One of the nicest parts of what we do is talking to real women like you – at events and book signings (or on the bus, come to that). But what we’ve come to realise is that many, many women – for no reason that is at all apparent to us – have a confidence deficit. It’s often to do with what Bobbi Brown described recently as ‘microscoping’: looking at your flaws up-close. This confidence-boosting action plan features in our recent book The Ultimate Natural Beauty Bible, but we feel so strongly about this that we wanted to share it with every VH reader.
Fact: very few of us feel we look fantastic. Frankly, we doubt even that supermodels wake up and look in the mirror and say: ‘Babe, you’re gorgeous.’ (Or not every day of their lives, anyway.) And interestingly, the images of those that we see in magazines and on advertising hoardings often bear little resemblance to those so-called ‘perfect’ models, in the flesh.
We’ve been on a shoot where Linda Evangelista walked in looking puffy-cheeked, dark-circled and generally pretty unsupermodellish. In front of the cameras, she ‘zipped up’ that jaw-line, contracted her cheeks, posed at the most flattering angle to the camera – and became the Linda Evanglista we know and admire. When it was all over, though, Linda let it all ‘subside’ again. Not only that, but we know for a fact: Jerry Hall hates her ankles – and is only ever photographed in a small handful of poses. While one particular young, fresh-faced Russian ‘super’ is troubled by her eye bags…
Ironically, perfect images of those women (and others) are partly why many real women’s self-esteem is dented. Long, thick, gleaming hair and slim, long-legged, toned bodies beam out at us from TVs, magazines and newspapers. So we always try to point out: models only look like that from a particular angle, at a particular moment, for the blink of an eye/flash from a camera – and that’s BEFORE air-brushing.
But we also try to make the point to women we meet that the so-called ‘flaws’ which they fret and angst about are all but invisible, to other people. They complain about a ‘sun spot’ that we can’t see. Tell us about a particular wrinkle they’re upset about. (Again, usually invisible to us: we’re looking at the bigger picture.)
So: take a second look in the mirror. We are conditioned to look in the mirror and see the things we don’t like – and end up putting too much emphasis on these. We’d like to propose taking another look and appreciating a feature that you do like, instead – whether that’s your mouth, your skin, your eyes…
Then accentuate your assets. We all have something that we feel happy – or happier: our waist, our smile, our hair, our legs. We encourage you to dress and make yourself up to accentuate those assets. If you choose, there are plenty of ways to disguise the features you’re less thrilled with. So: if you’re curvy, make the most of those curves. If you’ve got great hair, prioritise spending on a great cut (and maybe colour) that shows it off at its best.
Don’t just focus on the external, though. Yes, this is a beauty book. (And a wellbeing book, we like to think.) But does that mean we’re shallow, only focused on appearances? Not at all. So: your feelings of self-worth should extend way beyond the physical. Research has actually shown that individuals who have the healthiest levels of self-esteem acknowledge other factors in their life: the fact they’re a great friend, have a specific talent or a rewarding job, or are good at being a mother. In the grand scheme of things, these far outweigh the importance of having legs that go on forever, or a waist like a starlet’s.
Another fact: many of the skinny women you see around – on TV, in the media, movies, ads, never mind the ballet stage – are on permanent semi-starvation diets. They’ve made that choice perhaps because they feel – rightly or wrongly – that their career depends on being slim above all else. A lot of the so-called ‘flawless’ famous faces, meanwhile, spend a small fortune on cosmeto-dermatology or even surgery, having lines filled, veins zapped and/or the top layers of their skin peeled away. What else we know, though: when anyone fixates too much on appearance/youth/slenderness, that’s definitely a recipe for misery later, when childbirth, illness or the general ageing process take their toll.
We’re not saying ignore the ‘outer presentation’. (This book’s full of tips and products that we know can make a difference.) But we’re encouraging every woman to get a sense of the overall picture that others see. It’s natural that self-esteem has peaks and troughs: sometimes it’s down to sheer tiredness – or an unavoidable blow like a loved one getting sick, or losing a job/contract. (Or being unable to find one in the first place, for that matter.) But there really is a lot that each of us can do to feel better about ourselves, for most of the time.
And what we also know, above all: when you take care of yourself, it shines out. We can now spot readers who take care of themselves at 30 paces. We know before you tell us if you work out, whether you smoke or are over-stressed. So take it from us: the very best recipe for beauty, health and self-esteem begins with taking care of ourselves. Exercise doesn’t just shape you up and keep you fit: it releases feel-good endorphins that surge through the body. Eating well can improve mood. Cutting out excess caffeine can eliminate a sense of panic and stress – and has un-furrowed many a fretful frown-line which was troubling its ‘owner’, and denting her confidence.
The fact is: few of us are blessed with the body of a model, or the face of a goddess. But we can all feel better about ourselves. And when that confidence shines out, THAT is true, natural beauty…