Mental Health · pinup life

Retro Girl in a Modern World: Pinup & Social Anxiety

Hi, my name is Missi and I have social anxiety. For some people this is rather hard thing to believe. Especially considering what my social media accounts look like now days. But as I’ve navigated the pinup world over the last few years it become apparently to me just how common social anxiety is among pinups and wanted to share some of my own experiences on how pinup can help and hinder living with social anxiety because it definitely has pros and cons.

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During a spike in my anxiety

This blog post is a bit hard for me to write. Namely because anxiety is something we generally feel so alone in. But as I’ve become better at managing my anxiety, I’ve become better at speaking about it and not feeling ashamed about it and I hope by sharing I can help others see they aren’t alone

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1.My pinup style can sometimes function as armour

I find that people who have never experienced social anxiety, don’t quite understand how someone can dress up quite as much as pinups do and still stuffer the daily struggle of social anxiety. I think this is because of the attention dressing outside the prescribed norm can attract. But what they don’t understand is how dressing up can also be a coping mechanism. When I first got into pinup I was in a relationship that was quickly disintegrating. I got into pinup around the time things started falling apart and for me, even though I wasn’t feeling strong or courageous it gave me the pick me up to pretend to be these things, which lead to me questioning things that weren’t making sense. I wouldn’t have ended up being even more of a doormat if I hadn’t found my pinup self that year. In a lot of ways, getting dressed up and looking ‘put together’ can help me feel ‘put together’ and often the higher my stress the more over the top my outfits can appear. I find now days, as my coping abilities have evolved, I don’t got as full on as I used to. But when major things happen, such as my nan passing away or getting back news, frocking up is a way of helping me feel bullet proof even when I’m not which has helped me through some super hard times in my life in the past 5 years.

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2. People assume bright pinup style dictates your personality

As my following has grown, this is one I face a lot now days. As an introvert with social anxiety, I like social media as it allows me to control the experience of engagement. It means if I’m having a hard day I can share what I want and then tune out to what I can’t deal with at the time. I do the same thing when I blog shoot. I can be hard to pose when you have heaps of people staring at you, but tuning it out can definitely help.

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During a recent anxiety flare up

But I can’t deny the fact that meeting new people is still something that scares me and I always feel like an awkward turtle. One of my biggest things I’m learning is how to actually talk to people. When my anxiety is high I find its really easy to subconsciously end up spewing out endless irrelevant information about myself as try and come to grips with the fact I’m standing trying to engage with someone new. Then I go through the turmoil afterwards of analysis the whole encounter and wondering if that person things I’m a vain, self absorbed idiot because all I did was talk about myself. While this can still happen now days I actively try and focus on asking questions and not letting my anxiety dribble take hold of me. I’ve also started encountering in the last 12 months the odd scenario of meeting followers and not knowing how to engage in a conversation as normally I’ll introduce myself and they’ll know who I am already. I find as I post a lot of my body positivity and put myself out there, there’s an assumption that I’m outgoing when really pinups from all walks of life are pinups. Whether they are in great health or dealing with demons of a mental or physical kind, dressing up in pinup doesn’t make you an instant outgoing person.

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I find anxiety can also bring people to the assumption that you’re a bitch or view yourself as better than others. This ties into not just what I just expressed in my previous paragraph, but also the flip side of when I’m too anxious to engage with people I tend to just play with my phone, zone out and avoid eye contact to keep myself centred. This combined with how I dress can make you seem unapproachable and bitchy to people who don’t know you sometimes, when in reality you’re petrified of them and don’t know how to start a conversation. These sorts of assumptions can really still upset me sometimes, especially as someone who can get quite guarded and take time to open up to people and as a girl who pre-pinup was often referred to as a ‘plain jane’ I find my appearence being a factor in deterring people from talking to me quite frustrating and alien.

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3. A pretty frock can turn my whole day around

There’s a lot to be said for the smile I can get when an outfit comes together. There are days where my anxiety is really high and the only thing that got me out of bed is the pretty frock hanging on the back of my door, just calling out to me to be worn. Just as my style can act as an ‘armour’, it can also bring joy. I get such joy out of putting together outfits and different looks. It makes me happy beyond belief and a great outfit or new goodies arriving in the mail can be a massive help to my motivation on a hard day. Also now days as my style has become more polished I get more positive compliments from strangers than negative ones and as I’ve been dressing this way for so long now my ability to deal with these comments has also improved (I used to get so flabbergasted and lost for words when this happened). A pretty frock and a lovely compliment really can change your headspace for the day.

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Pretending I know what to do in the kitchen. Photo by Boogie Bop Dames

4. Vintage style not vintage values

I find people who don’t know me heavily stereotype me based on how I dress. A prime example of this is in my workplace. A male co-worker recently bought in a batch of old Better Homes & Gardens Magazines he no longer needed. On talking to him he’d bought them over the years for the gardening section as he was redoing his whole back yard. The assumption in the office was that I bought them in, simply based on the fact I dress retro. In reality I’d make the worst 50s housewife. I can’t cook. I’m not a good housekeeper and I don’t like the idea of marriage or kids. I find sometimes certain conversations, driven by the idea that I must have vintage values due to the way I dress can be really hard to deal with due to my social anxiety, especially on bad days. As a retro girl this is still something I face but again as time has gone on and I’ve had more chance to answer these sorts of assumptions, I’ve gotten better at answering them without my anxiety kicking in. Though I still feel awkward having to field these kinds of questions.

