I was fortunate to be raised by a family who valued one’s inner beauty far more than the external trappings of beauty. We were encouraged to think deeply, empathise with others, respect and value nature and have a curiosity about science. We were surrounded by National Geographic magazines, rather than beauty magazines. The beautiful images imprinted in our minds came from nature, rather than high fashion.
One day, a few years ago while sitting with friends, I realised I was the odd one out. They all had painted toenails, fancy shoes and shaved legs. They were discussing something to do with beauty therapy and I didn’t have anything to contribute, partly due to a lack of interest, party due to ignorance. I guess we all want to fit in and belong and I was feeling uncomfortably different. ‘Perhaps I need to make more of an effort’, I thought to myself.
Thus began a six month exploration of the beauty industry. I dipped my toe in and wasn’t too impressed, but I persevered, determined to confront and challenge my prejudices. I realised my family had raised me to be anti-beauty-industry and I wanted to be able to tap into the fun, pampering side of it that my friends so seemed to enjoy. It wasn’t just my family influence that made me shun the beauty magazines in favour of brain food; it was growing up in Alice Springs as a teenager. You wouldn’t be caught dead looking at yourself in a bathroom mirror longer than a fraction of a second.
“You think you’re too fuckin’ deadly ay? You too good for us?!” Showing too much interest in how you looked could get you teased, or even bashed. It was more important, in that world, to be tough and street-savy. The knife tucked down the side of my boot for self-defence earned me more respect than the way my hair was done, or the make-up on my face.
Sitting in the beautician’s room, I had time to reflect deeply on this past conditioning. I was reclaiming my right to look at myself in the mirror. I also hoped to bust through cliched notions I had about people who focused on external beauty. Surely, they weren’t all shallow and lacking in intelligence!? This prejudice came from a childhood that placed value on intelligence rather than looks. I’ll always remember waking up from a nightmare years ago in which I was a child holding my mother’s hand, listening while she spoke about me to a fellow mother. “She’s very beautiful, but she isn’t very smart.” Was she talking about me? I assumed she was and woke myself up with the wail “I am NOT beautiful!!”, as though she had just insulted me to the core.
I wanted to prove to my inner child that I could care about external beautiful AND still be smart. The problem was, the beauticians I was working with weren’t that bright. The extent of an intelligent conversation went something like this: “Oh I was in such a hurry this morning, I took the kids to Macca’s for breakfast! It’s so cheap! Thank goodness for Macca’s: some days, that’s all we have time to eat!”. A silent moment from me while I process this, all the while taking in her grossly over-weight frame and constant sniffle. It turns out, she didn’t just mean breakfast: some days, every meal comes from Macca’s. I looked a little closer and realised the make-up was hiding very unhealthy skin. It was at the point it sunk in that my personal concept of beauty was based on internal health.
If I was going to discover my ‘inner beauty’ and bring her out, it had to be an authentic process, rather than an exercise in skin-deep beauty. I wanted my beauty to radiate forth from a state of health. The more I looked around and asked myself what I personally found beautiful in others, the more I realised I admired a natural, understated beauty, and radiant health. Unpretentious, un-made-up, unique….a healthy glow that came from the inside. A person being true to themselves rather than trying to emulate the generic, plastic, teenage version of beauty we are so often bombarded with by the media.
Being at the beauticians wasn’t the relaxing, enjoyable experience I had hoped it might be. I always came out feeling empty and grumpy, because I’d just wasted an hour being tortured for no good reason and bored out of my brain by the lack of stimulating conversation, when I could have been doing something interesting. Like writing. Or painting. Or singing. Something creative.
Just as I was about to turn my back on beauty therapy altogether, I discovered a local beautician who is spiritual, beautiful and intelligent. I gave all the rest of the beauty stuff the boot and settled on eyelash and eyebrow tinting as the one thing I would do from time to time when the mood took me. Why do I go? I don’t particularly care how my eyelashes and eyebrows look but my husband thinks I look even more gorgeous than usual when I came home afterwards. And while I’m there, I really enjoy myself because the conversations with my beautician are food for my mind, my soul, my heart. They are conversations that nourish my beauty because they inspire me to live in ever healthier ways.
Thank you for coming into my life, my beautiful, wise friend.