The Lesson I Didn’t Expect to Learn During the Pandemic

I have always been someone that takes pride in how I look. Each morning before work, I make time to carefully do my hair, apply a little bit of makeup, and select an outfit that makes me feel amazing.

I don’t have this process because I am vain or superficial. These steps are a part of my morning routine because I am mentally at my best when I believe that I look put together. It gives me confidence; I feel happier and who doesn’t want to hear a compliment or two from a friend or stranger throughout the day?

Most of us are taught that looks are not important, but I can’t entirely agree. I think how one looks in their eyes impacts how they feel. And the way individuals feels about themselves is the most important opinion they can have.

In the last year, I haven’t been taking care of myself as I used to. The global pandemic affected us all in many different ways.

We went through a tough year of social injustice, politics, isolation and health scares. Because I worked from home for over a year, I didn’t feel the need to go through my typical morning routine to sit at the kitchen table. My daily walks to take a break from the computer screen started to happen once a week and then eventually, a few times a month. I was often snacking and ordering in.

It began to take a toll on my mental and physical health. Looking in the mirror was like looking at a stranger. I didn’t feel like myself and I started to become discouraged and unhappy.

Throughout those last few months, I was able to pinpoint what it was that was bringing me down. I realized that in order for me to feel my best, I would need to invest in myself.

I decided to take care of my body the way that I used to. I purchased some cute workout and loungewear online, stocked up on my favorite skin and beauty products and bought a new hair tool to style my hair quickly and effortlessly. Since I wanted to get back to my pre-pandemic weight, I started moving at least 20 minutes a day and reduced my sugar and alcohol intake.

I want to make it clear: These are decisions I made for myself and no one else.

Small upgrades to how you look don’t have to cost much, and it doesn’t have to be a huge time commitment. But it does have to be a commitment.

Looking good is feeling good. This doesn’t mean you have to wear tons of makeup or lose extra pounds to feel complete. All you need is to figure out what makes you happy and what you can do today to feel better on the inside.

“Our outer appearance relates strongly to our mental strength as it boosts self-confidence and self-esteem. It’s more than just conforming to what society says you should look like; it has to do with projecting an image of self-acceptance, self-love, and confidence.”

Deion Sanders, an eight-time Pro Bowler and two-time Super Bowl champion said, “If you look good, you feel good, If you feel good, you play good, If you play good, they pay good.”

Looking and feeling good can mean whatever you want it to.

We all have insecurities and sometimes anxiety when it comes to how we are perceived. Social media and society have put many pressures on our appearance. There is an expectation of having it all together by having the perfect hair, skin, body, etc. The list can go on. Those beliefs are unhealthy, harmful and unrealistic.

The decision to take pride in your appearance is a personal one. Our outer appearance relates strongly to our mental strength as it boosts self-confidence and self-esteem. It’s more than just conforming to what society says you should look like; it has to do with projecting an image of self-acceptance, self-love, and confidence.

Your body is your responsibility, and it should be an intentional choice always to show up and put your best foot forward.


Ashley C. Turner ’12 ’15 is the associate director of Alumni Professional Engagement for UCF Alumni Engagement and Annual Giving. She can be reached at AshleyC.Turner@ucf.edu.

The UCF Forum is a weekly series of opinion columns from faculty, staff and students who serve on a panel for a year. A new column is posted each Wednesday on UCF Today and then broadcast on WUCF-FM (89.9) between 7:50 and 8 a.m. Sunday. Columns are archived in the campus library’s STARS collection and as WUCF podcasts. Opinions expressed are those of the columnists, and are not necessarily shared by the University of Central Florida.

Ashley C. Turner ’12 ’15, UCF Forum columnist
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