The day I started diving into the swimming pool – I’m talking full submersion with soaking hair and running mascara – was the day that changed everything. I love to swim and my favorite days are the ones where I’m outside with Adam and the kids and maybe a few friends until sunset – but so often, I’d let the desire to maintain my blowout and keep my makeup in check determine whether I’d fully swim or merely dog paddle around with my head above water. I mean, what if someone posted a photo?
My attitude changed when my mom sent me this article a few months ago, and it served as just the wake-up call I needed, reminding me that our culture’s obsession with outer perfection can really get in the way of living life to the fullest. As the author observes:
“As women, I think a lot of us are afraid of looking fat, gross, stupid — basically insert whatever negative adjective plays through your mind — and it actually stops us from having some of the best experiences in life.”
I had a choice: would I rather dive fully into life and soak up every beautiful minute with the people I love? Or would I choose outer appearance and the unattainable pursuit of perfection instead? YOLO, you guys! Hopefully you’re as convinced as I am that the former is the only way to go, but sometimes it’s easier said than done. Scroll on for 3 things that have helped me get my focus on outer beauty in check so I can really be my most beautiful self.
1 – Think about what you’d tell your best friend, sister, or daughter about her beauty. Then tell it to yourself.
What message would you send to the women in your life who you really care about? Would you want them to know beyond a shadow of a doubt how valuable they are? That when you see them, you see the beauty that glows from within? Would you want them to miss out on even a single moment of life because they didn’t like the way they look? Of course not, because that would be tragic.
Instead you’d want them to run on the beach and sing karaoke and dance their butt off at a concert — all those things you look back on as the most fun moments ever.
So, why would you deprive yourself of the same unfiltered joy? Sometimes I give myself the same pep talk I would give my 6-year-old daughter Phoebe, or my sister, Molly. “You’re good just the way you are. You don’t have to impress anyone. Your greatest value comes from within.”
Life is short and we’re each uniquely beautiful. If we can wake up each morning remembering to love ourselves and focus on cultivating our best inner selves, it’s a lot easier to not let our focus on outer appearance get totally out of whack.
2 – Realize where your true worth comes from.
Even though we may know in theory that our value isn’t found in our external appearance, how else can we explain the obsession some of us have with the way that we look – and the fear of stepping outside the door looking less than our best and exposing our unadorned selves to the world?
By allowing our self-worth to be tied up in our appearance, we’re missing out on how satisfying life can be when we truly love and accept ourselves.
True confidence can’t come from others’ validation, whether that’s verbal compliments or Instagram likes. Those sources of affirmation are like drinking from a cup that never truly quenches our thirst – they may make us feel better for a moment, but then the dissatisfaction kicks in, and we end up on the hamster wheel, chasing after something unattainable.
When our confidence is built on what really matters – qualities like our kindness, knowing our inner strength, the truly nourishing relationships in our lives – we’re free to stop looking for validation through other people’s eyes.
3 – Fully immerse yourself in the moment.
It’s hard to focus on my physical hang-ups when I’m gazing at a gorgeous sunset, deep in conversation with a friend, or cuddling my kids at bedtime. These are scenarios when we tend to fully engage with our senses, and since we humans are not actually great at focusing on multiple things at once, sometimes it’s a matter of shifting our focus to the experience that’s right in front of us. A few practices that help me live in the moment and feel more present: spending a few minutes meditating first thing in the morning (I like the Headspace app), putting my phone away when I want to be in the moment, and logging a short journal entry when I get in bed at night. It helps me reflect on the day and be just a little more mindful.
One final note – remember that most people are too busy dealing with their own struggles to be paying that much attention to what you look like, anyway.
Why not redirect some of that self-conscious energy into building them up with an affirming word or an uplifting smile?
I’ve discovered that when I remind myself to shift my focus onto others and show empathy, my own hang-ups tend to fade away.