Getting REAL About Beauty.

WARNING: Lonnnngg post. Written for women. Statistic: In the United States alone, the beauty industry is worth over 60 billion dollars.

Women everywhere are constantly bombarded with mixed messages about our appearance. While we are told that we need to look our best, we’re reminded not to focus too much on our looks. We’re told not to take beauty too seriously while also not ‘letting ourselves go’. We’re told to embrace aging but on every billboard, commercial and magazine, we are sold products and procedures intended to turn back the hands of time.

It’s like we are forced to walk this fine line between caring just enough and not caring too much and and it’s a precarious balancing act we play with ourselves and the rest of the world and it is making us crazy. 

I know I’m not alone with all of this confusion, and today, I’d like to share my thoughts with you about appearance and beauty and authenticity because I have spent a long time trying to untangle them and then string them back together in a way that makes sense to me. Perhaps it will make sense to you, as well.

Here goes.

First, I believe our feelings about beauty and appearance are so complicated because our body image and our self image are so intimately tied together. 

Personally, I physically feel my best when I am taking care of myself—when I am exercising, sleeping, eating well, enjoying my relationships, practicing mindfulness, yoga, saying NO to people and projects that sap me of energy, deep breathing, and generally living a lifestyle I feel good about. And I feel good about it because of how good I feel. I wake up with energy, I feel optimistic about my life and I make choices that are aligned with my values.

When I feel my best, I also tend to look my best. My skin is brighter, my hair is shinier, my eyes sparkle and I generally just look better. Plus, when I’m feeling good, I smile. And smiling is just about the most attractive thing any one of us can do.

I think a lot of us are trying to buy the things that money can’t pay for. There is no surgery or procedure or cream that will replace a healthy lifestyle. And there is nowhere to buy happiness. That has to come from within.

There is also something to be said for accepting ourselves as we are. There is a freedom in it that can’t be bought. But what does it mean to accept ourselves as we are? I mean, most of us can agree that we wouldn’t leave the house without having a shower or brushing our teeth and our hair. What about putting on an outfit that makes us feel good because it fits us so well and is in style? Is that ok? Is anything more too much? What about wearing makeup? Is wearing makeup like “putting on a mask” or is it about highlighting our best features and having fun with colour?

Last month in NYC, Glennon Doyle Melton spoke at a conference I attended. Towards the end of her talk, she joked about being only 80% authentic. “The remaining 20% is Botox”.

I felt a lot of mixed emotions in that moment. First of all, it was funny. We all laughed. Then came scrutiny, because Glennon is known for her views, especially when it comes to women, on succumbing to societal pressures. She talks openly about how women mustn’t change themselves to suit society’s standards. Her admission about getting Botox felt confusing to me, and I wasn’t alone. I spoke with other women afterwards who felt the same way I did.

Glennon getting Botox made me want to get Botox. And it also made me not want to get Botox. And it made me think a lot about my feelings around the subject of beauty. I mean, I just want someone to tell me when the scale tips. Like, if I choose to wear makeup and have my hair coloured, is that ok? Can I still be authentic if I do? And do we draw the line with plastic surgery because it’s invasive and permanent? Then, what about tattoos? They’re permanent. Are they ok? And what about fillers, because I see a LOT of plumped up lips on my Facebook and Instagram feeds. And then there’s Botox. Is it a harmless way to look refreshed? Or yet another way to admonish the natural aging process? 

Can authenticity and a desire to change my appearance co-exist? And, if so, how do I go about it?

Here is what all of my thinking and pondering and wondering led me to believe. I believe that if we are truly being authentic, then we will feel absolutely no shame about the choices we are making to enhance or improve our appearance.

By sharing the truth, Glennon was being authentic in that moment. She didn’t pretend to have won some kind of beauty lottery that renders her forehead stationary. She didn’t try to hide it. Telling us about getting Botox aligned with her value of truth-telling.

I believe it’s when we do things in secret that we stay stuck in this weird competition with one another and it contributes to the shame that keeps us mired under society’s pressure to look a certain way.

The way I see it, a big part of the problem is that we feel shame about what we are doing for beauty; and it’s the hiding and pretending that keeps us feeling bad about wanting to look good.

While there were certainly women in the crowd who believe that having Botox injections is unnatural and unnecessary and a waste of money and contributes to society’s warped view of what women are supposed to look like, I do believe G has eyes wide open about it.

