Note: For you fabulous babes who have this whole inner beauty thing under wraps, feel free to substitute whatever insecurities trip you up in life.

Laugh Lines Are Sexy & Other Liberating Truths

Last week, an email from a SPELer landed with a thud in my inbox, simultaneously breaking my heart AND making me mad.

Here’s the Reader’s Digest Version:

  • Our fellow SPELer asked for advice on skincare & how to overcome    jealousy (all in the same sentence - ha!).
  • She said she hides behind clothing & make-up, which often keeps her    from doing things she loves, such as donning a swimsuit & taking a dip.
  • She claimed that even though she’s younger than me, she “looks older & weighs more,” & therefore, I “could never understand someone like her.”
  • She signed it “Aging Ugly Duckling” with a smiley face (presumably to   soften the blow – it didn’t).

Here’s my open letter response (with her permission):

 

Lean in closely little sister, because it sounds like I've pulled the wool over your eyes with hair color & make-up & by judiciously choosing the photos of me that make the cut for public display.

Here’s the truth of it:

 

•  When I got married, circa 1983, I was a chubbier version of myself, by

    say, 30 pounds or so.

 

  • I have skin as dry as a lizard & sun spots from living most of my life near a beach slathered in baby oil.
  • My fat cells are distributed disproportionally higher in my stomach than  my tushie (where I could use some help).
  • My hair is both thinning & graying.
  • My nose is the muse of caricaturists everywhere.
  • I have stretch marks on my hips & railroad tracks between what remains    of my brows.
  • Although I espouse body love, when I’m swimsuit shopping in fluorescent light, all bets are off. (I approach this task with the greatest self-compassion I can muster.)
  • When I remove my bra at the end of the day, I yell “Hard Hat Area” as a warning to anyone within a ¼-mile radius.

And now you know my secrets.

 

Undoubtedly, you will have heard some version of the next sentence in the next paragraph before. But as it goes: First we know & then we learn.

 

Admittedly, life & aging can carry some self-esteem wallops, but WE ARE NOT our sagging skin, saddle bags or cellulite!

 

You can believe that you are & suffer for decades, maybe all the way to your grave (when you’ll come upon the sudden realization & that your concept of beauty was an illusion & you were just fine all along).

 

Such thoughts that “we are our bodies” can be seductive because they relieve us of the REAL WORK – the hard work (not nearly as hard as suffering though) – of loving ourselves by embracing & actualizing our God-given value apart from our appearance.

 

And let’s not kid ourselves: We ALL have to do the same work. The abject insecurity we often hear about among supermodels teaches us this.

 

Now I’m all for looking our best, but  AUTHENTICITY – at any age – is where real charisma & magnetism are found. Allure has much to do with inner beauty & quiet confidence.

 

When we’re unassailably comfortable in our own skin, we can flourish at any age & in any body. We become magnetic to those around us, because the world generally reflects back to us how much we value ourselves. Don’t we all know people who are not particularly young or beautiful by conventional standards that we adore?

 

We love them for their depth, dignity, virtue, confidence, élan, humor, spunk, individuality, wackiness, courage, or light, regardless of age or accepted ideals of beauty.

 

For a portrayal of how we can be beautiful with or without being beautiful, check out this guy! I LOVE HIM. I don’t want him to grow hair. I don’t want him to lose weight. I don’t want him to change one damn thing. And I’m willing to bet you won’t either.

 

 

Zeal

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Laugh Lines are Sexy

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Authentic inner power makes us attractive no matter what we look like.

 

Plus our imperfections make us beautiful & unique & relatable. It’s liberating not to pretend. (And oh-so-tiring to keep up appearances.)

 

The crazy upside down truth of it is that part of our appeal lies in our flaws, because they make us charmingly accessible.

 

Not only will we love you anyway, but we’ll love you MORE. Ironically, the frailties & imperfections we think will separate us actually unite us.

 

Think about it. Is it really physical beauty that you’re ultimately seeking or is it the acceptance, approval, love & connection you think it will bring?

 

The temptation to impress keeps us from real connection.

 

Keeping up appearances only distances you from those who’d connect more if only they knew that you were as beautifully flawed as they are.

 

As the Skin Horse said to the Velveteen Rabbit: “…once you are REAL you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”

 

Belonging is when you find the people who understand. (Devote your time & energy to these folks.) Fitting in, on the other hand, is when you hide what makes you YOU in order to be acceptable. A big, soul-sucking mistake. (Never sacrifice yourself, your authenticity, your integrity to preserve a relationship.)

 

Maya Angelou & Gabourey Sidibe show us (respectively) how to respond to those who don’t understand:

 

 

“So if I had accepted what people told me I looked like as a negative yes, then I would be dead. But I accepted it and I thought, well, aren't I the lucky one.”

 

 

“If they hadn't told me I was ugly, I never would have searched for my beauty.”

 

 

 

Build a belief in the beauty of your individuality.

Masks are boring & far more transparent than we think.

 

Perfection is for cowards. (As a recovering perfectionist, I would know.) “Perfect” is a myth – a moving target nobody ever bulls-eyes. It takes courage to be ourselves without 1st making major improvements.

 

Love yourself, shed your shame, & allow people to really know who you are. Because who you naturally are is FAR more inspiring than whom you pretend to be.

