What makes you feel most beautiful? I have a hunch it has nothing to do with what we’re constantly being advertised. Never in my thirty-two years have I, or any of my female friends, said “You know, mascara makes me feel the most beautiful ever,” or “This smooth glide tampon makes me feel so freaking beautiful I can’t handle myself!” Damn, I wish I heard that sentence more often. Most of the time, we’re taught periods are a pain (and they definitely can be), but we’re not taught they make us beautiful.
I’m not knocking makeup or modern conveniences. I enjoy both of them too. There’s a place for them, sure. But what really makes you feel the most beautiful? When I think about that question, the answer has little to do with my body.
Author, blogger, and podcaster, August McLaughlin, is hosting her annual Beauty of a Woman Blogfest. She’s asking women all over the world to talk about what beauty means to them. And since she’s also the fab creator of GirlBoner, (“Where Good Girls Go For Sexual Empowerment”), some bloggers are writing about sexuality too.
I’ve been a participant in both categories over the years. If you want to check out one of my past posts, I recommend Heavy Petting is a No No: Sex Education for the Saint of Heart. 😉
This year, I wanted to talk about beauty as a woman in her thirties. At a time when your body starts changing (like, not bouncing back in ways it once did), it can be a mind shift to still feel beautiful in a world that emphasizes outer beauty and youthfulness so highly. My body changed, and so did my style.
There are some things that remain constant, though. That will always make me feel truly beautiful and empowered in my own skin.
10 (Unusual) Things That Make Me Feel Beautiful
1. Learning something new.
Is there anything quite like the joy of learning something new? There’s that moment when you’ve really put time and energy and sometimes expense into understanding something that didn’t come naturally, and then…it finally clicks!
Damn, that’s a gorgeous moment.
2. Reading books out loud.
What can I say? Words are my love language.
3. Making art for the fun of it.
I believe adults don’t PLAY enough. When’s the last time you picked up your ol’ Crayola 64 pack (dating myself there) and just colored? Or used a paintbrush? Or even doodled? I’m not “an artiste,” but playing around is therapeutic and relaxing for me when I remember to leave judgment at the door.
4. A damn fine blazer.
I’m a sucker for a power suit. Alas, I rarely get to wear them anymore. But why not give yourself a Try Day Challenge and write about it? I did.
A friend of mine coined the term “wonderfully uncomfortable” and it has forever stuck with me. Traveling somewhere outside your comfort zone is a great opportunity to meet new people, hear new stories, and gain a bigger picture of the world. I always leave feeling grateful and humble afterwards. Aren’t those beautiful, genuine emotions?
6. Going for a walk.
Cool breezes on your skin, your feet pounding the pavement or hiking the trail. I never get clarity like I do when I’m on a solo hike.
7. Genuine, consensual touch.
You know people who are huggers? Like good huggers, not creepy uncle huggers? There’s something beautiful and comforting about being with someone who just knows when to give you a hug or reach for your hand. Science even supports that hugging longer has positive effects on the endorphins in the brain! I value a good hug from a friend or loved one.
Who doesn’t appreciate when someone finally notices how damn hard you work?! You go, grrrl! I see you!
9. Eating dessert for breakfast.
Because I’m an adult. Because I can. Because I’m worth it.
10. Not buying into all the ageist, objectified patriarchal bullshit.
Cause ain’t no one got time for that!
What makes YOU feel truly beautiful?
*This post is part of The Beauty of a Woman BlogFest VII! To read more entries, and potentially win a fun prize, visit the fest page on August’s McLaughlin’s site between today and 11pm PST March 9th.
I love seeing people embrace their own beauty. In a world of impossible beauty standards, the role models I want to embrace are the people who celebrate doing their own thing while opening doors, rather than closing them, for others to find what’s right for them too. I follow campaigns like Tess Holiday’s #effyourbeautystandards. I’ve been a user of #StitchFix for awhile and love how detailed their style profile is and that they allow clients to play with fashion. So when Dia & Co. asked me if I was interested in participating in their Try Day challenge, I said yes.
