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Before and after from http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine photo by Sarah Brimley

When life is busy sometimes you find things that “annoy” you or you think are going in the wrong direction, but you just don’t have or don’t take the time to do something about it.  You keep noticing it though and finally, finally you have to say something. Today.  Is.  That.  Day.

I like looking my best – at least when it’s feasible.  Sometimes cleaning out the barn… looking your best takes on a whole new meaning with those fashionable barn boots, coveralls, leather work gloves and of course the most important accessories… ball cap and pitch fork.  Now that’s a picture worth saving.  Ok.  No.

For years it has bothered me that we women are made to feel that we are less by just being who we are, looking like we do.  Like something was wrong with how we were originally made and it has to be changed for us to be “ok”.  After all, isn’t that what our entire focus is supposed to be around?  I mean we are just meant to look good for someone else aren’t we?  Ok.  No.

It has taken me years, but I am finally ok with how I look for the most part. Sure I like to wear makeup when I go out, I prefer to be in better shape than in worse, I like my clothes to do me justice instead of hanging off me.  But I realize fully that’s just some wrapping.  And I’m ok with what’s underneath the wrapping.  It’s good.  It’s me.  Don’t like it?  Then kindly shove off.  Thank you.

But then I had kids.  A boy and a girl.  And I started to see the messages that they are getting about their bodies and I realized that it hasn’t gotten better.  It’s gotten worse.  Constant pressure from all side to be something we’re not.  I really started to realize that was a key – “they” are trying to turn us into something, not even into someone!  I am not a thing to be toyed with or reinvented by anyone else.

We are creatures that tend to believe what we see.  When we are brought up with images in our faces all day everyday that are fictional but are not obviously identified as such what do we think our children, young adults and even older adults start to believe?  Most people refer to this as “advertising”.  I call it legal brainwashing.  Legal propaganda that is promoted in larger than life images and messages day in day out everywhere we look.

Women have been dealing with this for generations.  I keep hoping that slowly we’re making headway.  Truthfully I don’t think we are yet.  For every step we take in the right direction some other message or technique comes into play to drag us down again.  Are your pores fine enough?  Do you have a blemish – the word alone says UGLY.

Almost all of us get wrinkles, change weight, get zits, go grey – it’s normal – but OMG we can not allow ourselves to be NORMAL!  What was I thinking?!

The one thing that I always clung to in a strange way was that men hadn’t fallen for this idiocy yet… but even they have become the unsuspecting victims of the assumed male dominated industry of reinventing women.  Now we must reinvent men who are obviously too hairy, have dry skin, need eyes that look fresher.  The Dove ad for men is only one example.

When I saw the first ads for the men skin care products I laughed and thought thank whatever that they’ll be smarter than that… um no.  While sales aren’t at the level that women’s products are…. there are still enough men who now believe that to be attractive to women they have to be something they aren’t.  After watching The Hunger Games again I realized that we might just be headed for a society that looks like that one day sooner than later – not necessarily throwing our children into a ring to fight till the death but the fashion and opulance doesn’t seem as fictional as I’d like it to be.

Please guys – let your chests and legs be hairy, let your eyes do their thing, and if you have dry skin, just use a plain simple moisturizer please.  If that’s all a woman cares about you she’s not the one for you.  No more than if a guy just can’t stand your little protruding belly or varicose veins or your giggle or whatever, he’s not the guy for you.  Trust me on this one.  If we can’t like or love each other the way we are time to look elsewhere.  Now, let me interject here to say that I’m not advocating just letting it all hang out slovenly like.  Huge difference between embracing who you really are inside and out and using it for an excuse to be a slovenly jerk “cause that’s just the way I am take it or leave it”.

An excellent article in the BBC this morning called What Does It Feel Like To Be Airbrushed by Tulip Mazumdar (what a great name).  Personally I used to love playing dress up, make up all that stuff.  I have no problem with it.  But I knew up front that it was “art”  It wasn’t me.  It was like the icing on the cake – sweet and fluffy – but it wasn’t the cake.  I’d love to see every picture that is airbrushed have to have a disclaimer right underneath it or larger than life on the first page of magazines.  “WARNING:  Images in the magazine have been airbrushed.  They are an artist’s interpretation of the image and should not be mistaken for reality.  Viewing these images may cause self conscious feelings or even self loathing.”

