Saturday, February 2, 2008

Beauty is as beauty does

Always be a first-rate version of yourself, not a second rate-version of somebody else.
-Judy Garland

Beauty is such an important discussion because of its ubiquitous and often negative nature. The messages that women receive from our culture about beauty are mixed, to say the least. And difficult to attain, to say the least. We do live in a society that glorifies youth, thinness and a certain cup size (perky too, please). Most women cannot attain these standards. I personally used to think it was a conspiracy to hold us down—if they (whoever “they” are) can keep us occupied with trying to meet these abnormal standards, then perhaps we might not be so focused say, on the glass ceiling, for instance.

We live in this culture, immersed like tea bags in steaming water, and we can’t help but absorb cultural standards of beauty. In my twenties,
and before, as much as I hated it, it ruled me. I was constantly on some diet, exercising like mad, trying to be as beautiful as I could be basically to enjoy the power and social blessing that it provides. It was hard. I smoked instead of eat…trying to fill the spaces missing, or the moments I was procrastinating. I would go in and out of balance, but, for the most, part I was inconsistent and erratic. My beauty was mostly superficial and only worked because I was young. (I am generalizing here because I did achieve some times of good balance and was extremely healthy, but this was less of the time.)

Now that I am in my thirties and have a daughter, my perspective has changed. Just watching my body go through the process of pregnancy and birth gives me a newfound respect for its function. I now realize my body is my ally, a friend to be respected and honored, not just drug along the road of life serving ME. We are partners. I also realize that life is long and consistent habits are what are important. What I do most of the time is what counts. And, most importantly, setting a good example for my daughter is paramount. Being married and loved unconditionally helps so much in all of this because the pressure of dating and other women can be fierce and you have to be stronger than those sometimes self-esteem beating times.

I think that beauty is being healthy and feeling comfortable in your skin, doing the best you can with what you’ve got at ANY AGE. I think that it is a personal issue, too. Everyone has a different idea of what is beautiful and everyone has a different idea of doing the best with what you’ve got. As long as you are doing your best to be your best, I think that is beautiful.

This is my personal take on what makes me feel beautiful. I feel beautiful when I have been active in my self-care, when I have been loving myself consistently and giving myself what I need to shine. Usually, if I am heavier, it is because I am avoiding something and nervously eating or drinking as a form of avoidance. If I am passionately involved in my life, I usually don’t these problems, I am too busy living. If I am taking diligent care of myself I am exercising every day. I am one of those very high-energy people who need to run HARD every day. It’s actually more for my mental peace than physical, really. It’s like rewinding my body and brain. And if I can’t run (like I hadn’t until lately because I was too heavy), I hike. I need to be outside, every day. And some yoga helps to soften and center me. I also need time alone daily, to reflect. Writing helps with this--a rewinding of my brain as well.

These things I try to do regularly, and they make me feel beautiful when I do. Practicing regular self-care, whatever that is to you, creates a lifetime of beauty, a lifetime of radiance. I think that when you practice regular self-care, you are essentially creating a space for your spirit to reside; you are inviting your spirit to participate in your life. Spirit, I am convinced, is a great lover of beauty, of the FEELING of beauty consistent self-care engenders, that joy being the best you can be provides. Soulless beauty is empty, I know there have been times in my life when I was not taking care of myself and, as a result, my spirit left until I could provide a home for it again. Beauty has so much more to do with than just beauty.

I think that it is our duty to be the best we can and support one another in our goals and in our acceptance of ourselves. To seek role models like ourselves. My personal role model is Kate Hudson. Perhaps it is not that strong of me, but she really helped me finally see that you can be small chested and still very sexy. She reminds me of me and inspires me to be more me.

In the end, beauty is a very personal issue; one that we must all formulate our thoughts on. Its pervasive and negative nature make it dangerous not to have an opinion. For me, it is most important as I now have a daughter. And having a daughter makes me realize that I was once a girl too and to treat myself kindly consistently. In a way, Babou is teaching me so that I can teach her.



Domestically Challenged said...

Hi Jo,
Smile with your liver!
You are right, beauty comes from within, it is a shining light from your soul, and has little connection with 'packaging'.

Melissa said...

From one A cup to another--You Go, Girl!

I think the perception of beauty and awareness shifts when you mother a daughter vs. a son, too. I want my boys to have a broader view of "attractive" so they can appreciate all kinds of women and not discriminate--or bring home bobble heads with big breasts.

I'm also of the mind that as we age we become less superficial...

Jo said...

I couldn't agree with you more, Melissa. I think that you become wiser as you age and looks matter less and less. When you are younger you are not really thinking as much about the future and are more into having fun in the moment and the most attractive thing is the most attractive thing! But there is a definite difference in what you go after as you get older. My single girlfriends are much more interested in qualities OTHER than looks and I think the same is true for men.

Good for you teaching that to your sons--it so so important to instill broad mindedness in our children!

Domestically Challenged said...

I gave you 'an award' today, but I'm so rubbish at IT it didn't work - so I gave you a G & T instead!

sophia katrina said...

Sis you are way hotter than Kate Hudson and you don't have a personal trainer/chef/nanny/get paid to look beautiful. That is ALWAYS the only thing I keep in mind looking at models and actresses. I think, well if it was my JOB to be beautiful it would be easier. More of a priority. More resources. More access. I mean, if I spent 8 hours a day dancing in a studio or on a stage like Jennifer Lopez I'd look AMAZING. And considering I sit at a Desk for 8 hours, I'd have to say I look PRETTY DAMN GOOD. and so do YOUUUUU. S

JCK said...

Having a daughter is a tremendous gift. It enables us to rethink our version of what beauty is and to listen to what it can be.

I really enjoyed your thoughtful post!

Jo said...

Hi DC! HAHAHAHA--Thanks for the reward! G & T's never fail to give me warm and fuzzy feelings! You know me so well!

Anonymous said...

I am so with you on this. And having a little daughter myself, I try hard not to give her any impressions of what society deems beautiful. I refrain from commenting on my weight in front of her, and I try not to focus too much on my outward appearance. She'll get bombarded soon enough. She doesn't need the same from her mommy.

It scares me a little, the whole prospect of having a daughter in this age of plastic surgery, sexy-girl-clothes, and the like. But I hope that she gains confidence and a positive self-image, so that the depth of personhood outweighs the superficial.

And I'm trying to teach my little boy the same so that he can be a good man, and a positive partner for whomever he chooses, when the time comes.