Honoring Your Beauty

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For many women, the first step in the journey toward positive body image is acknowledging their own beauty. Regardless of size, shape, skin type, hair color, age, height, or any other factors, every woman has beauty and recognizing that fact can transform appearance-related self-esteem issues. But if recognizing beauty is the first step, it’s a doozy; It can take a long time and loads of work to take that step.

Once it’s taken, though, the journey has just begun. And, in my opinion, a great way to keep moving forward is to find ways to honor beauty. Your beauty. Don’t just accept that it’s there, celebrate it, live it, make it integral to your sense of self. Sound daunting? It needn’t, since many of the most effective ways to honor your beauty are ones we talk about right here on a near-daily basis:

Dress joyously

Buying and wearing clothing is a decidedly social activity, but getting dressed can also be about celebrating your relationship with your body. Choosing clothing that reminds you of loved ones, wearing colors that make you smile, picking outfits that help you feel proud of your physical form all contribute to honoring your beauty. If you can find a way to dress joyously, you’ll be amazed by how much doing so will bolster your self-image.

Accept compliments

In a society that prefers its women uncertain, doubtful, and jealous it can feel positively bizarre to acknowledge the truth in a compliment. But depending on how you’re wired, learning to accept the gift of praise from others can help you learn to love and praise yourself. And, regardless, feeling grateful for and accepting compliments is a marvelous way to honor your beauty. It may feel awkward at first, but eventually it will feel utterly marvelous.

Care for your body

With careers, children, social lives, family obligations, hobbies, health issues, charity work, and countless other people and activities competing for our attention, our bodies often get neglected. We eat on the run, abandon exercise and meditation, ignore minor injuries or illnesses, and prioritize just about everything else above body care. Each body is unique, so each body’s definition of care will be unique. But each of us is familiar with that definition for ourselves, and each of us knows when we’ve been slacking off. Care for your body. It is yours to care for, and can only thrive under your ministrations. Your body is part of your beauty, and deserves honoring, too.

In my opinion, beauty is never solely physical. It is mental, philosophical, psychological, and utterly ephemeral. Beauty is more of a feeling than a trait, more of a compound than an element, more than just shiny hair or graceful limbs or striking features. But since the physical elements of beauty are the ones we typically doubt, question, and obsess over, finding ways to honor that beauty can help us to feel more holistically sound.

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  • It’s hard for me to honor my beauty, since I have major body image/looks issues. They’re all in my head I know but that makes them that much harder to deal with. I have a cousin who’s my age and we went to the same high school. She would get a LOT of attention from boys–they would be falling all over themselves to ask her out whereas I would be ignored. My mom always told me that I was the prettier of the two of us, but what I lacked was confidence. My cousin was self-assured and really believed that she was attractive. My mom was right, but now twenty years later, it’s still hard to find confidence.

    I do at least honor myself by taking care of my health–healthy is sexy–eating right, exercising, and dressing in clothes that make me feel pretty.

  • Yes yes yes!! Especially to dressing joyously. I always notice a significant difference in how I feel when I go from wearing pajamas around my house to putting a little extra effort into putting together an actual outfit and doing my hair. Huge confidence and mood booster!

  • I love the three points you’ve brought up: I totally agree that dressing joyously is so important, together with dressing to please yourself. I often feel a little sad when I hear colleagues at work saying to me that they’d “never wear such nice clothes to work” – why not? I work in an office so they won’t get spoiled, I have the luxury to wear what I like (within reason!) and I feel so much better getting dressed up every day and wearing bright colours and lovely jewellery. We should dress up at every opportunity I think.

    Plus I feel that acceptance of yourself is extremely important, though it shouldn’t be an excuse to give up on looking after yourself! I try to look after my health first and foremost with regular exercise and improving my diet – as soon as I made this change about three years ago I stopped being sick off work. And as I’ll be turning forty next year I also decided to accept ageing as a challenge, i.e. a bit of a competition with myself to see just how good I’m able to look (the whole of my blog in fact). We’re all individual and that’s what us all uniquely beautiful!!

    Catherine x
    http://www.notdressedaslamb.com

    P.S. Maybe my colleagues were right… I’ve just noticed I spilled soup all down my wool trousers during my lunch hour… 😉

  • Angela

    Great post. I feel I have changed since reading blogs. I think I dress with more joy and pay a little attention to my clothes on my work from home days…it does make me feel better

    I do try a little exercise a couple times a week, not as much as I would like (full time job, 2 kids, etc) but I notice when I skip it, I feel crummy

    It is about confidence, no one is perfect but a big smile and long stride tend to fool others, if you are not up to it that day 🙂

  • Thank you for this! The part about accepting compliments is especially helpful to me. Why do I play things off as “he has to say that” or “she’s just being nice”? Grrrr. Thanks for the reminder that I need to be nice to myself. Excellent post!

