It took me a while to realize I was not a natural beauty.
The first inkling came when I was 11 years old. I figured out how to maneuver the mirrors in the bathroom to get a look at my profile. I was horrified. My nose had far too many bumps. My lips stuck out and a layer of fat marred my hopes of a chiseled sharp chin line.
What did I learn? Love the imperfections that make you, you. It’s not easy to do when you are an adolescent and you crave the perfection of the bodies and faces you see in fashion magazines.
If you want to know how to accept yourself no matter what you see in the mirror, here are a few suggestions.
I got the next dose of reality about my dearth of natural beauty when I turned 15 and started experimenting with make-up. It was unbelievable the wonders I could perform with foundation, mascara, eyeliner and blush. I was both utterly surprised and wildly excited to realize I had the capability to transform my face from “average” to “almost pretty” with a few products from the dime store.
The next shockeroo came one morning when I was 23 years old and rushing around my kitchen attending to my new baby. One of my husband’s best friends stopped by unexpectedly to pick up a book. When he rang the door, I saw unabashed confusion, and then horror, on his face.
“This is what you look like in the morning?” he screeched. “Boy, oh boy, oh boy!” he hooted. I looked at him with a sour look and directed him to where my husband was sitting, zoned out already with the TV – not exactly oozing natural beauty himself.
What did I learn? Yes. Make-up enhances. And I have the choice each day whether to put on “my face.” But most importantly, I chose someone to marry who prized me for more than just superficial beauty. Unlike his friend.
However, I continued to make the most of what I had – with a little help from Estee, Maybelline and MAC. I studied the models, the superstars, the singers and the actresses – willing my face and body to absorb some of their good looks. It never worked.
Oh, I did have some high moments. Four or five hours of looking tip-top – though never entirely natural. Four or five hours when my skin glowed, my hair shone and my hips were thin.
The next day, however, I was back to normal. My stomach was bloated. My cheek bones had disappeared again. I had a pimple on my chin. And my hair looked limp and greasy.
What did I learn? In my 20s and 30s, the only way I felt good about myself was when I had “that face” on. As I matured and acquired higher self-esteem, a core set of values and priorities, marketable life skills and a stronger sense of myself, I ventured out in public with or without make-up and still felt the same way about myself.
Now, as I soon turn 70, I take stock once again. When I run around the high school track, the construction workers that are building and hammering nearby don’t look. Nor does the bag boy at the grocery store where I shop. And if that’s not ego deflating enough, now I’m beginning to realize guys my own age (and older) are tuning me out too. The whole scene is depressing, if you ask me.
Most of the time, though I wallowed in mediocrity when it came to the looks department, I had youth on my side. No longer. Now, along with coloring the gray, painting the face and polishing the nails, I have a whole host of new problems to camouflage. Flabby upper arms. Sagging tush. Spider veins like roadmaps on my legs. Age spots. Drooping mouth syndrome. Yellowing teeth.
Do I do Botox to diminish laugh lines? Exercise incessantly in hopes of flat abs and a tight tush? Indulge in weekly facials to leave a healthy glow? Get injections to reduce neck fat? Do I buy cream guaranteed to smooth out upper arm wrinkling? Take the leap into plastic surgery?
And what am I learning? Whether I decide to enhance, improve, lift and smooth, I’m doing it to look better. Period. Looking good for your age, looking better for your age, even looking like a ravishing beauty for your age are nice perks.
But true and lasting happiness comes from my connection to community, a family that loves me despite my imperfections, a career that challenges me, friends who nurture me and a set of core beliefs that ground me. And, oh yeah, a bomb-ass sense of humor to cheer me up.
However, just once before I turn 70, I’d like to roll out of bed, throw on a pair of baggy sweats, leave my hair uncombed and my face without make-up. Just once, I’d like to then go out in public, walk down the grocery aisle completely unadorned and unencumbered and unmade up and stop traffic with my natural beauty. Dazzling every male I encounter. Just once before I turn 70.
Who am I kidding? I couldn’t have pulled it off when I was 16, much less 69. So, what else have I learned? Live fearlessly. Have fun. Preserve your bloom.
Do you like the way you look in the mirror? Over the years, how have you come to terms with your looks when pitted against society’s beauty ideals? What’s been instrumental in your life in propelling you toward self-acceptance and self-love? How do you preserve your bloom? Please join the conversation.