But, more importantly, I realized that what she decides to do with her looks is none of my concern. I have no business judging her choices. And if I do judge them (because humans are naturally judgmental), that’s my business; not hers.

I think the point is that we ALL have to make choices that feel authentic for US.

WE do.

EACH of US.

NO ONE ELSE.

Only I get to decide what I want to do with my appearance.

I believe that if we are authentically showing up in our lives, in every way we can, then it shouldn’t matter to us what others think of our choices. Believe me, I don’t for a second think Glennon cares whether or not I agree with her choice to get Botox. And THAT is what makes it a good choice for her.

But I think it’s important to check in regularly. To make sure that we are doing the things we are doing out of a desire to self-improve; not to compete or compare.

I mean, I personally don’t have tattoos but I think they look amazing on many women and I respect others’ choices to get them. I feel that plastic surgery is an extreme and permanent way to change our bodies, and a choice I don’t believe I will make, but if a woman chooses to augment or reduce her breast size or get a nose job, it is her body. And it is her business.

People argue that society places an enormous amount of pressure on women to look a certain way, and while this is absolutely true, who will be able to change it?

US!

Because if we say that it is society that puts so much pressure on us to look a certain way, then who is this “society”?

It is US!

And while we’re at it, can we please just stop putting so much focus on appearance in general?! I grew up believing that how I looked was the most important thing, and it has taken me years, decades even, to figure out that this is a lie.

A lie that I have perpetuated; as part of “society”.

We receive our earliest messages from our parents, which become our foundation, and in my home growing up, appearances were valued over feelings. It’s hard to admit that, but it is the truth. There was a lot of dialogue about weight and appearance and there was a tremendous focus on the way we all looked.

But as adults, we can choose to change our view. We don’t HAVE to feel all this pressure.

Not if we don’t want to.

And I believe that our life’s work is about being the truest, real-est, most authentic version of ourselves. And I believe that doing so affords us the kind of freedom I think we are all seeking.

For me, right now, as much as I might dream about a forehead free of wrinkles, I am not willing to inject Botox into my face. It doesn’t feel authentic to me. I am much more interested in learning how to embrace the aging process naturally. And when I read recently that Courtney Cox regrets all of the fillers and surgeries she’s had done, it reminds me that the pressure only wins if I succumb to it.

I am seeing posts on social media where women going makeup-free is being lauded as “brave”. I understand this. It does feel brave because, as a woman who always put appearances over the truth, the pressure to always look my best has been ingrained for as long as I can remember.

A woman I know wears absolutely no makeup. Ever. As in, never. Like, she doesn’t even own a mascara (GASP!) or a lipstick (WHATTT!?) and yet she feels so incredibly comfortable in her own skin that wearing makeup would feel completely inauthentic to her.

This isn’t my reality.

My reality is that I like to wear makeup. I feel better when I have some on and I wouldn’t want to go to work or a meeting or out for dinner with friends without wearing any. Wearing makeup doesn’t make me feel inauthentic; it makes me feel more like myself. I don’t feel like my makeup is a mask; I feel like it enhances my features. That said, I have started going au naturel more and more often. I no longer wear any to the gym and I don’t feel completely naked without it when I run in to grab a coffee or when I go out on a bikeride and stop somewhere for lunch.

Another friend of mine likes to wear makeup because she says, “It’s like painting on a canvas”. I love that.

For me, while I keep my makeup routine pretty simple, the “canvas” itself is definitely important. My skin has always been prioritized and I’ve used many, many products over the years in an effort to have it look its best. I have sensitive, acne prone skin, so I’ve tried just about everything out there to nourish it. While my lifestyle plays a huge role (eating well, hydrating, breaking a sweat daily, not smoking or drinking etc.), I believe there are products that can improve my skin beyond what my habits and my genes can provide.

At the Healthy Brain and Body Show, I was introduced to a new skincare line called Kalp. If you’ve been following me for a while, you will remember that I have a few preferred products, but I always like to see what’s new out there. And this line is so unique, so different, that I wanted to share it with you.

I liked that this line is rooted in ayurveda, and I personally shopped with the founder of the line, Seema Kudesia, for the right products for my skin type. In ayurveda, my dosha is Pitta (you can discover your dosha by taking this quiz), which means my skin is sensitive, tends to redden, and is acne prone.