  • leah

    Those three points play a major part for me in honouring my own beauty, particularly the part about caring for your body. But for me, when I let my hair be it’s natural colour and skipping makeup really feels like I’m giving my body a chance to show it’s true loveliness. Like I’m celebrating myself and how beautiful I can be without trying to cover it up.

  • Cyndi

    I agree with Leah: “when I let my hair be it’s natural colour and skipping makeup really feels like I’m giving my body a chance to show it’s true loveliness.” When I began going gray, I tried plucking. When that was not enough (several years later), I tried dyeing. However, I am too cheap to pay the insane amounts hair dressers want to deal with my waist length hair, and doing the dye jobs myself got to be a pain after several years, especially as the gray roots got more prominent and so more frequent touch ups were needed… So, I stopped. Now, I celebrate the salt and pepper look and get more compliments on my hair than I have in memory. I am no longer trying to hide who I am and it feels liberating and that shows!

  • Great points, Sal! I am so on board with those – it took me a long time to feel that beauty and I were even associated. I am fully connected now and am working on friends, coworkers and acquaintances to help them see the beauty in themselves. It’s hugely fulfilling.

  • I was talking about this with my roommate last night, actually. How dressing joyously improves your day (well, specifically, I was mentioning how yesterday, GalaDarling wrote about the importance of owning an ugly sweater during the doldrums of winter, and how in yesterday’s outfit I was wearing a sweater that I would NEVER pick out for myself, but whenever I wear it, I always think of how my mom told me that the sweater is a hug from her and my dad – I feel phenomenal every time I wear it, even if it isn’t the most flattering garment I own).

    Then, we were talking about compliments and accepting them, but also delivering them authentically. I’m better at accepting compliments now that I deliver compliments authentically. It helps me to believe that the people who are complimenting me are telling me the truth, because when I deliver a compliment, I’m telling the truth.

    And we even touched upon self-care. My self-care is one of the most important things in my life. I put my health and happiness above pretty much everything else out there. Obviously, I care for others, and caring for others is a kind of self-care for me, as I feel good after helping people out.

    I really appreciate this post, Sal. It’s something that has been on my mind quite a bit lately. You’re wonderful.

  • Thanks so much Sally!
    As a girl (of 47-lol) I still have a tough time finding my beauty. it’s funny how other’s can tell you again and again, but it truly HAS to come from within. I just read another favorite blog regarding ‘ageism’ and how the ‘other’s’ seem to tell us how we should look AND how we should feel about it as well !!!!
    I am off to a Blogger Event tonight and have fretted all week about what ‘they’ might think of me, when really the truth is, I am not sure what I think of myself !!!
    I suppose the buck stops with me 😉
    Thanks,
    Reva

  • Exercising. I don’t know if it’s honoring beauty, but it’s so essential to who I am and makes me feel so good, strong, happy and fit that I feel like it’s the foundation for everything else. I feel a sense of accomplishment after a good workout and it makes me think of my body in a different way. Not how it looks, but what it’s capable of.

    Maybe a little bit off topic, but have you come across this blog before:
    http://advancedstyle.blogspot.com/

    Amazing! I am SO inspired by those women. Beautiful and radiant at ANY age! 🙂

    Jessica

  • em

    “In a society that prefers its women uncertain, doubtful, and jealous…”

    This is just a sincere, thoughtful comment and you can puslish or not as you wish…

    This quote above is an example to me of what has confused and unsettled me about your blog. Here is another of your lovely, helpful, well intentioned articles – with a comment that reveals this strange, negative attitude that seems to underlie and, to me, often negate the positive things you do attempt. An article about loving and honoring ourselves and nurturing all this positive WITHIN ourselves – while still this belief that the world is such an ugly place, that there is this miserable fight going on against us?

    My life experience has been very different than yours, Sally. I can’t relate to many of the things you write about at all. But I love some of your fashions, and I have found your story as unfolded in this blog to be interesting. I know everyone is a work in progress, and we all have blind spots. I know also how well two people can hold different views sincerely and, while respecting each other, never come to a point of agreement.

    I think until an actual internal state of peaceful joy can arise, which you seem to lack and assume is not even present in the world itself, the efforts of a woman in self acceptance and delight related to her appearance are never going to be fruitful. If I believed that quoted statement of yours above, or other such negative things about society and feminism as you (and others) have written, I can’t imagine how I could ever be truly loving myself or loving anyone else, truly enjoying all the things of beauty and fashion as I do, having peace in my own total existence, and so on. Those negative beliefs are rubbish. They needn’t be accepted and they needn’t be anyone’s reality.

    It may be that we are too far apart on this to understand each other.
    Best wishes to you all the same!

    • Sal

      Em, it’s fascinating to me to hear that you think of me as being lacking in joy and as someone who views the world as a negative place. I can honestly say that no one has ever said that to me, and that most people are more inclined to describe me as overly positive and optimistic. Annoyingly so, even.