The Try Day challenge is about the clothes in your closet you haven’t found the guts to wear yet. The items you chose to buy, but haven’t worn. The clothes you’d love to try on and try out, but always second guess yourself or change out of at the last minute.
Dia & Co., like Stitch Fix, is a personal styling business that sends five items to your home to try out with your existing wardrobe. They specialize in plus size fashions which is awesome because no one should have to forgo personal style just because of size. Having worked in the retail industry for several years, I know how hard it can be to find as many options in special sizes. Everyone wants to look and feel great in what they wear. Shopping and sporting your style shouldn’t be as degrading or frustrating as the fashion industry, and let’s not forget misogyny, sometimes makes it.
I say, WEAR WHAT YOU WANT.
I grew up the youngest child of four, so a lot of my clothes and fashion sense came from my older siblings. Acid wash jeans, anyone? This year it dawned on me, I didn’t really know what my fashion style was because I never actually thought about my personal style. I got the same kind of pieces I always got, bought some trends, but didn’t necessarily have a signature look.
To be honest, I’m still figuring that out, and it’s cool with me if it changes over time. Clothes are just another way to be creative. At my core, I’m a jeans and tshirt kinda gal. But I love the feeling I get when I wear a suit jacket. A nice, well fitting blazer makes me feel like a badass.
Still, I have clothes in my closet that I never wear too. Specifically, two leather jackets. So when I thought about the Try Day challenge, I knew I had to incorporate one of them. Another look I love is denim on denim, but since I don’t live on a ranch and professionally rope cattle, I wasn’t sure I could rock that style either. So, there was my challenge. Wear denim on denim with a leather jacket, and rock it.
I styled my look with things that I loved, and paired them with things I wanted to try. I wore dark denim skinny jeans with a lighter denim shirt. I scrunched up my socks on the outside of my boots (because 80s girl). I threw on a leather jacket, a scarf, and some teardrop earrings and went out with the hubs.
I loved my look and felt good in it (until we went outside, because this outfit is not winter weather appropriate for Wisconsin, but hey it’s called a “challenge” for a reason, right?) All wind advisories aside, I loved doing something that pushed me to try a new look. We could all do with a little more self confidence and creativity, don’t you think?
What items are hiding in your closet, begging to spend a night out?
The past year has been a transitional one for me. I quit my job of six years, I was unemployed and financially broke for months, I wrote a full draft of my book, and I got a new job that I love!
It seems the winds of change weren’t done for me after just one year. I took on the task of planning an international wedding. I continued working on my book. I had a secret civil ceremony abroad. And then my family and I laid my brother-in-law to rest. Four days later, Joe and I had our stateside wedding ceremony and revealed our big surprise.
It doesn’t seem possible that I’ve undergone so many emotional extremes – some of which in one week’s time. I know I lived it. But I can’t believe it. I just knew it was time that I start taking care of myself. Mentally and physically.
The big push to get started came after reading Arianna Huffington’s book, Thrive. It’s amazing and well-researched. And I had the pleasure of meeting her at BlogHer14. In her book, she discusses the strengths and increased productivity from exercising meditation, getting enough sleep at night, and separating ourselves from technology for awhile.
I started practicing a few of her tips, like not checking social media an hour before bedtime – and going to bed earlier!
About a month ago, my best friend asked me if I wanted to do the 21 Day Fix challenge with her. It’s a daily workout and meal plan. I was in the midst of the wedding and decided not to, but when it came up again this month, I said yes.
And that brings me to all the green food I’ve eaten.
I’m eating a lot of green food.
Everything I’m eating is GREEN!
In addition, I also ate peas, green beans, and asparagus.
I started worrying that if I continued to eat so many green foods, I would eventually turn GREEN!