Seema suggested all of the right products for my skin type. We started with Ubtan, which is a unique cleanser and unlike anything I had ever tried. It is a powder, made from calming herbs like turmeric and neem with a lemongrass scent and when combined with water or oil, it makes a paste that is massaged into the skin. It is gentle enough to be used every day. While it takes some getting used to, it works incredibly well and my skin feels polished and clean but not stripped of moisture. It feels exfoliated, but not overly. The smell is very natural. I love it! It is extremely cost-effective (the entire line is) and I barely made a dent in it after a whole month. Plus it’s great for air travel since there is no liquid. That said, be prepared to clean your sink more often, as I found it left a residue.

Next, I applied Rasa as a serum. I used it morning and night and the small vial lasted me a month. It is made with calming moringa oil and other natural oils that aid in strengthening and revitalizing the skin. I only used a few drops and applied it onto my damp, clean skin. I allowed it to soak in before applying Dheer, the moisturizer for sensitive skin. At first glance, I was worried it would be too rich and would cause me to break out. I used it both morning and night, and I have to say, it is rich but lightweight and it didn’t weigh my skin down. It was definitely calming, as I am prone to redness, and it never irritated my skin.

I also used Ekrup, which is a hydrating facial mist. I love the natural scent and it is completely non-irritating. I often sprayed it even after applying makeup, throughout the day, when my skin needed a boost.

I would highly recommend these particular products to anyone with sensitive skin like me. You can order all of the products online here.

There are other products I fell in love with, too, like her Tikki soap. It smells AMAZING, doesn’t dry out the skin, and is perfect for both facial and body cleansing. I also tried her unique deodorant. Again, it is a powder, which takes some getting used to (I would pour some into my hand and then apply it to my armpits, which meant some got on the floor, so I did this in my bedroom where there is carpet!) but it kept me dry and the smell was lovely and natural. I would also recommend this for anyone whose hands sweat, as I noticed how dry my hands were after applying if I didn’t wash it off.

Once you know your dosha, you can shop by category. If you live in Ottawa, I highly recommend checking out the entire line at Teal Spa and other retailers, but going directly to meet with Seema has added benefits. She can help you shop for the perfect products!

The Bottom Line

There is so much more to life than our appearance. SO much more. I believe we place such a high priority on it because it distracts us from what’s really important. It’s easier to focus on our looks than to discover who we really are and what breaks our hearts and what makes us tick and what lights us up.

I believe the bigger work is getting to the root of who we are and accepting ourselves wholeheartedly. This doesn’t mean we can’t do things to change or enhance our appearance, but these changes need to stem from a place of self-love; not self-loathing. And for me, showing myself love starts with the way I treat myself–taking care of myself mentally, emotionally and physically.

And with all of this focus on appearance and self-acceptance, I have to say I am encouraged every day. I constantly see women owning their looks, embracing their uniqueness. I see women with amazing makeup and without any makeup at all. I see women sporting their own unique style, showing off a shaved head or funky coloured hair or crazy tattoos or a wild outfit. I LOVE seeing women expressing themselves…through the way they look. Because how better to outwardly express our tastes and our likes than through our outward appearance?

But let’s get real.

If we are changing our looks in secret; ashamed of what we are doing and where we are spending our time and money, then there is something systemically broken when we fear looking the way we look; aging the way we age; and being who we really are.

So, don’t succumb to the pressure of society because I have to tell you, society is changing; the pendulum is swinging back. More and more people (including celebrities like Kate Winslet, Cameron Diaz and Courtney Cox) are realizing that society won’t change until WE change…because WE are THEY.

At the end of the day, I think what I have managed to do here is to remember that beauty is less about how we look and more about how we feel. If we are loving ourselves and truly accepting who we are, then enhancing our appearance should feel energizing, not draining. It should feel like fun and not a chore or something we are pressured by others into doing. And it should be something we feel proud of; not ashamed for.

Anytime we feel society pushing us one way, we have to make our own choices. And the more we present the world with our real, authentic selves, the less pressure there will be to look or behave a certain way.

And we can find more freedom to be who we really are.

Because the world needs us that way.

Because I want you to love your life one bite at a time.

Photo Credit: Natasha Villeneuve. Me. Forehead wrinkles and all.

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P.P.S. If YOU want to create a new relationship with food, The 6 Week Sugar Freedom eCourse might be for you. You will be surrounded by a group of like-minded people who will support you. I encourage you to join us here

 

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