Daily Life


Primping for self-esteem

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My toenails were of utmost importance the summer I was heavily pregnant. Beautifully pedicured feet, though out of sight, were the only thing I could do to make myself look, or feel like I was looking, good when I was lumbering about 20 kilograms sloshier than usual. So I fully understand the results of a new study which has found that women who have less confidence in their appearance are likely to own more shoes.

You may (or may not) be fat, you may even be ugly, but dammit your feet are OK and flauntable. At least it's something you can titivate and feel good about. And with some fluro pink polish and a pair of gorgeous shoes, no one will notice the rest of you! Add an expensive designer bag and you're on top of the world!

We all have our beauty fallbacks. When all else fails - in my case, it was my figure as I was carrying a 9lb baby - there is always something you know is still OK about your appearance that will give you a confidence boost. Feet are a good one. They don't get out of shape. Maybe that's why so many models in those contrived and ghost-written question-and-answer features in magazines cite their feet as their ''least liked'' part of their body. The rest is so hot they have to find something not to like.

A study of 290 New Zealanders has found that women who feel more insecure after looking at pictures of skinny models own more handbags than their confident counterparts. A study of 1000 US women, reported in The Saturday Age, found those who say that looking at pictures of models make them feel insecure own more handbags. Accessories are a bit like feet - you don't have to be a certain size or shape to have good ones. You can flaunt them with impunity.

Jessica Boyce, the study leader, said accessories could be a way of women boosting self-image without drawing attention to their bodies. ''When media body-ideals threaten self-image, women may attempt to self-affirm via accessorising body parts not directly connected to their core body image,'' she wrote in the journal Body Image. She said as the average size of women grew but the average size of models shrunk, these insecure feelings were likely to become more common. Good news for shoe and handbag retailers and, I propose, good news for cosmetic companies too.

A lot of overweight women seem to give inordinate amounts of attention to their nails. Have a discreet look about you - fancy-pants, long false nails are most often to be found on older, larger ladies. Or that's my theory. A lot of women find that their hair is their crowning glory, regardless of, or in spite of, their size or shape or self-esteem status. Beautiful hair, cleverly coloured and well cut and cared for, can transform anyone - and make anyone feel transformed.

There's a power in attending to your appearance when you are feeling insecure. Which bits do you target? What gives you an instant confidence boost when you need it? Wearing a flattering shade of lipstick? Pretty nails? Maybe jewellery does the trick? Or do you subscribe to the old shoe theory - you can never have too many pairs?