So the journalist wanted to know what it felt like to have her image airbrushed to “perfection”.  However, intentionally or not one of her comments jumped right out

I wasn’t brave enough to be photographed with no make-up so I had a base layer of foundation and powder as well as minimal eye make-up and some blusher and lip-gloss.

Now I admit that at one time it would have taken a lot of me to take my make up off.  I was, and still am, self conscious about my complexion.  The difference is that now I can accept that my skin is what it is – and I’ve discovered that there are volumes of us with similar skin and you know what?  We’re still cute, we’re still beautiful.  I also admit that I look in the mirror and wish I still had my face at 20, and wish I would have appreciated my looks at 20 instead of seeing everything the magazines said I should be that I wasn’t.    Time has also shown me that when I’m 70 I’ll look back at 50 and go, wow, you looked good!  So, long ago I decided to use my future wisdom in the present.  Why wait?  I found it interesting, though, that even for an article about air brushing, that the journalist was not comfortable without just a little makeup to protect herself.

The photographer airbrushed the photos more than she normally would she said, other than celebrities who apparently regularly ask to be made into their fantasy shapes and sizes (has anyone ever heard of saying, um, “No.”?).  So Sarah gave Tulip the celebrity treatment.   Tulip’s reaction?

Suddenly the original images that I was quite happy with at the start, looked old, tired and a bit chubby.

Now maybe it’s just me, but after looking at both images, I honestly preferred the original.  If both women walked in and sat down, I honestly think I would naturally have felt more comfortable with the first image – given everything else about the interaction was equal.  No matter what, I honestly believe both images are beautiful, and I don’t think the second image is more beautiful, it’s just different.

I believe we should all do things that make us feel GOOD about ourselves, not because it makes someone else feel better about how we look.  If we put on makeup it should make us smile because we like it, not because we are thankful that it is hiding all our horrible flaws.

Let me be clear here.

THEY ARE NOT FLAWS.  THEY ARE A PART OF WHO YOU ARE.  YOU ARE BEAUTIFUL.

Who decided what a flaw is and what it isn’t? Who gave them the right to decide if I’m ok or not?  A zit is a zit – but oh no, it’s a BLEMISH.  The very word makes me feel like I’m less, I’m broken, flawed, somethings wrong with me.  Oh poppycock.

Society’s view of beauty has become more and more narrow as time goes on.  These issues aren’t new to this generation or this century.  It’s been going on for a long time, maybe forever, but it’s time we stand up and say “No More”.  It’s time we work harder at liking who we are as we are instead of wasting valuable time trying to be someone or something we’re not.  Work with yourself instead of against yourself.  Stop being afraid of allowing yourself to see your own beauty just as you are, instead of relying on someone else’s definition of what they think beauty is.  Let’s be real here.  The people who are defining beauty and selling the image are the ones who are making gazzillions of dollars off our insecurity.  And they are laughing all the way to the bank.  And don’t doubt that they’ve also bought into their own story.

I know that I have only so much time in this particular life on this earth – and I have decided that I am not going to waste it trying to conform to someone else’s idea of beauty.  That doesn’t mean I won’t wear make up or have a mole removed or buy a fashion design or have a facial.  It does mean I’m working hard to keep it in perspective and when I do choose to do something I’m doing it for me, not because it determines my value or my beauty in someone else’s opinion.  I’ve learned that the people I know who have successfully done this seem to be a whole lot happier with themselves and life in general and I’m all for being happy.  How about you?

Truth:  We are all beautiful, every single one of us.

Dare:  Find the physical beauty in every single person you meet today.  Start with yourself.

Ok, having a hard time with this challenge?  I’ll give you a leg up.  Start small, because let’s face it, our definition of beauty tends to be narrow.   Maybe it’s a smile; maybe it’s the way a strand of hair falls across a face; eyes, ears, hands, nails, skin tone.  I don’t care how “ugly” by standard definition a person may appear.  Take the challenge – find the beauty.  It is there.

So remember people…. just be yourself, inside and out… ok?  Unsung Lilly knows all about it.

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This blog is ©J. Fries/Rise Like Air 2013

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