I only share this with permission, but the other night I received an e-mail from a young girl considering suicide because of the way she looks. SUICIDE because of looks.
Beauty is a billion dollar industry and insecurity is profit. We know that 'beautiful' is the opinion of a select few people with money to make their opinions mainstream. We also know these people are invested in normalizing unrealistic definitions of beauty because we will only buy their products when we feel we don't measure up. And no one can live up to an unrealistic definition of beauty - not even the model promoting it - so we all fall into their trap and they profit off of it. Until we are able to stop and think critically about the things we hate about ourselves, we continue to pay these people to put us down. It's pretty messed up and we know this.
But we still get trapped. All of us. We all struggle to feel we are enough.
If you think back to March 4 through April 15 this year, I bet you'll notice something came up around this topic. Venus was in Retrograde and she loves to stir up our thoughts about our appearance (and passions) and cause us to reassess. I didn't realize it at the time, but I made a decision to go makeup-free right in the middle of Venus Retrograde.
When I received that e-mail from that young girl I wished more than anything to be able to climb inside her mind and show her the beauty I saw. But I couldn't. And I can't. So instead I've decided to get transparent and share some things I've learned through my own challenges with beauty over this past Retrograde season. I can't change the beauty industry and I can't convince someone of something they aren't ready to be convinced of, but I can plant a seed and share a different way of looking at things.
WHAT I'VE LEARNED ABOUT BEAUTY:
1. Beauty is familiarity.
I used to hate photos of myself. I was so use to seeing a mirror image of myself through an actual mirror that when I had my photo taken I thought I looked awful. I knew this had to do with familiarity, I just wasn't used to my "regular" face, I was only used to my mirror version. So when I went makeup free for a month I also decided that if I had to take a photo I would only use a regular camera - no cameras like Snapchat or Instagram that mirrored my image allowed. THIS was hard, especially at first when I decided to announce my one-month without makeup challenge on IG with a selfie. But I'm so glad I stuck with it, because the more I forced myself to take photos with a regular camera, the more natural seeing myself from that perspective became. After my challenge I decided to respond to a snapchat with a picture of my face using the snapchat mirror camera and WOAH I felt alien. I much preferred my "regular" face.
This experiment taught me that what I find beautiful about myself is what I find familiar about myself. Anytime something is new or foreign, like seeing ourselves in a photo after getting used to ourselves in the mirror, our minds see it as wrong or flawed. It's just our silly human nature. You don't look better one way or the other, you just look more familiar one way or another and I think that's something really, really important to remember, especially in this era of mirror images.
2. Beauty is perspective.
This one took me a long time to realize, but how others see us has nothing to do with how we actually look. It has to do with their conditioning and preferences. Conditioning and preferences based on their culture and upbringing and as I'm now learning, also any trauma they may have experienced. It's the same as how the sky is a different colour to each and every one of us. We all look different to each and every one of us. So not only is someone's opinion of you meaningless (for so many reasons) it actually says nothing about you. Someone's opinion about how you look is just a reaction to their own self and what they personally believe. How refreshing is that!?
We all act as mirrors to reflect the truth in each other (when someone upsets you, they are actually upsetting something within you) so the next time someone mentions anything about your appearance, either good or bad, remember it has nothing to do with you... and everything to do with them. BUT since we are all about accountability and empowerment here, if/when that does happen, take your reaction and reflect on it. If their opinions made you feel bad, there is something within you that doesn't feel so good about yourself... find it and nurture it. If their opinions make you feel good, that's a sign there is something within you that you already love and value... celebrate it.
3. Beauty is a feeling.
One day during retrograde season I got so down on myself for how 'inadequate I was' that I could barely get myself out of bed. I wrote about it on the q + a page, it's q. 7 if you're interested. Because I know the importance of building momentum and just getting going when I don't feel like I can, I got myself up and to a coffee shop for a smoothie. As momentum picked up I got proactive and started thinking about how not-so-beautiful I felt lying miserably in bed and how much better I felt after getting myself up and going. This triggered an idea that beauty is a feeling... so I journaled about beauty and about the times I feel most beautiful.
