Posts Tagged: beauty

You Have a Body

you have a body

Nowadays, when I sit down to write about body image I hear a cacophony of passionate and conflicted voices in my head. This is because I read articles on the topic nearly every day, and the current rhetoric is extremely polarized.

Some feel that how you look should hold absolutely no value, create neither advantages nor disadvantages, be utterly irrelevant. Although I find this viewpoint a bit extreme, I understand its roots. Right now, today, in Western culture women are constantly objectified through movies and TV, advertising, casual behaviors like catcalling, video games, music videos, the list goes on. Every article about a woman politician or CEO begins with a description of how she looks and what she’s wearing, a practice never used when writing about men in power. Women are taught that how we look is of tremendous importance. In fact, many of us may harbor the belief that conforming to the current beauty ideal isn’t just a goal, but a requirement for successful living. There is SO much emphasis on how we look that it can feel like the only way to turn the tide is to force a communal stripping-away of bodily, visual, style-related importance and value. Swing the pendulum as far to the other side as possible and trust that balance will come about in time.

Some feel that reaching a place of body neutrality or body love is a worthy goal, and one that can help you reach other, unrelated goals by creating a platform of positivity in your life. The number of strong, pervasive forces and industries that thrive on the collective body hatred of women is staggering: Cosmetics, shape wear, plastic surgery, diets, exercise programs, gyms, health and fashion magazines, personal trainers, hair dye, anti-aging products, this list goes on, too. A simple way to push back against these forces – one person at a time – is to encourage body love and to help women see their own unique beauty. This also makes sense to me, as you might have guessed. I believe that individual empowerment is a slow but vital way to create social change. And honestly? As a woman who has felt awful about her body for decades, I just want more women to feel less awful about their bodies. Period.

Some feel that the body positive movement was created with good intentions, but in the end, just reinforces the idea that how women look is of the utmost importance. Some feel that being told to “love your body” is an oppressive mandate that creates undue and unproductive pressure. Some have pointed out that the movement can be extremely exclusive of marginalized groups, failing to consider multiple viewpoints and leaving people out in the cold who could really use support. And that discussions of figure shape, figure-flattery, and clothing choices do far more harm than good. It pains me to read these opinions, but I can’t deny their underlying truths.

I consider myself to be pragmatic, a problem-solver, and an optimist. And when those traits and this body of rhetoric collided, this is what emerged from my addled brain:

You have a body. You may not like it, you may not want it to matter, you may want to distance yourself from it in every possible way, but you cannot deny that as a human being, you have a body. Without that body, other parts of your essential self that you might value and cherish – your kindness, intellect, achievements, creativity, passion, strength, power, insight, talent – would have no home, no base, no medium in which to grow and thrive. Without your body, your non-body identity couldn’t exist.

And since you have a body and as long you’re alive you will always have a body, creating a positive, supportive, nurturing relationship with that body is NOT a waste of your time and energy. Making decisions about how you want to dress or look puts you in touch with your body, teaches you about its shape, and can help you express some of your inner self to the outer world. Each person must approach this relationship in her own way and choose to filter out opinions and advice that feel inauthentic or corrosive. And that may mean avoiding style guidelines, limiting exposure to strongly worded writing about the importance of body love, a media fast. But although your looks should not and do not define your entire worth, you still have a body. And although the conflicting messages about the importance of physical beauty can be painful and confusing, you still have a body. And that body is not separate from your essential self. It is enmeshed with all aspects of your identity.

You have a body. You always will. So it certainly couldn’t hurt to make peace with it.

Images courtesy Eric Parker (left), Morgan (right)

This post first appeared on The Huffington Post.

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5 Great Beauty Products Under $5

beauty products under 5

Words fail to express my undying affection for places like Sephora. I like quality, I like investing in myself, I’m even the particular flavor of fool that will buy something for it’s packaging. I’m hardly practical when it comes to my shopping habits, spending my life on the lower part of the economic spectrum has made everything a novelty. Sometimes I will even purchase something because – not in spite of – its impracticality. If I’m being honest, at least a part of every paycheck is spent chasing the elusive specter of “luxury.” The heart wants what it wants. The wallet, however, may have other plans.

Much as we would love unlimited funds to splurge on the latest and greatest, it isn’t always possible. Life gets in the way when you’re busy making plans to buy the new Naked Palette. But fear not, friends! Your lack of funds hardly means you have to go empty handed. Some of the greatest products I’ve encountered were surprisingly affordable, and yet effective enough to keep in permanent rotation.

Let us gaze upon them together:

elf

elf Baked Highlighters: Perhaps you’ve heard about the “newest” trend called Strobing? It’s a fancy name for practically bathing in highlighter in place of contouring. I’ve been all about this life for many years now. It works just as well in winter as in summer, noticeable without being overbearing. While I’m a true believer in Nars Copacabana, I’ve fallen in love with the selection at elf. Actually, everything at elf is pretty top notch since they veer towards the shimmer at every opportunity (as do I). You can even use some of the baked eyeshadows as highlighters. Two for the price of…three bucks.

Freeman Feeling Beautiful: I’m big on masks. I’ve been known to frighten the Domino’s delivery guy with my vast array of face masks. No matter how much money I have to spend on something fancy, I am loathe to part with my Freedman masks. My skin is dry so my personal favorites are the Chamomile and Aloe Sleeping Mask, The Brightening Mask, and the Avocado and Oatmeal mask as a spot treatment, but friends who have tried the others had nothing but glowing reviews.

