As a teenager, I liked to wear “alternative” clothing, but I held back a lot from many of the things I wanted to wear, because I felt too self-conscious about it.
In the jobs I had when at university and after I graduated, there were always expectations of how I should look at work. A colour code, natural colour hair, long hair tied back, no piercings, no visible tattoos. One had a rule that women could not wear trousers – I did not stay there long, as you might imagine.
As a teacher there were all sorts of expectations about appearance. I taught at a number of schools. Some were fairly laid back – teachers could wear jeans if they wanted to, but there was an expectation that there would be nothing too “way out”. At another, no-one batted an eyelid at my nose-ring. In one, I was pulled up because I wore a lot of black (I still do – I feel like I can hide away in black) and they felt that was inappropriate for a Religious Studies teacher – we wouldn’t want anyone to think I worshipped the devil would we? (yes that really was said to me – and much more, until eventually my union got involved).
It’s taken until I am almost 40 (next month!) to realise that I no longer care what people’s expectations are. Shaving my head was like an admission of that realisation (although that wasn’t why I did it). Of course, most people don’t have any expectations of me these days, but some do and I have, on occasion, been reminded of that since shaving my head by little comments that have been made to me. A family member whose only comment was “flipping heck” in a way that reminded me this was not what was expected, and more confirmation that I do not fit in that social circle. An acquaintance who asked in a giggly way what my reason for doing it was and a blank faced “oh” on hearing there was no big plan or cause behind it. Weird.
Do you feel the weight of expectation on you or do you go with the flow? Do you have the confidence to do what you want?