How to tame your inner beauty critic
When you wake up in the morning, do you flinch at the face that stares back at you in the mirror? When you're out, are you constantly sizing yourself up against everyone you meet? When people compliment you on your looks, are you instantly suspicious or doubtful? If you're guilty of self-sabotage, stop right now!
Say it: I am beautiful.
According to a study commissioned by Dove, only 4% of women in the world find themselves beautiful, and only half that number (a dismal 2%!) were comfortable describing themselves as beautiful. Are you part of the majority? If you think you don't measure up to society's beauty standards, your self-image may be in dire need of resuscitation.
It's interesting to note that in the same Dove study, more than half of women (54%) agree that when it comes to beauty, they are their own worst beauty critic. That's representative of 672 million women worldwide—an astounding number of women that hold back from celebrating their beauty and fulfilling their full beauty potential!
Change your perception
It's easy to blame the media for bombarding us with images of "perfection"—long straight shiny black hair, impossibly skinny figures, or whatever beauty standard is in vogue at the moment...And if we feel like we don't fit into this cookie-cutter mold, many grapple with feelings of inadequacy.
But if you ask people about their beauty ideal, the answers would differ from one person to the next. Each individual has their own filters—tastes and preferences, childhood, peer/community or cultural influences, and so forth, and thus each person's perception of beauty is different.
As little girls, we pick up cues from our moms—if mom has a healthy self-image and constantly affirms you, chances are, you'll have a healthy self-image, too. But if she nitpicks (however good her intentions are), constantly criticizes your appearance, or compares you to your sisters or friends (ouch!), you learn to be self-conscious and insecure. We also pick up on our mom's own insecurities and beauty paranoias—and these perceptions learned early in life are the hardest to change.
If you've been living with impossible, unrealistic, or even negative perceptions of beauty, the first thing you have to come to terms with is that there is not just one standard. Many women seek affirmation from others before they can believe in their own beauty. But if beauty is in the eye of the beholder, the first person you need affirmation from should be yourself.
Learn to love your quirks
Do you wish you looked like someone else, or wish you could change a feature or body part? Women fantasize about having Angelina Jolie's lips or Jennifer Aniston's body, but it's no longer healthy when you can't stand your own reflection. You might not even realize it, but when you're overly fussy or insecure about your appearance, it affects your overall vibe and people pick up on it. Now that's unattractive.
The next time you freak out over your features or skin color or figure, switch your inner beauty critic to silent mode. When you look in the mirror, stop feeling despair and start seeing potential. Focus on your assets and play up your best features. Learn to love your quirks, your pretty features, and yes, even your flaws—recognize your beauty and embrace what makes you different from everybody else.
Room for improvement
Self-acceptance doesn't mean "letting yourself go" or being sloppy about your appearance. Stop the vicious cycle of self-loathing and be pro-active about your personal beauty.
Your God-given features are a gift; now it's up to you to bring out the best in yourself. Stick to a simple beauty routine that addresses your skin concerns, follow a healthy diet and fitness program, and dress in clothes that flaunt your assets and capture your personal style.
The smallest adjustments can make a big difference, like grooming your brows to frame your face better, learning makeup tricks to emphasize your assets, or getting a flattering haircut. Take pride in how you look. Even seemingly imperceptible changes—like slathering on your favorite body lotion to make your skin feel wonderfully soft, or spraying on a captivating fragrance—can boost your ego and jumpstart your personal confidence campaign.
Bottomline: the goal is to be comfortable in your own skin and happy about what you see in the mirror. Remember, the only standards of beauty you must meet are your own, so don't be too hard on yourself.
Be beautiful, inside and out
You must have come across people who oozed with so much appeal that it didn't even occur to you that they didn't fall into the generic standards of beauty. That kind of charisma can only come from an inner confidence, of being secure in yourself, of knowing that there is more to you than just your looks.
Be the total package. When you're not so obsessed with your physical appearance, you can properly cultivate your inner beauty, and ultimately, recognize the beauty in others. You'll find that a propensity for kindness is more effective than a facelift, and no beauty cream can ever deliver the kind of radiant glow true beauty can provide.
Pierra C. Labrador is a freelance writer, editor, stylist, and co-founder of the Philippine's new virtual styling site miss-match.com.ph. She's worked for the top Philippine fashion and travel glossies for over ten years, and recently co-authored the Enjoy Philippines Manila Travel Guide.