shared this on Facebook with all the special Mums SuperMama.

    So glad you are still crusading for looking good while being wonderful. One does not negate the other. xx

  2. Super Kawaii Mama,

    You inspired me to start my style journey.

    But, with this article, you have reminded me that it’s okay to ignore the disparaging looks and holier-than-thou attitudes and move forward on my journey. I’ve been discouraged lately–living in a small, cliched bubble of a community can do that to a gal–but, not surprisingly, you’ve done it again.

    I’m off to troll the web for some delicious new pieces to add to my wardrobe.

    Thank you!

    -always an imitator, Alison Jerabek

  3. I put a lovely coat of lipstick and perfume and fixed my hari up while reading this post.

    Thankyou for the kick in the bum :)

  4. elle /

    Damned if you do damned if you don’t as you age past 35. Women are so scrutinized! If you try to have some style past 35 you are accused of trying to compete with your daughter and subject to all sorts of rules about what you can and cannot wear and it’s confusing. So why try?

  5. Bridget /

    I totally feel your pain. There are several reasons I have fallen into “the rut”.
    1.I have Alopecia – no hair anywhere and wigs look ridiculous on me-kinda like a helmet on a match stick! (When my hubby met me I had no hair but at 22 you try your best to fit in with society). So I wear scarves or ball caps, and constantly correct folks who ask how my treatments are going.

    2. I work a full time job Mon-Fri, then a second job Sat 6-1o.

    3. I have a 5yr old son that would give the devil himself a run for his money and a 12yr old girl that is in the beginning stages of a pubescent breakdown.

    4. Like a good Southern wife, all I ask of my hubby is to go to work and bring in a check.I take care of bills, groceries, all housework, and lawn care, as well as a veg.garden.

    5. At thirty, I have fallen off the fashion train! And I don’t want my 12yr old to dress me- I’d look like an overgrown Hannah Montana.

    The SOB had the audacity to remark that I never dress up anymore. When do I have time??! Do I doll up for a marathon run to Walmart or to crank up the tiller? We don’t have romantic lil date nights because he spends every Fri night hunting raccoons and running dogs with boys. (Doesn’t really bother me, I can feed the kids pizza and watch what I want on TV).
    Anyway I am in the rut, and the sides are too slippery to crawl out. Taking time for myself would require an overhaul of my schedule.The one bra I own fits fine and and I would know where to start when buying new clothes, besides that pair of flats I’ve had for 13 years are holding up well.

    • Super Kawaii Mama /

      Bridget – Thank you for your heartfelt comment. It sounds like you are fighting an uphill battle there! If I can help with ideas or inspiration, even in a small way, feel free to send me a personal email. It isn’t easy trying to do it all, but it is important to make time for yourself in amongst it. :)

  6. love this topic. It’s one that I’ve thought about myself, as a fashion writer who happens to also be a mom. I always try to look nice because I feel that it’s a reflection of who I am and how I want to be perceived (as a woman who cares for not only her family but herself as well–dare I do both?). I’ve gotten the Damned if You Do look from other moms at playgroups. They say, “Oh don’t you look nice. But then again, you always look nice.” As if I’m clearly neglecting my child who is licking an outlet as I put on lipstick or, God forbid, a dress. Complement or not, can’t tell. Being a mom doesn’t mean you have give up being a woman. and a pretty one at that!

    • Super Kawaii Mama /

      Cheryl: Oh Cheryl, I love your comment!”As if I’m clearly neglecting my child who is licking an outlet as I put on lipstick or, God forbid, a dress” That made me laugh out loud as it seems to be what so many people think and some even have the nerve to say! Hope to see you again here.

      • i’ll be sure to stop by often. but for now i have to go. i think my kid is running with scissors. :) i wouldn’t know, since I was doing my hair. HAHA

  7. Bridget /

    Ok, update since last comment in Nov. Guess I was simply mad as hell. Well, I took as step toward being Me. I am now one week post-op with my new boobs! Merry Christmas to me! Best money I could ever finance! I’ve never bought anything for myself, not even my car. So…I’m building my credit and my self esteem. Went from a 34AA to a 36C and very happy. This may not be for everyone but I’m happy and I’ve made a step toward regaining my identity while retaining my happiness as a mother and wife.

    • Super Kawaii Mama /

      Bridget: I’m so pleased to hear you say that you did this for you, as really, that is the most critical psychological point in a decision like this. I admire you for taking matters into your own hands and regaining that lost sense of self. Kudos!


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