Posts Tagged: beauty

The Mirror

mirrors self image body image

I have a rather unhealthy relationship with mirrors. OK, having written that I now wonder if anyone goes around bragging about her super healthy, totally functional, fuzzy-wuzzy relationship with reflective surfaces. Doesn’t seem terribly likely. Nevertheless, I’ve realized that I can gauge how I’m feeling about my body through frequency of mirror use. And I’m wondering if my habits will sound familiar to any of you.

When I’m feeling deeply upset about or disappointed in my body, I avoid mirrors altogether. The negativity whirrs softly in the background of my daily activities, and confronting my own reflection just confirms my belief that my physical self is in desperate need of improvement. Unless I absolutely have to use a mirror – for a task like applying makeup or making sure my outfit proportions are acceptable – I just don’t look. The mirror becomes my bitter enemy.

When I’m feeling confident and fantastic about my body, I don’t completely shun mirrors but I also don’t spend ages studying myself in them. I don’t need to make sure I look a certain way or confirm my beauty, and even when I’m feeling my absolute best I can’t say I do loads of preening. I don’t actively look away from mirrors during these times, but I don’t actively seek them either.

When I’m feeling unsure about my body, now that’s when I use mirrors the most. My weight, hair, and skin fluctuate regularly, and when they’re in some sort of transition, I feel compelled to check on them regularly out of curiosity. And sometimes dismay. I want the mirror to show me these strange, appearance-altering shifts, and I want to meticulously track their progress.

Articulating these patterns makes me realize that the mirror doesn’t just reflect back an image of my physical self, it gives me a snapshot of my emotional state. I cannot remember a single time when I was dwelling in the depths of the body blues and a glimpse in the mirror made me feel better. Nor can I recall a time when I was riding high on my own power and joy and then brought low by my own reflection. The mirror shows me exactly what I want and expect to see, be it bad, good, or neutral. It’s revealing very little that I don’t already know.

Other things mirrors fail to show? How other people see me. Whenever people tell me I look like X celebrity or point out a person on the street that could be my twin, I’m always thunderstruck. When I ask my husband to describe me, he focuses on features and proportions I’ve never noticed. When I look in the mirror, I see only one person’s idea of how I look: My own. And I’m just the tiniest bit biased.

Mirrors also fail to show my accomplishments, how much I’m loved, my capacity for kindness, my intelligence. Mirrors will never reflect back my goals, my strengths, my talents, or my passions. Mirrors can never capture the depth and breadth of my relationships, my untapped potential, or the vast and precious reservoir of my memories. I may look in a mirror to see myself, but how much of myself is truly shown? How much can a mirror reveal, how much does it merely reflect, and how much does it miss entirely?

Mirrors are tools and most of us must use them daily. But they should never be relied upon to measure beauty, power, or worth.

Image courtesy Rian Lemmer

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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_.

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