 

Keep in mind that baring your soul straddles the boundary between vulnerability & strength, which also includes making no apologies for your greatness.

 

(And when you catch yourself “being fake” be glad! Yes glad, because you caught yourself, which means – in that moment at least – you have your REAL self in your sights.)

 

When we take a risk to show-up unselfconsciously as the genuine article, we bond through our openness. The more vulnerable we are the more others tend to support us. And by revealing who we are, we inspire others to do the same.

 

As Christine Arylo put it, “Loving ourselves is not only a critical individual act for the quality of our own lives but a radical act of social change for women & girls everywhere.”

 

Loving & accepting every part of ourselves, inside & out, exactly as we are, equips us to “love others as ourselves.” This is freedom.

 

As Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote, “We must be our own before we can be another’s.”

 

Self-love is not only essential & good; it’s a prerequisite for loving others. Because when you let ALL of you be acceptable to you in your own eyes, all of you will accept others as they are too.

 

When you are confidant in your own gifts & ways of expressing yourself in the world, you can celebrate everyone around you without feeling threatened or lacking.

 

Practice knowing that you are not less than or better than anyone else & give yourself some peace. You’re just as special as the next girl. (We all are!)

 

If you don’t engage with the world from a place of worthiness, you’ll be jealous of, rather than inspired by, anyone whose shine diminishes your own. Nothing sullies relationships quite like jealousy.

 

But even the green-eyed monster can be a gift if you recognize it as a call to action – a chance to consciously shift your envy into admiration (however uncomfortable it may feel at first).

 

And even to be grateful for the veiled “opportunity” it offers to remind you that you’ve temporarily lost sight of your own beauty, blocking you from the awareness of love.

 

You can entertain attack thoughts or go inside & search for the truth that will set you free. Put the freed-up "envy energy" toward remembering who you truly are. Rather than comparing, imagine YOU at your most magnetic-best, unselfconscious & completely at ease in the world.

 

Comparison creates separation. There is no place for competition in our mighty, sacred sisterhood. A non-compete clause is an absolute happiness must.

 

Discover your love-liness by “practicing” on parts of yourself that feel unlovable.

 

Take my veiny, boney hands for instance. I “practiced” feeling differently about them by listing all the ways they’re useful until I eventually saw them differently. I also asked myself if I would dare feel any other way than grateful in the presence of someone without hands.

 

Practicing “I’m-thrilled-to-be-on-the-planet” gratitude never fails to be a cure-all elixir for vanity. If you commit to it long enough, you’ll grow to love the parts of you that feel unlovable too.

 

Tell a new story until it rings authentic & true.

 

Body shame exists only to the extent that our bodies don’t match our conditioning & beliefs about how we should look.

 

Consider this: To be thin in some African nations is a social taboo. And to be beautiful, women must sport wooden plates in their lips & metal rings elongating their necks.

 

It’s all relative. It’s all illusion. It’s all insanity.

 

What have you always believed about yourself that may not be true? Selah.

 

Standards of beauty & life’s stages are social constructions, not absolute realities. We have the opportunity to rethink beauty & aging in profoundly novel ways, unlimited by media & advertising, medical opinions or time.

 

Like I did in an “Aging Manifesto” I wrote for a client (& have since embraced for myself):

Laugh lines are sexy.

Wisdom is sexy.

Healthy is the new skinny.

Comfort is its very own chic.

And beauty has no expiration date.

And if anyone disagrees, I respectfully do not care. (Although in my experience, if you don’t hold your age or appearance against you, no one else will either.)

 

Honor the body you have now.

 

As I round the corner to my 50th birthday, I remind myself that at this very moment I’m younger than I'll ever be, so I might as well celebrate this stage, this age while I can.

 

If you’ve ever looked at pictures of you from years ago & wondered why you weren’t more content with yourself at the time, you know what I mean.

 

It’s not unusual to get clarity on what really matters, & then over time, forget. The trick is to learn to hold unto it, not just in theory, or occasionally in a flash of insight granted by God’s grace, but every day until your new reality becomes 2nd nature.

 

Befriending our bodies & approving of ourselves without an asterisk involves recruiting, hardwiring, & mirroring new neurons in the brain. “It doesn’t happen all at once,” said the Skin Horse to the Velveteen Rabbit. “You become. It takes time.”

 

So relax into the process. Even accepting the moments when you cannot accept yourself. Since the use of force often creates the very preoccupations it’s directed against, bringing acceptance into your non-acceptance releases resistance & incrementally paves the way to freedom.

 

The part you play on the world’s stage is determined by how you see yourself. So put your battered heart right on the table by trusting that the REAL YOU is lovable.

 

 

Be YOU in that Beautiful Way Only You Can.

YOU are worthy to be seen just as you are.

You are worthy of your own love.

 

 

RSVP yes to God’s invitations to see you like He does. God not only doesn’t have a shabby assessment of you, HE ADORES YOU! (Love never fails to cast out fear’s dark illusions.)

 

We become childlike when we feel adored, safe enough to let go of inhibition. (This is when life really gets good.)

 

Set yourself free to live a little bolder, a little truer, a little YOU-er. (I'm gonna – veiny, boney hands & all.)

 

Love & laugh lines,

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