The importance of spending time with yourself, especially your own body, is a familiar subject on HerAfter. It’s because I believe that spending time with your own body – soaking in the bath, laying in bed in the afternoon sun, or even just a long walk barefoot – all these acts are really conversations with your body.
Our heart and our body can interact with each other, not with words (that’s how the mind converses) but with sensations. Sometimes it’s the feeling of the cold grass on your toes or the warm sun on your face, but those sensations send a message to the heart. They remind the heart of all that your body and heart have shared; joy, bliss, lust, forgiveness. They reconnect the two in a magical way. And only when they are reconnected can they work together again.
A heart and body connected can remind you how beautiful and strong you are. Think of it this way: the body can make you feel physically uncomfortable when your heart feels your in the wrong place at the wrong time. Like signals working in unison, the heart, mind and body work together to guide you. A heart and mind connected can also build confidence, release sensuality, can accept and give physical love. It’s truly a remarkable thing.
So when beauty magazines and websites instruct us to change this, alter that, do this, dye that, we know that such advice isn’t going to help us connect to ourselves. It’s only going to help us mimic someone else. Rather than being our personal best, we’re attempting to alter ourselves to fit someone else’s mold. So you end up with a mind saying “Body and face, you need to be like her!” And your body saying in return “But mind, I’m not that! I’m just me!” In a sense, it’s like attempting to connect your heart to someone else’s physical body. It’s an act of self-sabotage, and such efforts will surely never bring you peace, and never connect you to your self.
Embracing and appreciating your body from a place within your heart is, in my opinion, the only way to feel truly beautiful. This doesn’t mean, however, that enjoying a little pampering is a bad thing. Enhancing your own individual beauty can go along way to building self-esteem. But there’s a crucial difference between looking beautiful and feeling beautiful. The difference between looking and feeling beautiful is that looking beautiful is a standard based on everyone else’s reaction to you. Feeling beautiful is a standard within yourself. It’s a benchmark of self appreciation you must define, and lift yourself up to. It has absolutely nothing to do with changing any part of yourself. It’s about realizing and appreciating what you already are.
You can measure this difference by the compliment. If someone tells you “you look beautiful”, all you can say is “thank you.” You feel flattered, maybe you blush. Then you move on.
But if you tell the world “I feel beautiful!” then all the world can say “thank you”! Because that beautiful woman, relying on herself to appreciate her beauty, that woman is giving, not needing. She’s giving herself love, and giving the world joy, light, confidence, and self-assurance that will help her make this dark, ugly world a much better place, simply with the way she treats herself. As we talked about in this article, only when you give yourself love first can you ever give to anyone else.
Alright, alright, alright. Enough new-age talk about it, how does this relate to every normal girl out there still wanting to look and feel beautiful? There is no shame in that. There is no shame in wanting to understand your feminine side, and to capitalize on it. There is no shame in wanting to be your best physical self as long as that coincides directly (inextricably) with your best emotional self – a self that is whole, complete, and at peace.
- Treat beauty as a project from the inside out.
Because your body is a project from the inside out. What you put in measures what you put out. So drink water, eat well, soak it and soothe it and get it a massage every once in a while. Stress should absolutely be a measure of both mental health and beauty. See these physical affects of stress on the body, from ulcers to decreased libido, and you’ll understand why stress absolutely affects your beauty! And this includes what you messages you put in your body too, which leads to our next element…
- If you have nothing kind to say…
A negative inner monologue doesn’t make your blemishes to go away. It doesn’t encourage you to work out harder at the gym. It doesn’t make your teeth whiter or your eyebrows fuller. It just makes you feel worse about yourself. And just like those physical affects of stress, talking about yourself negatively can have a negative physical reaction like bad posture. Like your mother taught you, if you have nothing nice to say, say nothing at all until you can train yourself for personal praise.
On an additional note, if conversations with your friends typically resort to personal destruction (“ugh, I’m so fat” types of comments) read this article on the role your friendships have to play in your success.
