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I’ve never had a facial in my entire life.
Nor have I ever booked a leg wax, eyebrow or eyelash tint, injectable, or any kind of laser.
My inexperience with beauty treatments came up recently during a conversation with a beauty therapist friend.
“What? You’ve never looked after yourself?” she replied, incredulous.
I’d never considered beauty therapy a vital component of self-care, and this got me thinking about the different beliefs women have about what they need to do (or purchase) to look and feel beautiful.
I also reflected that many of the women I knew did not get facials, waxes, Botox, or laser treatment to “look after themselves” but rather to make their appearance acceptable, evidenced by comments like, “I’m so sorry about my hairy legs!” and “I’m finally booked in to get rid of these ugly lines.”
Yet, here was my friend feeling sorry for me, as if I’ve been somehow denying myself the pleasure of having my hairs ripped out, my face needled, or skin rubbed raw.
I asked my husband what he thought made a woman beautiful, and he answered without hesitation: “The way she carries herself—her confidence and glow.”
My father and brother’s answers were similar.
Confidence and that indescribable “glow” are embodied in women who feel beautiful.
And, if you don’t feel beautiful, no product, treatment, or supplement will “fix” that feeling or change the way you carry yourself. Nor will any amount of external approval make up for what you believe you lack.
Which begs the question: why not focus on feeling beautiful first?
If you already feel beautiful, you can be more discerning about where and how you spend your time and money. You might choose to invest in a luxury face cream because it feels nourishing on your skin, not because you hope it will erase your eye wrinkles.
When I feel beautiful, my focus is on nurturing my body. My intention shifts from fitting myself into a mould of acceptability to doing things that feel good and allow me to take care of my health. For me, feeling good and looking after myself mean:
>> Keeping regular appointments like skin checks, dental, and pap smears.
>> Investing in delicious fresh food.
>> Moving my body in ways that are fun and pleasurable.
>> Booking the occasional massage
When I feel beautiful, my core needs become clear, simple, and…largely inexpensive.
Why is feeling beautiful so hard?
In our culture, women are taught from an early age that certain things about our bodies are desirable and others are not. It is a culture of judgement that deeply affects how we see ourselves, causing us to believe that things about us—elements that are outside our control, like body shape, hair colour, and breast size—are “wrong.”
These beliefs are internalised by women, causing them to feel deep down that they are not beautiful, that their bodies are unacceptable. And because physical beauty equates to power, this setup renders women easy targets for marketing of all kinds. If you feel like you’re missing something vitally important, you’ll pay anything to get it.
Culture makes it seems like women need to work hard for beauty. Beneath all this is the truth that is echoed by men like my husband…beauty has nothing to do with what you do to yourself and everything to do with how you feel.
To feel beautiful in the face of huge cultural pressure is a revolutionary act. This is the secret the beauty industry doesn’t want you to know.
How to start feeling (and looking) beautiful:
1. Question your own beliefs about beauty.
Think about the women whom you see as beautiful and analyse what it is about them that makes them stand out. For every woman who is genetically blessed with symmetrical features, there is another who takes such good care of herself that you hardly notice whether she’s shaved her legs or washed her hair. Begin to notice women who glow!
2. Look at your intentions for buying a beauty product.
It’s not the products that are at fault but the intention behind their purchase. Are you buying a face cream because it feels nourishing and luxurious on your skin or in the hope that it will erase your wrinkles? Did you get that boob job because it feels delightful and nurturing or to attract attention from men? Make your purchases conscious and you’ll narrow them down to the ones that reinforce a feeling of beauty from within.
3. Exercise in a way that feels pleasurable.
There are many different body types that are nourished by different kinds of exercise. The Eastern science of Ayurveda shows that while some people benefit from the vigorous exercise performed in boot camps and HIIT, many others suffer for it (including me). Make sure the intention behind the movement you choose to do comes from self-love, not punishment. Do you run to whip yourself into shape or because it makes you feel alive?
4. Eat intuitively.
In the same vein as exercise, your body knows what kinds of food it needs. You’ll feel more beautiful when you stop looking around for advice on the right kind of diet to follow and begin asking your body what it needs, loves, and wants. This is a beautiful practice in self-love that will have your body humming and skin glowing.
Self-care is not about “treating yourself” to a facial. It’s treating yourself to a daily dose of the truth: that you are and always have been enough.
You were born beautiful, and you deserve to feel it.
When you do, it will show on the outside.