How do I look?
Do I look okay?
Such loaded questions.
These questions may seem innocuous enough, but they’re not always harmless!
When you see your own reflection in the mirror, is your first reaction to smile at yourself and think, Wow, there I am – beautiful as ever! ?
Or are you critical of your appearance?
Do your eyes go straight to the places you deem unattractive and in need of major improvement?
It’s kind of an automatic thing – to look at the parts of ourselves we aren’t exactly satisfied with and use that as our own measure of how good we’re looking.
If someone compliments your looks, do you beam and say “Thank you! I appreciate the kind words! That feels good to hear.” ?
Or, are you quick to dismiss a compliment and say something derogatory about yourself?
I joke that I am as vain as they come.
However, it’s not because I’ve always believed I was beautiful.
No, that belief took a huge concerted effort on my own part.
My obsession with my reflection began early.
I spent my childhood being very dissatisfied with my face.
I thought it was the least cute or pretty face I’d ever seen.
I grew up in the time just before instant selfies and social media, with only my mirror and terrible photos taken on disposable cameras that I had to wait days or weeks to develop.
There were definitely plenty of selfies taken on those, in my desperate attempt to find evidence that I wasn’t as hideous as one part of me believed I was.
I look at my young nieces, daughters of friends and teenaged clients and I see so much beauty my heart swells.
I notice the perfect blend of their parents’ DNA that created the most stunning beauties, and I wonder if they know how beautiful they are, and if they are as critical of their looks as I was of my own.
When people tell me that my small son looks just like me, I am blown away that I might look anything like the most gorgeous face I’ve ever beheld.
People said I looked like my Dad, who was a great-looking guy, but when it came to my own looks, somehow I felt that they didn’t transfer well.
In the mirror, I saw a pointy chin & nose; red, bumpy, flaky skin; squinty eyes with invisible lashes and a unibrow that I shaved and razor nicks on my nose.
Sounds adorable, right?
It wasn’t…though when I look back on old photos, it’s hard for me to see what I thought I saw all those years ago…now I do see an adorable girl, and it’s hard to understand why I didn’t see any beauty there.
It took decades to accept my face, let alone learn to love it.
That’s a lifelong process that takes intention and reminders of why I actually do love my face now.
Full disclosure – I feel most comfortable with a bit of tinted moisturizer with SPF 30 on my skin, mascara on my lashes and a bit of lip gloss on my lips.
I apply these every morning, no matter what my day is to bring, as part of my skincare & self-care.
I have spent A LOT of time cringing over photos that don’t get the right angle for me to feel good about the way I look.
I think about young people in the world today, and how the ways that society has changed in the last 2 decades make it even more challenging for people to just simply feel good about the way they look.
How we feel about the way we look is part of life, and we are in a global culture of appearances mattering so much that I worry about this topic and how it’s magnified since I was a young, more vulnerable one. It has taken some work for me to feel content, even appreciative of the skin I am in. Work that I had to decide was worth it so I can be happier.
I have made peace with my appearance in my yoga practice, by stepping up my self-care and through Mirror Work, which is an actual practice developed by Louise Hay, in which you look at yourself in the mirror and tell yourself you love and accept yourself.
This might feel a bit cheesy, especially for those of us old enough to remember Stewart Smalley, a character on the old Saturday Night Live who practiced his affirmations in his mirror, citing “I am good enough. I am smart enough, and Gosh darn it, people like me!”
In my generation, we laughed at Stewart Smalley’s methods, but the truth is, Affirmation is a powerful practice that can help us feel better about ourselves.
WHY do we care so much about the way we look?
Beyond being clean and taking care of our hygienic needs, what is it that makes us strive to look our best, and what is it that makes us compare ourselves to others?
Beauty has no ideal. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. There is much more to any and all of us beyond what we look like, and every single person on the planet possesses his or her own unique beauty.
This is the truth.
So what is going on that our self-worth and self-esteem hinges on anything having to do with How we Look vs. WHO we ARE?
I don’t have the answer, but I believe it’s a question worth pondering on this journey. As well, I believe that taking the best possible care of our whole selves, physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually is the way to health, happiness, peace, contentment and confidence, and nothing is more beautiful than that.
For every woman who has made a difference in history, her appearance never goes unnoticed or unmentioned, even though it most often has nothing to do with her calling and what she came to do.
It is part of our Human Nature to make both conscious and unconscious judgments about other people based on what we see, before we have any other information to use to understand who they are.
It is a truth that the way we feel about the way we look affects our self-confidence.
Our self-confidence affects our ability to influence others.
Our ability to influence others in our own favor affects our success.
This is true however we define success.
We are an interdependent species and a visual one.
The most important relationship is the one we have with ourselves.
If you are free of the concern about how you look, it doesn’t affect how you feel, it’s not a struggle and you’ve never had to work on it, you are one of a very fortunate and possibly enlightened few. Lucky you!
If you are dealing with this universal issue on a personal level, let’s do some work on it, increase your toolbox for better skincare & self-care so you can look and feel your very best.
A simple, powerful practice is Mirror Work. Every morning, look at yourself in the mirror and say "Hello, Beautiful. I Love you very much. I accept you and love you, totally and completely."
This may feel odd at first. You may cringe and want to resist.
However, it gets easier. And a funny thing will happen – you'll begin to look better to your own eyes, which is a beautiful thing.