Sinful Colors Nail Polish: This drugstore staple has been with me since high school. They have a great variety of colors, and last longer than Essie or OPI.

NYC Eyelash Curler: Nothing works better for me than this eyelash curler. I’ve really tried to get rid of this one because well…it’s just not that pretty. It’s an eyesore in my bag and I get sick of looking at it. But damn it, the thing works. I think it has something to do with the spring because it curls my lashes much more forcefully than anything else and they don’t fall down again the rest of the day. I don’t know how to quit you.

Wet N’ Wild Fergie Velvet Matte Lip Color: I may have to forgive Fergie for the atrocious ear-worm that was “Let’s Get It Started,” because this make up line is super. I love a good balm/stain and these rival the Nars offerings in opacity and color selection. Not sticky, not drying, what’s not to love?

Treat yourself. And email me with any beauty questions.

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Kristine Rose is a make-up artist, esthetician, and writer. She strongly believes in each individual’s right to express themselves through style, make up, and body modification (or lack thereof). Beauty writing is her one true passion and she intends to revel in it until her untimely death, crushed under the weight of her own jewelry. Follow her on Instagram: @swansaredead and @_partoftheproblem_.

**Disclosure: Actions you take from the hyperlinks within this blog post may yield commissions for alreadypretty.com. See Already Pretty’s disclosure statement for more details.

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The Photographed Body

Hi all – comments shouldn’t have been closed on this post. Re-posting so they’re open. Apologies – still no idea why this randomly happens sometimes …

woman and camera

A few months back, reader K emailed me about posing for photos. She told me that overall, she really loved her body, loved how it looked, and felt confident that it was lovely and strong. But whenever she saw still photos of herself, everything shifted.

I would wager that within the past few years, I’ve been very displeased with about 75% of pictures taken of me. I’ll see the pictures and immediately think, ugh my shoulders look huge, my breasts are too big for my body, my stomach pooches out in an unsightly manner, my arms look doughy and huge, and my thighs look massive. Then, after I see said unflattering pictures, my body confidence takes a huge hit. I’ll wonder, what is the real me that people see? Is it the one who I love to see in the mirror every day?

I’ve written about what it means to be photogenic before, and I feel compelled to lift this marvelous lyric from that post.

“It took me too long to realize that I don’t take good pictures ’cause I have the kind of beauty that moves.”
~ Ani DiFranco, “Evolve”

The first time I heard this phrase, I nearly fell over. It had literally never occurred to me that someone who appeared beautiful in person could look odd in photos, all photos, and that this disconnect could come down to the difference between still beauty and beauty in motion. But it made so much sense. In some cases, what makes us unique and lovely is specific to the nuances of live action. When we’re frozen in time, we just don’t look the same.

But beyond that, I think there is an element of cultural expectation and manipulation at play here. We see photos of people every day. And the VAST majority of those photos have been digitally manipulated in some way. Ridiculously Photoshopped magazine and ad photos may come immediately to mind, but consider the number of “beautification” apps available that can change the shapes, tones, and colors in our simple phone selfies. Truly candid, unretouched, unfiltered photos are relatively rare. And though many of us post images to social media, the ones that include our own images are meticulously selected to show our bodies and faces at their best. At our best.

There are ways to position yourself so you look slimmer in photos – turning your face slightly instead of looking straight into the lens, shifting your body so you’re seen slightly from the side instead of dead-on, good posture, rolled-back shoulders, and more – but if you try these and still loathe the results? There may be something deeper going on. You may be expecting to see a still image that mirrors the photos of digitally perfected women you see all around you. You may have the kind of beauty that moves. Or you may have some buried body image concern or issue that only ever surfaces when you see yourself in photographs.

In the first case, spending some time with old photo albums might be helpful. Immerse yourself in images that are truly candid, truly unretouched, and remind yourself that people can look wacky and soft and ordinary and disproportionate in still photos, and that is completely fine. Photos that include makeup and styling staff, professional lighting and photography, and post-production manipulation look amazing. Photos that were taken at the beach or while sledding or during a birthday party look amazing, too, but in a wholly different way.

In the second case, consider taking some short videos of yourself or asking for help creating some. Seeing yourself photographed but in motion may help things click into place. Some beauty moves. It might not make you feel any better when you get tagged on Facebook, but when someone whips out a camera you can breathe, manage your expectations, and remind yourself that still photos will never accurately represent the real you.

In the third case? Oh, I wish I had some actionable advice that would work for everyone, but I just don’t. I’ve watched as Vivienne McMaster has created and expanded her Be Your Own Beloved offerings, which focus on cultivating self-love through self-portraiture, and cruising through her blog may help shake some things loose. She also has workshops and e-courses that focus on body image and photography. But in some cases, unearthing what’s buried may be deeply personal.

One thing that may be helpful to anyone who dislikes her image in still photos? Remember that photos are not you. Just as your body is not all there is to your self, your image is not all there is to your body, your beauty, your identity. I know this can be tough to swallow since photos are how other people see us, in many cases. But you can’t control what others think of you, be it in person or through the lens. You can only control how you react. And reacting by remembering that your still image captures only a fragment of your unique beauty may help.

Our culture is obsessed with capturing moments on camera, but our lives are lived in motion. Two-dimensional versions will never compare to the living, breathing, thinking, feeling being that is you. Still photos of you are not you. Because more often than not, beauty moves.

Image courtesy Lauren Powell-Smothers

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