And then I’d look like an Oompa Loompa!!!
But I still crave junk food sometimes.
I’m liking how I feel so far. Taking care of ourselves is a luxury most of us don’t honor. But I’m glad I timed myself out and did this. My brain and body feel energized and are able to start processing the events of this past year.
What are you doing for yourself this week?
When you look in the mirror, how do you feel about yourself?
And we’re being honest here.
Do you believe the only value it shows is what’s on the outside? Does the mirror, to you, amplify your flaws or acknowledge the human being that you are with phenomenal virtues inside and out?
Does the mirror reflect your worth?
This is the question that a group of women from Austen, TX came together to answer. But first, they started a band.
Their group is called The Mrs.
Unable to connect with the songs they were hearing on the radio, well past the years of the teenage heartbreak and club beats, they sought to create music inspired by their own lives as passionate – and busy – wives, mothers, and girlfriends.
The all-female rock band is comprised of drummer Andra Liemandt, lead vocalists/guitarists Mandy Prater and Jennifer Zavaleta, vocals/keyboardist Larissa Ness, and bassist Jenny Mason.
They wrote a song called ‘I’m Enough.’ And from that song, they gave birth to a movement.
They plastered stickers around every mirror and window they came across with messages like “You’re awesome,” “I’m Enough,” and “You’ve never looked better!” Then they took it a step further and concocted what some might dub ‘a magic mirror’, a talking mirror that surprised women all over the county.
At first glance, the mirror on the wall appears ordinary. When you walk up to it, all you see is your reflection.
And then a voice comes on.
That voice greets you, perhaps by name. That voice tells you you’re beautiful. That voice tells you you are loved. That voice tells you you’re enough.
The Mrs. performed at BlogHer live on Saturday, and their talking mirror was in the vendor hall all weekend. My pal, August McLaughlin, and I got to experience the talking mirror firsthand before we even knew what it was!
I went up to it first. I put the headphones on and immediately this friendly voice greeted me, “Hi Jess! Look at that gorgeous red hair!”
The person behind the mirror told me I was beautiful. She told me I had beautiful, clear skin.
I started crying.
I wasn’t making-a-scene-hysterical, I just genuinely teared up. I don’t tell myself my skin is beautiful.
As my 30th birthday gets closer, I’ve been battling some body dysmorphia. I wrote about it in To Conceal and Carry…My Muffin Top. Besides recent weight gain, I have trouble with adult acne. It began as “teenage” acne, then “college” acne, and morphed into adulthood “I’ve paid thousands of dollars on skincare and make-up” acne. I know my skin has changed and that it has improved. But when I look in the mirror, I see only the bumps, the redness, the scarring.
I knew my attacks on myself were really bad when I nonchalantly made the comment to my sister, “You know how people sometimes ask you ‘If you could have any superpower in the world, what would it be?’ Well, mine would be clear skin. That’s all I want. CLEAR skin!”
I immediately felt hurt when I said it. Hurt by my OWN words. I had always been the girl who wanted to fly. How had I let myself get so stuck?
Even on my wedding day, my biggest fear was my face. Not the hundreds of dollars we paid in legal paperwork for an international wedding, or traveling to a foreign country with my wedding dress, or that Joe had not written his vows until the day of (he actually had, but was messing with me for fun). No, I was freaking out over my face. I wanted perfect skin for my wedding day, and that was the one thing beyond my grasp.
I started a mantra, “This day is not about my face. This day is not about my face.” And I said it every morning as I put my make up on for that whole week before our wedding.
So yah. I started crying when the woman behind the mirror told me I had clear skin. And then she told me my writing mattered. That my words brought joy and laughter and insight to others. And I felt – this may sound silly – but I felt like I sprouted wings. Little baby wings that flapped and triggered my brain to say “Go after your dreams.”
And remember I’m enough.
Do you need to be reminded?
Follow more of the movement on Twitter using the hashtag #ImEnough.