Changing Self Image – Hair, Fashion,Tattoo’s and piercings – A BPD perspective.


Changing your image is not something that is isolated to people who have BPD (Borderline Personality Disorder).

People do it all the time, I’m sure you have fancied a change from your ‘usual’ look and may even have braved a new hairstyle once or twice?

Lot’s of people enjoy getting tattoo’s and piercings, it doesn’t mean they have BPD.

So, what is the difference between these people and those who have BPD doing the same things many others do?

Well of course, the first difference is all the additional problems that go along with the BPD label.

The unstable sense of self and identity is just one of the nine criteria for a diagnosis (of which you must meet at least 5 to be labelled BPD). This is the element of BPD that takes the forefront in responsibility for dramatic changes in image, although it is likely at times to also have an underlying element of impulsivity and recklessness (a further BPD diagnosis criteria) and for some even an element of self-harm ( yet another criterion for diagnosis).

For me unstable self-image is a strong characteristic of my diagnosis, I have written several times about how this affects me in career decisions and also how it makes me feel I don’t ‘fit in’ anywhere socially. But I haven’t really gone into how it affects my outward presenting image, though anyone who knows me can tell you how rapidly my image can change.

I don’t have a single ‘style’ that I follow, I’m sure I’m not alone in this even with people that don’t have BPD. In a single week you can see me dressed in such a range of fashions that I switch from sophisticated office wear (even though I don’t work in an office – well anywhere at the moment) to mumsy sweater and jeans, to sexy evening wear, to simple casual wear, to wild ’80’s Madonna video throwback, to skimpy barely there outfits and everything in-between.

Let’s take a look at some of my recent outfits from nights out…

Casual evening wear

Chinese style

School girl

Vamp - complete with fangs!

Imagine seeing that same girl in those pictures in a sweater and jeans, no-make-up – a very different look. You never know what I am going to turn up in next!

A few older (from 2009/10) pictures now to give an idea of other looks I have sported with my ever changing image…

As you can see along with the clothes my hairstyle and the colour of my hair has also changed a great deal. The base colour has been black for about five years now, but I have had blue and red streaks through it when it was longer. Then when it was cut short I have had the colour block since which has had red, purple and blue chunks most often but I have also had pink and orange in there too. Before I went black I have been ginger, brunette and I even went blonde (although I changed that within days as I hated it) and many shades in between.

Okay, so now on to tattoos and piercings. Again it’s not uncommon for people to have these, and once you get one tattoo or piercing (as many who have will tell you) it actually becomes quite addictive and you tend to want more.

I currently have 5 tattoos…

Phoenix - Right Ribs, Dagger - Right Neck, Butterfly - Left Abdomen, Pentagram - Right Butt Cheek, Celtic Symbol - Left Shoulder

and 4 piercings, lip, nose, belly button and ears.

It is very likely that I will have more at some point, although I am having the dagger on my neck removed.

For me, and many with BPD getting a tattoo or piercing is often about the constant desire to find your own image, look different, change who you appear to be.

It can also be a method of self-harm.

And at times it can be impulsive and reckless, like the dagger on my neck – that was a rash decision during a time of crisis that I have ended up regretting because I am now having to have it removed due to not wanting a tattoo on my neck. It was all of these things – impulsive, reckless, need to change image and a method of self-harming. I guess at least I didn’t get it on my face!!

Even I don’t know what my next ‘style’ will be, will I get another tattoo or piercing? Will I change my hairstyle dramatically? Change the colour? Who knows!?

What about you? Do you have any tattoo’s, piercings or image issues?

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19 comments on “Changing Self Image – Hair, Fashion,Tattoo’s and piercings – A BPD perspective.

  1. I don’t even have to say anything and you know I’m the same. We see the ever changing images through things like facebook and it’s not like others. It’s always drastic changes, hardly ever the same! Xx

    • Yeah, that is a distinguishing thing about it really isn’t it!? For most a subtle change is enough but they tend to go back to what they are comfortable with, whereas we are never ‘comfortable’ anyway so the cycle just keeps on going! xx

  2. My hair colour! It’s one of my DBT goals to not change my hair. People never know what colour my hair will be. One day it’s jet black, a week later platinum blonde. Long, short or shaved. Wigs of different assortments. U name it. I have had it literally snapping off from the damage of frequent extreme changes. I’ve managed one year so far with it natural even though it gets so tempting to change.

    • Well done on keeping it natural for a year, I could never go back to my natural colour now (it doesn’t help that I have a lot of grey in it!) Good luck sticking to not changing. having mine cut short helps in a way as I can’t plait,and style it in multiple ways, although this has just led to me now having part of it shaved with a pattern cut into the shaved bit! I’ve never gone for wigs but if I can clip/tie something in then I will lol

  3. I knew I had to get control of it when my boss introduced me to someone and said “don’t remember her by her hair colour, it will be different next week”… Oops! It is all or nothing with me, I know if I start changing it even subtly I will become obsessed with “finding me”, I’m sure you know what I mean 😉 I like your hair, I like the bold colours. I had pink in mine once too but I can’t now because of my job. My natural colour is dark blonde/light brown, it’s ok 🙂

    • Yeah I had a similar issue with the tattoo on my neck not going down well at work, I had to cover it up and it was that which made me realise it was a mistake! I do like the thing of if people haven’t seen me (even if only for a few days) they wander what I’m going to look like when they do, keeps them guessing what I’m going to do next hehe 😉

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  5. Thanks for including my article in your blog. I’m all for creativity and I love the outfits, especially the school girl. I am glad you’re having the dagger tattoo removed that just screams: I’M HAVING A BAD FREAKIN DAY!

    Plus, if you ever decided to venture into the corporate world I couldn’t see you sitting in a interview, with the tattoo and keeping a straight face when the interviewer asks you about your problem solving skills.

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  7. I have 36 piercings and four tattoos, and bright red hair. However, I don’t really relate them to my BPD; I’ve considered it might be a factor, but I don’t think I do it out of a self-image problem. I do have a very skewed sense of self, but when it comes to body modification, I just like the way it looks. I think it’s pretty, if done well. A piercing to me is no different to a pair of shoes or a necklace; it’s an accessory.

    • 36 wow! cool 😀 yeah, I can see the accessory point of view too, changing the piercings regularly like different shoes to match an outfit, lol and of course there’s lots of people with no BPD who have tons of piercings and tattoo’s so there’s lot’s more to it than being a symptom…

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