I’m stoked to be guest-blogging for Shirley Maya’s fearless, beautiful blog today and to meet all of you through this medium. Thanks Shirley!
Shirley’s fantastic message of ‘fearless living’ resonates especially deeply with me. Of late, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking and reading about how so many of us go about our lives largely through a lens of fear. So many of our decisions — from the most profound ones about our careers, relationships and self-truths, to the most frivolous ones about what we eat, how we look and what we buy — are often fueled or hindered by fear, whether we know it or not.
I write mostly about issues to do with beauty over at my own blog The Effortless Beauty and as I was thinking about what to write for this guest-blog post, I realised that a lot of our ideas about beauty, our body-confidence and our feelings around our appearance are heavily defined by fear too.
We’re afraid of looking too fat, too thin, too short, too dark, too pale, too-anything. We’re afraid of what people will think of our outfits, our new hairstyle, our post-baby weight gain. We’re afraid that we don’t quite fit a beauty ideal (whatever that might be in our personal and social worlds).
Our sense of beauty has become less a happy acceptance of our physical and emotional qualities, and more a celebration of the absence of flaws. We don’t feel particularly proud of our healthy limbs, our strength, the natural, unique curves and contours of our body, our flexibility, our health. Instead, we feel good (or perhaps just slightly better) about not being fat, not being freckly, not being short; not having hairy legs, not having misshapen breasts or not having acne.
Our idea(l) of beauty then, is not a positive reinforcement of the goodness we have but a more negative, perverse delight in the ‘flaws’ we don’t.
We live not by love and appreciation for who we are, but by fear of what could befall us.
But here’s the most terrifying thing about living through our fears: unknowingly, we invest the very thing we fear with more power, we award it more prominence. In the case of our appearance, the things we are most conscious (fearful) about — our weight, our too-thick nose, our cankles, our flabby arms — become the very things we draw attention to.
More often than not, nobody gives more of a flying fig than I do about the fact that I’ve put on a dress size, that my pores on my cheeks are larger than they should be or that my arms look more like thighs than chiseled, toned yoga-arms. But I’ve attributed so much importance to these fears that they creep their way squarely, fully onto the centre-stage of every interaction I have. I might openly lament my ‘flaws’, make self-conscious jokes about them, fiddle constantly to hide these parts of my body — they’re all attempts to cover up what I think to be a large and obvious blemish but by being so self-conscious, I succeed in drawing only more attention to it.
It’s like me telling you not to think of a pink elephant. Don’t think of it, okay? There are no pink elephants around here. Don’t picture it in your head. Suddenly, it’s all you can think of, just like the dress size, pores and flabby arms I’m trying so hard to make you not notice.
Okay, yeah, people may well pass (yet another) one of those snide remarks about how I’ve gained weight but the thing is, in reality they don’t really care. It’s just a comment. The fear I have of hearing those comments and the anxiety of not meeting someone else’s beauty ideal overwhelms me far more than whatever it is the other person might momentarily feel as they’re making that passing remark.
In fact, the only person whose really making a big deal about whatever perceived flaw I have is myself, not whoever-ever it is making whatever remark, giving whatever look, pointing whatever way.
There’s that saying — whatever you resist, persists. In the same vein, whatever we fear becomes only a bigger monster, taking up even more room under our beds. You can’t hide a pink elephant after you’ve drawn attention to it.
So let’s switch things round a bit. If we’ve been drawing so much attention to our ‘faults’ such that they balloon out of proportion and other people can’t help but to notice them, then the reverse will also ring true.
Let’s stop investing the fears with more power than they deserve and pass the strength over to the things we love about our bodies. Give the goodness its due attention, endow it with prominence, bless it with so much light that everyone else will delight in those lovely things instead of noticing the imaginary ‘flaws’ we make such a show of concealing.
Look at the example of children, how un-self-conscious they are of their bodies. They don’t care too much about moles and chubbiness, scratches and bruises. They delight in their senses, wonder at the things they can do with their bodies (somersaults! dancing! leapfrogging! tumbling!). As adults, we marvel at the abandon with which they love their world and every part of themselves — in that alone there is something endlessly beautiful.
Becoming conscious of ourselves as we stumble into adulthood is a double-edged sword that gives us as much awareness of our bodies as it does insecurity, shame and often, sadly, self-hatred and abuse.
If we could return for a moment to that innocent amazement we had in our bodies as children, we’d find a lot of our bodily dissatisfaction fall away.
We would return to the simple appreciation of the hundreds of things we can do with this incredible machine, a new moment-to-moment wonder at the precise forms of every part of us, from skin, to fingertips to knobbly knees to ear-lobes.
We’d live unfettered by the expectations and constraints that we’ve imposed on our bodies for so very long.
We’d also live with a lot less anxiety about whether this dress flatters us or not, whether this new foundation sufficiently hides our laughter lines, whether we need to suck our stomachs in a little bit more so we look more shapely.
Instead, we would ‘worry’ about far more exciting things — things to create, people to meet, new adventures to go on. We’d go out and do the grown-up versions of leapfrogging, tumbling and learning how to do a somersault. We’d be exploring talents, making friends, trying new things just because we can, stretching ourselves — body, mind and spirit — with a wondrous curiosity.
Think of people who have bodies that differ vastly from what we consider a norm — people like Nick Vujicic who was born without any limbs or Lizzie Velasquez who was born with an extremely rare genetic disorder that led to her being cruelly named ‘the world’s ugliest woman’.
Or consider even, in that ever-perfect air-brushed world of Tinseltown, the less-than-Victoria-Secret-models starlets — singer Adele who wasn’t like any of those skinny-Minnie pop-stars when she first launched into stardom, model Sophie Dahl who ‘birthed’ the desirable trendiness of full-bosomed, plus-sized models and actor Robert Carlyle, whose incredible talent turned a gnarled and oily imp into something oh-so-deviously-sexy.
No matter how ‘differently’ these stars may figure on our beauty scale, we adore them — not merely for their looks but more importantly, in spite of them. They may look nothing like what we’ve been so acutely trained to regard as a beautiful ideal; they may in fact have all the physical attributes that we fear for ourselves. But they’re winning hearts all over the world by the passion they have for their cause or their art, the energy and vibrancy of their personality, the abandon they live with, the mammoth dollops of confidence they carry and the tremendous love they have for life itself.
Being effortlessly beautiful isn’t about fitting a perfect beauty ideal. It is, I think, about choosing to relate to our bodies with love and appreciation, not fear and anxiety and insecurity. It is about maxing out everything that we do have in this tiny space we call our body and making it work for us and the world around us, no matter how big or small that world is. It is about seeing the faults for what they may be, but also seeing every of the tiny, beautiful things and loving life anyway.
It is about seeing our bodies as perfectly beautiful just as they are; loving them enough to treat them well — with proper food, exercise and rest — and give them treats — anything from a good coffee to spas to good sex to a bungee-jumping adventure. For it is when we truly love our bodies for what they are and the incredible things we can accomplish with them that we live freely, somersaulting through life with endless abandon, wonder, joy and curiosity.
And that, my lovelies, is what makes any person truly, happily, effortlessly beautiful.
It’s such a pleasure to have Jamie Khoo aka “The Effortless Beauty” guest blog for me. I have known Jamie for many years. We have shared many milkshakes, laughter, tears and chocolate buffets together. The one thing that have always struck me with awe about Jamie is that she never pretends to be something or someone she is not. She is fearlessly authentic to her own unique style and sense of beauty. That to me, is as beautiful as it gets.
So, start your own brand of fearless living and become the Effortless Beauty that you are.