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I also find too that sometimes, men will assume you are a push over or want their attention because of how you dress. In reality, the only person I consider when I get dressed in the morning when it comes to who likes my outfit is myself. But as 50s women now days are kind of stereotyped as subservient home makers, some men seem to believe this means your values align too. For me personally, that’s far from the case and the male attention I get, especially on social media used to be enough to send me into a full blown anxiety meltdown. Now days, I’ve learnt through trial and error the best approach for me managing this behaviour, which has greatly reduced my anxiety around it.

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5. Social media comparison stress

Perth Pinup Miss Laila Shalimar did an awesome article for Adore Pinup Magazine in the past few years about the negative impacts of the pinup online community on mental health and while I do absolutely adore the community we have, I am also not immune to this sort of self degradation. With our online community being filled with pretty pictures of pretty girls in pretty outfits, it can be easy to not feel like you are good enough or don’t fit. For example, on a bad mental health day when my anxiety is high, I’ll reduce my online time right down to basically just posting my content and checking out. I’ve had to actively learn to try and put down my negative feelings about my weight/size in regards to the online pinup community and I have to admit in the past 5 years since becoming heavily involved in the pinup world I’ve thought more about certain aspects of plastic surgery than I ever gave much thought to before. As a gal with anxiety issues, the online space can definitely be a massive trigger. But it also has some great positives. You can connect with some truly amazing people. I’ve learnt a lot of tips and skills from being a part of the online space and had the pleasure of chatting to some incredible women. Its so important to remember we are all so different, we are all at varying stages of embracing our pinup selves and that’s ok. Its OK to not the a ‘perfect pinup’ all the time. As hard as it can be, its important to not compare yourself to others. And remember, a lot of pinups just post pretty pictures (which is fine!) but that also means you don’t know much about them or their own struggles. The grass always seems greener and with the case of anxiety can appear SUPER green but your own grass can be just as green if you remember to water it.

On the flip side, its important to acknowledge how we use our own social media as kind of a ‘highlight reel’. There have definitely days were I’ve put on a smile when I’ve felt like I have a storm raging inside of me. I’ve had days where I didn’t want to dress up but did. We all do it to a degree and its important to remember others do to. Its one reason I’m trying to share more of this type of content and be more open about the struggles, especially as my following has grown.

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I’ve made some amazing friends through the pinup scene that I wouldn’t have met without social media! 

So those are some of my experiences with anxiety and pinup. I remember how daunting some of these experiences where when I first got into the pinup scene as a retro girl with social anxiety. I hope by sharing some gals know that they aren’t alone and that it can help them learn to navigate the retro world the best way for them. It can be difficult sometimes having anxiety and being a pinup as it draws you out of the masses and makes you stand out. But I find if it comes from a place of enjoyment and makes you happy, then it can help you quite a bit. Also, I find repetition of certain situations or scenarios can really help me cope better with things, as its like I’ve gotten practice and now have a process to go through it instead of feeling like I’m flailing in water and struggling to stop myself drowning.

I also just wanted to remind ladies that its OK to not be OK, especially when living with something like anxiety. We all go through struggles and issues in life. Be kind to yourself and take care of yourself if you need to.

I hope you’ve all enjoyed this blog post dolls!

Til next time

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5 thoughts on “Retro Girl in a Modern World: Pinup & Social Anxiety

  1. Missi, this is beautiful. It’s not easy to open up about something personal like anxiety but your blog is so honest and detailed that a post like this is truly inspirational. As someone who was diagnosed with anxiety and depression 4.5 years ago I’ve only had the confidence to express myself through pinup fashion occasionally but seeing women like you on social media and knowing that you’ve had some similar struggles is a real confidence boost. Not only are your outfits and photographs beautiful but your heartfelt words elevate your posts even more. You are awesome – thank you for sharing this! 🙂

  2. I’ve been following you on instagram for a few months now and honestly you are the most inspirational person I’ve seen on there! Very real and very honest, and this article is so so relatable to me. I don’t dress full pinup, but I do love pinup style and try to incorporate elements of it into my wardrobe and makeup. Even something like a red lip can become this source of intense anxiety, because on the one hand I love it, and on the other, it does attract more attention and it can make me feel stupid sometimes. It’s so hard some days to find a balance of how you want to dress and what is comfortable.

    You are truly a beautiful person inside and out, and it’s so reassuring to hear some of the things I’ve gone through with anxiety echoed here. I just wanted to say thank you essentially, for the amazing contribution you bring not just to the pinup community but to every social media platform you’re on. It is appreciated! x

  3. Thank you so much for this post!!! I deal with the same exact things you have mentioned here! I have honestly felt like no one could understand my social anxiety! It breaks my heart when i hear people think I’m better than them just because I don’t socialize. I absolutely never have felt that way. People who have not ever dealt with social anxiety just can’t understand. I just can’t tell you how this post has helped me because I know that someone is going through what I deal with and I don’t feel so alone.

  4. Wow!! Thank you so much for writing this post. I am 50 years old, an introvert and have social anxiety. I dress in 40’s clothes and live the era, and it is the only thing that helps me cope with my day. If I have to go out of the house, for shopping, etc, I worry so much of what others think of my outfits, and your post has really helped to know that I am not alone. Thank you. xxxx

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