Event ready: Tips for leaving appearance anxiety at the door
“There is much delight in the decoration of self as a source of pleasure and playfulness…But clashing against the delight is a dark seam of worry and concern which manifests as appearance anxiety.”
– Costing the Invisible
Oh boy. There is a lot to take in from that quote, but let’s start with the last two words: appearance anxiety. There is no better way to describe the worry that creeps in before a big event (especially in the wake of a flare-up).
Handling appearance anxiety can be easier said than done, and the solutions often depend on why (and when) you feel it. But, if you find it ramps up as you get closer to an event – whether it’s a work function, a dinner party, or something at your child’s school – here are some ways to prepare yourself.
Get a handle on your flare-up
Let’s get a read on the situation: can you feel the flare-up coming, is it just starting, is it full-blown, etc.? Knowing the stage of your flare-up will help you gauge where things might be at the time of your event – whether it’s in two days or more than a week away. Of course, flare-ups are not always predictable, but having a sense of what to expect will help you mentally prepare for where you’ll be, rather than turn into a nasty surprise.
Start planning your wardrobe
Planning and having options can help quiet that little voice in the back of your head.
What you’ll wear depends on the event and the season, but think about what will make you comfortable. That goes for both fabric and style, since you want to be physically comfortable (no irritating wools or stuffy synthetics) and emotionally comfortable (so you can feel good, rather than self-conscious).
If it’s warm, a silk or light cotton shirt will let you cover your arms without overheating; linen pants or a maxi-dress will do the same for your legs. In the colder months, a blouse with jeans or lined dress pants, a long-sleeved dress with cotton tights or leggings, will give you your desired coverage without forcing you to sacrifice style.
Planning a couple of potential outfits will mean that, when the time comes, you can choose what makes you feel best, rather than feeling like you are stuck or have no options.
Be prepared to talk
Maybe the most daunting thing about going to an event where you’ll be meeting new people is having to contend with their well-meaning (and sometimes less-well-meaning) questions and unsolicited advice. Whether you choose to handle the interaction casually by simply assuring the other person that your condition is not contagious, or you feel comfortable going into more detail, it helps to have some conversation points ready to go beforehand. Chances are, you already deal with these situations, so it may just mean planning an event-appropriate response (the way you speak to a company VP at a cocktail reception, or a child at a bake sale, may not be the same as someone who approaches you at the grocery store).
It may also help to reach out to whomever invited you and let them know that you’re having a flare-up. If they know about your condition already, they can help you manage your anxiety at the event; if you know them less well (a parent on a committee, for example), letting them know is an opportunity to educate them a little bit and also help put your mind at ease about how they might react.