Reader Obsessive Bride-to-Be writes,
I'm 26 and I'm going to be getting married in October, and everything in my relationship is great. But recently, I have realized that my thoughts and actions about my looks are getting obsessive. I have already lost 10 pounds, which is fine because I needed to, and then I got contacts, and I also went to a dermatologist and got on Retin-A for my skin. But I'm not satisfied. Every time I read another bridal blog or look on Pinterest I feel worse about myself and end up spending money on something else.
I don't know where this insecurity is coming from. I am fine with not being gorgeous. Everyone in my family always focuses on my nice personality, but nobody ever said much about my looks. My sister is the pretty one, and one time I heard my grandmother say that outright. Either way, I was always fine with being mediocre looking until I got engaged, and now on top of feeling unattractive, I feel stupid for even caring about something so superficial.
My fiance was supportive of my weight loss because I always complained about my weight, but lately he is acting like I am crazy, more so every time I bring home a new product or get a new procedure. I never thought I would worry like this about the wedding because I genuinely am in love with my fiance and I know that the marriage is the important thing, not the "big day." But somehow I can't think rationally and I am scared I will blow through my part of our down payment savings on a boob job, which I have been researching although I haven't told anyone. Please tell me why I am obsessing like this and how to stop.
You are not alone. There is an entire industry devoted to brides and their looks, including makeup, hair, bodies, and of course dresses, all to make their "Big Day" magical. On bridal blogs and forums, you can see that brides try everything from teeth whitening to Restylane fillers, to, you called it, breast implants to look their best at their weddings. The show Bridezillas caricatures this trend, and Pinterest glorifies it, but everyone knows that weddings nowadays have become inordinately and surreally important, and if they aren't completely unique and quirky and charming and amazing and you don't look like Kate Middleton crossed with Zooey Deschanel, you are made to feel like a failure. Moreover, your appearance at your wedding is now memorialized not only in your personal wedding album and video, like in years past, but on guests' social media too, where thousands of people can scrutinize your sartorial choices and how sexy you look in your gown. No wonder you, and so many other brides, are so consumed with looking as awesome as possible.
Your prognosis, though, is good. You obviously have the insight and self-awareness to stop yourself from getting in over your head. (Also, you're super smart because you wrote in to me.) You know that the point of marriage is love and not how hot you look walking down the aisle. Your fiance loves you, which is probably why he's weirded out by your new looks obsession.
However, if we examine your subconscious motivations a bit, which is what therapists do for fun because we all used to be really cool in middle school, you mentioned your grandmother calling your sister "the pretty one," and you also had the sense that the rest of the family agreed. Although you were (consciously) fine with this at the time, and even though your grandmother or others probably didn't try to hurt you, it's still not delightful to hear that your sister beats you out in the looks department. It is possible that you have lingering insecurity from being compared unfavorably to her throughout your childhood, and you subconsciously view your wedding as an opportunity to show that you can be just as beautiful as her. Is your sister married? If so, did she look like an angel descending from heaven in her wedding gown? That would make it even more likely that you're subconsciously trying to compete with her on your BD (Big Day, obv).
You sound like a perceptive person who is getting sucked into the bridal machine, and this is likely compounded by your childhood insecurities. Your insight into your obsession is half the battle. The other half is forcing yourself to carefully and slowly examine your beauty-related purchases from here on out and prevent yourself from a really big and expensive mistake. For example, contacts seem reasonable, and anything else that is reasonably cheap and doesn't last forever, but breast implants are actual surgery and expensive to boot. Try to wait till after you have children and your body is destroyed entirely. I kid, I kid.
Also, stay away from excessive and unhealthy Pinterest use. And if you find your BOCD (Bridal OCD, I just made that up but if you spread it to your millenial friends maybe it will catch on) spiraling out of control, there is no shame in seeking counseling. This is a stressful time and a kind and empathic therapist can teach you some strategies to self-soothe and talk yourself down from the boob job cliff.
Good luck, and till we meet again, I remain The Blogapist Who Thinks Pinterest Is The Number One Cause of Self-Esteem Issues In Women. No That Isn't Backed Up With Data.
This post was originally published here on Dr. Psych Mom. Follow Dr. Rodman on Dr. Psych Mom, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. Order her book, How to Talk to Your Kids about Your Divorce: Healthy, Effective Communication Techniques for Your Changing Family.