Why I Don’t Take Beauty Cues from American Culture

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My UnAmerican Confessional

  • I hate treadmills and anything called Insanity.
  • Diets make me think of jello and shredded carrots. I refuse to be a rabbit.
  • Running? I checked off that half marathon years ago and called it good, honey.
  • I’m content to never ever wear a bikini again. It’s a modesty thing and a stretch mark thing.
  • Walking slowly brings me deep joy, like praying in a beautiful church.
  • I avoid the gym like the plague except for yoga class + free childcare (bliss!)
  • What ABOUT the scale? After two babies, I stopped that nonsense.
  • Skinny jeans? Muffin tops? Have you not heard? The age of the linen pant is upon us.
  • Big Gulps and egg McMuffins are so yesterday. A small piece of dark chocolate and a small latte can be better than sex.

Taking time, enjoying food, and savoring life. Does this sound revolutionary? What about lowering expectations about what we should look like? Or realistic about style, body type, and the beauty we offer to this world. Easier said than done.

I go through phases where I go all out: I purge the cupboard of processed foods, rededicate myself to the gym gods, purchase a slew of new products, and start running like mad toward the perfect body. For a few weeks, I feel better about myself, but it never lasts.

A few years back I found this radical little book, “French Women Don’t Get Fat” by Mireille Guiliano. It’s about relishing food, being sensible about your body and beauty in general, and enjoying your life.

Sounds subversive, doesn’t it?

Full Lives Running on Empty

We Americans are known for our overwork ethic and tendency toward consumerism and heart disease. Most of us are trying to do so much, cramming our lives full of successes and things, always bigger and better.

Trying to be so many things leaves us strung out, depressed, and totally wanting. Tweet This

When I went to Seoul, South Korea, last year, I saw how extreme a country can take the need to have it all: plastic surgery, cosmetically bleached skin, a high-stress education system, and extremely long work hours. With the second highest suicide rate in the world, the push for more isn’t working out very well there (the U.S. was #50 and France #47 according to the World Health Organization in 2012).

The problem with our beauty mentality is we think we can be everything to everyone. If we admit we can’t, then we feel insecure, and, sister, that’s a hard thing to face when you’re on the fasttrack to superwoman status.

Having it all is a bold-faced lie. Especially when it comes to body type. The ideal body image has changed drastically throughout history. How? Here’s a fabulous video.

I can no more look like you than you look like me. (Besides, what fun would that be anyway?)

Guiliano posits: the best way to embrace beauty is to be realistic, slow down, and do sensible things to maintain a beautiful life. Chew slowly, make meals a social event, have self control, take care of yourself with balance and rest, and for goodness’ sake, stop the rat race.

She admits French take their enjoyment of life to an extreme. Yes, there are fat French women too, and those Parisians do enjoy their smoky cafes (which is thankfully on the decline.) What I got from that little book (a few visits to France and other laid-back places) is moderation and realism. Balance.

Recherché: 

/rəˈʃɛəʃeɪ; French rəʃɛrʃe/

adjective

known only to connoisseurs; choice or rare

Loving yourself and who you shouldn’t be so countercultural. But it is, as the French say, recherché.

Years ago my mother-in-law went through breast cancer. She lost her hair—her beauty, and proceeded to have years of surgeries and treatments. Her pursuit of losing weight slowed to a halt because suddenly, life was so precious.

I love being an American who lives with a bit of French flair (maybe it’s the bit of French blood I supposedly have on my grandmother’s side.) When I became a mom, I too, realized this invaluable thing called life.

Beauty That Satisfies

  • Slowing down.
  • Finding contentment.
  • Celebrating differences.
  • Giving thanks for our strengths.
  • Telling ourselves “Ta-Da!” in the mirror.
  • Taking pleasure in our food, style, and natural beauty.

This is my confessional: I’m so over the pursuit for perfection. It leaves me feeling utterly deprived or tragically bloated. I’d rather wear my linen pants on leisurely walks, eat a little chocolate late at night, and do one simple thing some might call insanity: enjoy this one beautiful life.

Your Turn

When was the last time you enjoyed something beautiful? How do you feel about yourself and the world around you when this thought enters your mind?

Beauty Rewrites

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Beauty Rewrites is a body image series for women to help us get on good terms with our bodies. Join us every Tuesday with stories from Ludavia Harvey at NiftyBetty.com, Emily Conrad, and Christina Hubbard at Creative and Free. We hope this series inspires us all to stop pursuing perfection and learn to embrace what’s true and sacredly beautiful about ourselves.

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June 28, 2016