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Beauty However You Prefer

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We had an interesting discussion at our experts’ dinner last week. An 89-year-old career counselor talked about the perception of aging…a psychologist discussed eating disorders linked to self-perception…an endocrinologist told us about the eating program she has developed for postmenopausal women to help them shed middle-age weight gain…and a beauty expert talked about her book on skin and makeup tips to help you feel and look your best.

What’s the right balance between too heavy and too thin? And what’s the proper motivator? Reduced risk for disease or increased self-esteem?

Should people—women, in particular—focus on their appearance and passing some bar of acceptance? Or is that a false objective, forcing women to worry about pleasing others rather than themselves? And does attention to attire, body shape and makeup create a false mask, rather than display the individual’s “naked” beauty? Sensitive to the #MeToo movement, many at the dinner table shared concerns about the negative effects of women worrying about their appearance. But…what if putting on makeup and getting her hair done actually helps a woman’s self-confidence? That’s a whole other consideration.

And what about men? If men watch their weight and their appearance, are they doing it for themselves? Or for attention from others? And do they feel objectified in the same way that women do if they are noticed for their appearance?

All right and all wrong in my opinion. It’s up to the individual.

But with the current push to avoid objectifying women and pretend that there is no judgment going on, I fear that there still is a whole lot of judging going on.

Colbie Caillat won great praise several years ago for the video for her song Try, which featured women removing their veneer and exposing their natural beauty. It was a beautiful celebration of our natural selves.

While women everywhere are standing up for the freedom to go au natural, many people still track every move, hairstyle and outfit of people who are rich and famous. When Kate Middleton wears a new dress or coat, it is out of stock within days—or even hours. The Kardashian empire grows bigger and more powerful every year. The youngest sister, Kylie Jenner, sold more than $420 million in “lip kits” in the first two years of her cosmetics business. That’s a whole lot of lipstick. And social-media influencer and Sports Illustrated swimsuit model Alexis Ren has more than 12 million followers on Instagram. Just the fact that there is a career called “social-media influencer” tells us that there are a whole lot of people who remain very interested in their own appearance and that of others.

We are all kidding ourselves if we think that we don’t dress and coif for some kind of attention or to make some kind of statement. There are days when I wear my successful professional business executive “costume” to the office and other days when it’s jeans and cowboy boots—it all depends on the day and the schedule. Whatever the choice, there is a strategy in the selection.

I am bemused by the efforts that some people go through to be sure they are not conforming to traditional forms of beauty. Extreme haircuts and colors…piercings…dark heavy makeup—it may not be the Chanel woman, but it is a definite style statement, so stop pretending it’s not.

Celebrating inner beauty is extremely important. Living in a paradigm in which appearance is not superior to heart or intelligence is critical. But pretending that appearance doesn’t matter is naive and foolhardy.

No matter your preference…it’s OK. No matter your style…it’s OK. No matter your weight…it’s OK (as long as you take care of yourself with the right balance of healthy eating and activity). If wearing makeup and dressing a certain way help build your confidence, that’s awesome. If going without makeup and leaving your hair undone float your boat, that’s awesome as well.

Just don’t pretend that any of those options have been foisted upon you. You are choosing to be you from the inside out.

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