      If your experience of the world has led you to believe that society at large does nothing but support, praise, and empower its women, you are lucky indeed. I would respectfully suggest that you NOT declare the belief that women must work hard against powerful social forces to be “rubbish,” since it is a view that I and many others share. Believing that one must be full of joy and see the world as a place full of joy is one route, but it is not the only route. Plenty of great works of positivity have been done while acknowledging the forces moving against them.

      As for your comments on me as a person, I cannot be sincerely positive and joyous about everything in life. It’s simply not possible because of who I am, how I’m wired, and what I’ve experienced. But to say that acknowledging the challenges that face women working to improve their body image diminishes my message? I disagree. I believe in the power of optimism and positivity, but I don’t believe that denying the existence of negativity is wise or necessary. Furthermore, if I actually believed the world to be a hopelessly awful place – as you seem to think I do – I wouldn’t waste my energy trying to make it better. What on earth would be the point of that?

      • em

        I know! And I can understand actually all that you say, while being in my own world and experience where things are quite different!

        I see what seems to me an undercurrent of depression in much of what you write. I do understand that not all social energies are positive and helpful, but disagree that women need even be in a place where these things touch us at all. I think that itself is a fundamental deception, and releasing it is where freedom and happiness lie. No mentality of struggle or fighting, just release. Nonparticipation. Joy. A vision that the root of this issue is within the SELF, not some external attacking society that supposedly likes to see women miserable, is where I see empowerment.

        What is it providing you, to believe that society actually prefers women to be uncertain, doubtful, and jealous?

        It is subjective and opinion, may reflect a flavor or interpretation of personal experiences, but is not itself A truth. It need not be believed. What is the attachment to the ideology of victimhood or struggle on this specific matter?

        • Sal

          I appreciate your viewpoint, Em, but just don’t think we’re going to see eye to eye. I don’t view my beliefs as subscriptions to victimhood, and do my utmost to broadcast positivity here every day. And while I believe that an enormous amount of positive change can come from within, it doesn’t work for me to think that nonparticipation is the best way to deal with social injustice.

  • Marsha Calhoun

    Huh – I guess I have to agree with Jessica, since exercising is just about the only thing I do regularly that I am convinced has a beneficial effect on my health, and therefore on my beauty (such as it is, whatever it is). Very thought-provoking post. Today I am honoring my beauty much as Leah and Cyndi suggest (though I did have a concern that I’ll have to break out the hair dye soon) – I’m wearing completely comfortable, quite baggy and fairly unflattering jeans, a shirt (just a tiny hole in the back; I don’t think it shows), a fleece vest originally belonging to my husband’s late wife, very unattractive but adequately comfortable black lace-up walking shoes, and an ugly black windbreaker to deal with the fluctuating temperatures. I combed my hair, brushed my teeth, washed my face, and put on a bit of makeup to the point where I felt reasonably cheerful, and off I went on a 45-minute brisk walk, before going shopping for tonight’s dinner. I feel just fine. I have no idea if I would feel as good on another day if I looked as I do now, but for now, I’m okay with myself, and that’s my best way of honoring my own beauty.

  • Su

    You always help me, and almost magically post things at just the right time. I’m having to adjust my body image due to breast surgery, and it’s a rough one, but gradually, I’m being less judgemental about absolute symmetry, and more loving about it still BEING there, and healthy once again.

    You always remind me how much more there is to real beauty! Thank you!

  • Grace

    I smile as big as I can. I wear boots because I love how they feel and make me feel. I wear a lot of teals and turquoises because I love how my eyes look when I wear those colors. And I try not to get too wrapped up in how I look, really. 🙂

  • Jess S

    Wow! I stumbled onto your blog from the academichic blog and couldn’t be more thrilled … I’m reading your post just as I made a commitment to myself in the past couple of days to wear my more flattering clothes – rather than the gym gear I typically wear as a grad student. The timing is magnificently serendipitous! Thanks for these very wonderful thoughts, for posting them, for helping us to uncover and honor the beautiful parts of ourselves. Hugs to you!

  • This is a fabulous post, Sal, and a timely reminder of what ought to be a higher priority. The word beauty has been so misappropriated over the years and come to be synonymous with frivolity and vacuousness. Such a shame — those narrow interpretations miss the essence of, well, most things. 🙂 Honouring someone’s beauty need not even be an aesthetic process. Uninhibited dancing, academic study, evocative singing…all these things could be seen as honouring beauty by accepting and embracing an outlet that allows it to shine. In my case, I had to overcome the seeming contradiction of a blind person being passionate about fashion and style in order to honour my own beauty, something I haven’t always done successfully. Overcoming that dissonance has made a massive difference to my confidence, and therefore to my life.

  • A friend of mine once said “To try to look like someone else is a waste of your own beauty.” I’ve taken that to heart, and it all came together when I decided to expand my definition of beauty beyond society’s standards. My big hips and legs are beautiful. My round face is beautiful. My quirks, my (endearing) awkwardness, and my unique body is beautiful. No one can prove otherwise.

    • Sal

      McKella, I LOVE that.