How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love my Face: thoughts on beauty and the modern woman.
As a child, I was enamored with my own beauty.
I’m compelled to describe myself in an early diary entry as having “long, wavy, golden hair and big, beautiful blue eyes.” My faith in my wonderful good looks was palatable, and I took delight in dressing in bright, showy colors, unafraid to stand out, peacock-like, from the crowd. Which is why it was so odd to find myself in my late 20s convinced of my own Quasimodo-esque ugliness. The mirror was a horrorshow, reflecting back nothing golden or beautiful. I saw thin lips, a witches’ chin and dark circles on par with two black eyes. Despite having a boisterous group of friends, promising career, and exciting life in New York, love eluded me, and the reason (I was sure) was my own physical failings.
This inspired me to start thinking on beauty. How does a modern feminist reconcile her own empowerment with very real feelings of physical inadequacy?
It was this question that led me to write my first adult fiction novel, THE REGULARS. Set in my home of Brooklyn, the story is about a mysteriously magic serum that turns the user into an ideal physical form, for one week at a time. As my main characters struggled, and eventually reconciled, with questions about their own appearance, I was forced to reconcile them for myself. Without realizing it, I set myself some ground rules—maybe some of them will work for you, too.
- Have a joyous relationship with make-up. I decided I would not wear make-up to cover up “flaws” or because some unspoken rule told me I had to. I would wear make-up when I was going to something that I was excited and happy to be at. Make up became part of the celebration. Instead of armor, make-up was more like fancy dress.
- Often when we talk about beauty, we are really talking about self-esteem. Aiming to be beautiful is not as beneficial an investment as aiming to be happy. We feel beautiful when we are around people who make us feel happy. If you don’t feel beautiful, it’s time to work on your self esteem.
- Laughter is more important than lipstick. Finding a nice shade of lipstick is great, but having a big ache-inducing laugh with someone is so much better. You’ll treasure photos of you laughing more than ones where you’re smiling like a robot.
- Choose who you see in the mirror. In my lowest points, what I saw in the mirror was pale skin and frown lines. Try seeing the person your friends and family see. I try to see the face of a woman who is healthy, and funny, and well-loved. I try to see someone who has worked hard for success that is meaningful to me.
- Understand the relationship between capitalism and beauty. We live in society that actively creates insecurities in order to sell us things for us to feel better. Know that beauty is not as important as the space it takes up. That’s just how much money it can potentially make for people. Paradoxically, the beauty that is promoted is unachievable, creating a cycle of consumption.
- Don’t think about your face too much. This was a big one for me. It’s not easy, but really, the secret to worrying less about your looks is thinking about them less. Take some of your mirrors down, buy less make-up and spend less time shopping for it. Focus on other things.
Do these ideas sound like they might work for you? What other ways have you learned to love your face? Let me know on Twitter at @georgialouclark. You can also find me on Instagram (@georgialouclark) or Facebook.