- Be kind, not cruel to your body
Oh the lengths women will go to, just to be ‘pretty’. You know that tanning beds cause cancer. But did you know that waist training forces all your organs to smash together in dangerous, damage-causing ways? If you’re addicted to any kind of treatment with life-long risks and health hazards attached, it’s time to stop. You cannot feel beautiful and risk your own wellness at the same time, because feeling beautiful is an act of worship to yourself, and risking is an act of self destruction.
- Refuse to be a cog in the cycle
Do not base your beauty standards on anything that reinforces a culture of not-good-enough. If what you read is about how you need to do this, try that, wear this, look like that, change your hair/eyes/shoes, and very little of it is about embracing what you already are and have, then clean out your news feed.
Beauty can be defined in so many ways. Smart women are beautiful. Confident women are beautiful. Creative women are beautiful. Curvy women are beautiful It’s not just about having a Kardashian butt and Chrissy Teigan hair (who, by the way, credits her hair stylist and extensions for those locks, not nature).
So take beauty beyond the mirror. What makes you beautiful? Start with what beauty you see in the world, let it spark your curiosity, and find ways to bring it into your consciousness. That means reading novels about confident women, or listening to music from around the world, or praying, or dancing, or making clay pots. Frida Khalo made a unibrow beautiful. Whatever it is that lights a fire inside you, whatever helps you see beauty in the world and know you’re contributing to it or celebrating it, let that light thrive within you and shine outward. Forget illuminators, that’s how you get a real glow.
For more on shining out from within, read this article.
It’s of the utmost importance that you play quality-control on what you let into your mind. This is because how you feed your mind affects the health and well-being of your heart and soul. So if you’re filling your mind with messages of meeting a non-existent, pop-culture version of physical beauty, you’re not only missing all the dimensions of beauty that exist, but also ensuring you feel terrible about yourself. Require that what you take into your mind betters you either by educating or inspiring or both simultaneously, and this single vow will absolutely change your life.
The Whole-istic Approach
Here are a few of my favorite sources of inspiration for seeing beauty in the world, for finding inspiration to see myself as beautiful, and for general joy and encouragement:
Gwyneth Paltrow’s GOOP
If you can get past the pretentious clothing for sale, there are some serious mind-body-connection articles on the site, like this one about How Women Undermine Themselves with Words.
I’m not shy about my devotion to this show. Why? Because a woman who spent her life interviewing and showcasing the world’s leaders and game-changers is now embracing her spiritual side to answer the questions we all have, and showcase the beauty of life itself. It’s incredible.
Instagram and Youtube
Yes, NikkieTutorials is a youtube makeup how-to video maker. But not only does she teach you how to highlight and contour, she’s also hilarious. She’s herself. And it makes you feel good about playing with makeup because she enjoys what she’s doing so much. She treats it like a fun, artistic way to create a world she wants to see. Enthusiasm is key.
On Instagram, I am a huge proponent of following male makeup artists who transform themselves into different celebrities and looks. Not only does it challenge our seriously false standards of beauty, but enlivens the conversation on gender and identity at the same time. That, and they are much better at makeup than me, so I’m learning tricks in the process. A huge and heartfelt kudos to these gentleman chosen by All Women Stalk as the ‘best to follow’.
Put back the YOU in DIY
Skip the spa bill, and spend some time alone. Not only is it cheaper (hallelujah!) but it gives you the opportunity to rely on yourself, and it requires that you make time for yourself. The kids, the boyfriend, the girls will be fine for a night while you take time for a face mask and an at-home pedicure. And you’ll feel better every time you look at those nails and realize you’re the type of girl who makes herself a priority, and who takes care of herself.
The point is your time is yours alone, and you have every right to spend some of it on yourself, doing things that make you feel loved and cherished, especially by you. Read this article on the importance of spending time alone pampering yourself, and the difference between beauty and vanity.