Realizing My Beauty
There is a very good reason why my blog and business are called Realize Beauty and it is that despite the progress that western society has been made in terms of its acceptance (and in some cases celebration) of racial, gender and religious freedom we are still being pushed one vision of feminine beauty. I am not a fan of that vision even though, as a member of the cosmetics industry it could be argued that I am (by default) part of the problem.
And this one-dimensional vision doesn’t just cover what you see, it permeates through to the very essence of who we are and I really don’t like where that is heading.
Let me explain.
You know the drill:
- Feet – Pedicured and smooth
- Legs – The longer the better
- Between the legs – Landscaped.
- Waist and hips – Waspish or boyish (depending on the trend. As if you can do that…..)
- Boobs – Yes please. Preferably pert and available.
- Skin – Flawless (which means poreless, colourless, hairless (practically everywhere except eyebrows – no eyebrows is tres weird apparently) and expressionless (thanks botox)
- Lips – Kissable (as if that’s all that matters)
- Eyes – Seductive (again, please……)
- Hair – on trend (dyed, preened, primped, teased, up-do’ed, down do-ed, shiny, silky etc. Anything BUT grey – unless you died it grey of course).
Looking at that tick list of ‘to be a perfect girl’ I feel sick, mostly because it is doing just that, describing an idealised girl of maybe 16-18 years of age. Innocent, playful, physically at her attractive peak, alluring, sexy, naive, unquestioning, shallow.
It would be bad enough if it were just 16-18 year old girls who were trying to live up to this ideal with the benefits of youth, coming-of-age excitement and the free time that’s on their hands but this is a one-size-fits-all vision of mainstream beauty that turns many a grown woman into a self-conscious, doubting and self-loathing shadows of their true selves. Slaves to a routine that keeps them clinging onto that delicate fringe of self acceptance, a self-acceptance that is centred on one thing only and that’s a one-dimensional sex-appeal.
I think it looses some of its allure when put like that.
The over-sexualisation of beauty is, in my opinion a sell-out and a con. Us 35-50 year old mammas with children in their teens are now told that we should aspire to be ‘MILFS’ (mothers I’d like to procreate with) while our new mamma bears are bullied into feeling that if they are not a ‘yummy mummy’ they are somehow either putting their offspring at a disadvantage or are ‘letting themselves go’.
Rather than encouraging us to grow into and explore the long and winding journey of feminine beauty naturally it keeps our minds hanging in a state of suspended animation while our bodies place faith in the products and procedures designed to ‘fight back the visual signs of ageing’ and erase all signs of our procreation – the inconvenient truths that threaten to burst our proverbial bubble.
I feel that is such a shame, no so much what we do physically but why we choose that course of action.
Personally I see myself as the cosmetic industry wallflower in terms of all this. I sit and observe, I am at the party but apart from it at the same time. Accepted because I have a ‘certain something’ to offer, because while I clearly don’t subscribe to the ‘one-beauty-fits-all’ philosophy I appreciate and understand where it is coming from, I’m present but not part of the mainstream. A solution provider but also a questioner.
My journey to realising my own beauty has been evolving slowly over time until now, at the age of nearly 40 I am truly happy in this skin (and hair). I have grappled on many a social occasion with my looks thanks to the situations my job puts me into I prefer Birkenstocks to high heels (although I do have a few pairs of heels now, just for special occasions), have the tendency to either forget to comb my hair or to absent-mindedly tie it back without looking in the mirror, I have no idea how to apply make-up that isn’t foundation and dress for comfort and practicality rather than sex appeal. I often describe my look as ‘mountain mother chic’ as while I do try to look ironed and coordinated it is easy to tell that I’m not from the city and that I am probably not prioritising my eyebrow wax. I take delight in that fact but have found it makes me stand out when I go to events that involve PR companies, the media, networking or meeting other business owners and that used to make me feel a little awkward.
The awkwardness I used to feel centred on a feeling that these people might think I was a bit sloppy and un-professional (not quite as neat and groomed as these guys so maybe her work matches) and for a time I tried harder to fit in. But then I noticed that the customers that I was attracting were a poor fit for my business, that the work I was doing wasn’t flowing as well, wasn’t as creative, was holding something back. I soon reverted back to my original style albeit a more confident, centred and polished incarnation (looks do matter to a point).
I had learned a very important lesson in being true to yourself. In being the best YOU you can be rather than letting go of that thing that gave you your spark and giving in to the gravitational pull of the beauty crowed. And while I have always realised that looks do matter (first impressions etc) I started to really understand what ‘owning’ your look really meant.
I have been evolving that thought and observing the acts that follow over the past year and will continue to do so as I complete my journey towards the big four-o – a milestone that I am more than happy (and ready) to be heading towards because despite (or in spite) of the wrinkles that are appearing, the grey hairs that poke stubbenly out from my crown and the sun damage marks on my neck I feel more alive, more real, more beautiful than ever. Why? Because I know who I am and am excited about who I am becoming. I am excited by what is to come and grateful for what has gone before.
I called my blog and business ‘Realize Beauty’ before I’d reached this level of personal realisation and acceptance and as such the name became as much a personal mission for me as it was a direction for my business.
So what about the business direction?
In a business sense Realize Beauty encourages brand owners, beauty industry professionals and interested members of the public to delve deeper, to search for their story, their unique journey or plan and follow that, to question the status-quo, to grow from the roots up, to realise their potential.
We have been doing that for six years now and from where I am sitting the next six years look like being even more beautiful.
PS: If you are interested in beauty and body image you may find my book Amongst Sisters worth a look. This coffee table book pulls together a series of short stories, essays and poems that outline the journey of the feminine.