Here's what I found. I feel most beautiful when I'm:
+ having deep conversations with my friends
+ sitting in a cafe just observing
+ going for walks in nature with my dad
+ at night time when it's really quiet
+ when I'm laughing with my sisters
+ when I'm taking photos and feeling inspired
+ after I sweat, a lot
+ when it it rains and I'm walking in it
+ when I'm being intentional about what I eat/consume (no animals)
+ when I'm playing with my pup
+ when I'm in comfy clothes and next to someone I love
+ after I take a really deep breath
+ able to talk about important things
After I made my list I realized that I look the same when I'm doing the things that make me feel beautiful as I do when I'm doing things that don't. And that was powerful because I remembered that beauty is just a feeling and we can tap into that feeling at any moment by knowing what makes us feel beautiful and doing it! We can also avoid feeling ugly by knowing who/what makes us feel inadequate and avoiding it. Self-awareness and intention are everything.
I have brown eyes and I've spent a lot of time hating them. My dad's eyes are blue and all I wanted growing up was to have blue eyes too. Blue eyes are prominent in the media/modelling world and I felt inadequate that mine were brown. But then I made the conscious decision to start thanking and loving my brown eyes. And guess what? The world did too. After I consciously convinced myself that brown eyes were beautiful, people started to tell me my eyes made them feel safe because there was a depth to them. I've also struggled with how tiny I am. I'm the oldest of four girls and all my sisters are bigger than me. We are all around the same height but because my bones are tiny and I sometimes have a hard time gaining weight (in comparison) I appear small next to them. They make it worse by calling me munchkin. Haha. These days I'm leaning into my size and, like my eyes, consciously changing how I understand and value it. Why is small a bad thing? It's not. So many people strive for it. We want what we can't have, always.
Beauty is so silly but at the same time so serious because there are beautiful girls who feel so strongly about their looks that they don't want to live because of them. When I started this post I thought I didn't have a solution and could only share how I felt about beauty but as I prepare to wrap it up I feel like maybe that it the solution. Maybe getting deeper than "inner beauty is what's important" and talking openly about the things we struggle with is where learning to love ourselves actually begins. The other day my friend opened up about not liking her nose, I was shocked because I love her nose. I was also shocked because a big part of my struggles with beauty over this last Venus Retrograde season was that I was struggling with beauty over this last Retrograde season. I wanted to believe inner beauty was all that mattered, but in our world that's a lie. We do care about how we appear to the world and so we need to start to care about talking about it and challenging WHY we feel we aren't good enough. Hearing my friend talk about her insecurity made it safe for me to talk about my insecurities... and like anything, when we talk about things they lose power.
Physical beauty IS a part of this life, but fortunately the secret to it isn't in the next beauty product or skin cream. It's in being critical about what beauty actually means and intentional about only surrounding yourself with people who make you FEEL beautiful and also safe if you don't.
What if this week you told someone about that thing you criticize yourself for? How would that feel?
And then what if you thanked that part of you instead of wanting to change it?
What if your 'worst' physical trait intentionally became your favourite trait?
It's challenging, but what if it did? The beauty industry would suffer and those who look up to you would see that maybe they can love (or at least be OK) with their 'faults' too.
If you are feeling anything but absolutely beautiful for who you are and what you have to offer for this world, reach out. I won't be able to convince you of your beauty, that's up to you, but I will hold space for that conversation to happen and share further any tips and tricks that have helped me with this along the way.
Also, if you've struggled with body image for a long time and you're ready to start digging through some of the limiting beliefs that are damaging your soul and keeping you from the life you want to live, I'd love to work with you.
I also wrote another article about self-acceptance sharing some of the affirmations I use for self-love, here.
UPDATE: After I wrote this article my sister recommended I watch Embrace on Netflix. I encourage you to watch it too, especially if you struggle with issues around weight.