My friends and I have a saying when it comes to dressing up for Mardi Gras: “You can wear anything you want or nothing at all.” While I love this saying for the liberating energy it brings to Mardi Gras, I sometimes feel intimidated by it. Everyone wants to look good during this crazy celebration, especially on a college campus, but that desire to stand out as fun and beautiful among the hoards of other students and parade goers can easily turn into a competition. Whose makeup is the most colorful? Who has the craziest outfit? Who has the best body to rock that outfit?
For anyone who has ever felt insecure about their body, the thought of wearing an exotic and yes, sometimes revealing outfit can be terrifying. It is almost impossible not to compare yourself to others.
One student I spoke with admitted, “Even though I know the standards of beauty for women and men are unattainable for most people, of course I still hold myself to them.” Another student said she “didn’t order some shirts because if she had to get a large, it probably meant they weren’t going to look good.” Despite the growing culture of body positivity and acceptance, it’s hard to ignore the beauty ideals that we see throughout carnival season at Tulane.
Think about the times you’ve scrutinized your body before going out or compared yourself to how other people look at a party. Now imagine doing that every time you see a mirror or with everyone you pass on the street. Then add a little panic whenever you feel like you’re falling short of what you want to look like, which is often. That’s body dysmorphia in a nutshell; it’s the distorted view of how you look from your own perspective and in comparison to others. Everyone experiences some degree of this condition from time to time, but some people live in constant anxiety over what their body looks like. This anxious state is why body dysmorphia is often associated with other conditions such as eating disorders and clinical anxiety.
A student expresses her struggle with body dysmorphia as, “Some days I think I look great in one outfit, but other days I feel awful in the exact same thing. Then there are days when I think I look bad in everything and just give up.”
Having this constant comparative anxiety during Mardi Gras can further drain anyone’s already depleted energy levels and suck the fun out of what should be one of the most fun times of the year.
One thing to remember is that Mardi Gras is a celebration of all people and cultures. The parades are centered around crazy floats and costumes because it embraces the weird, wacky, and different. It will always be more difficult to remember the meaning behind the celebration on a competitive campus like Tulane, but getting off campus and experiencing the local New Orleans traditions can remind you that Mardi Gras is more than just a fashion show. If anything, time spent at parades and parties could be the perfect time to forget about the world outside of New Orleans and live in this in the present as much as possible this Mardi Gras.
Cover Photo: Eileen Murphy