“My momma said a lady ain’t what she wears but what she knows…”
– India.Arie, Video
“Individually Sourced Beauty” has become my mantra. When I walk through Target to get duct tape and I pass the beauty aisles, I chant, “ISB, ISB,” to myself. If I have friends who are talking about getting pedicures this weekend, and wouldn’t it be fun if we all went together? my brain sounds the ISB alarm and I convince myself I can take care of my own feet. I observe my dwindling supply of makeup, and knowing that I won’t replace it once it’s gone – I make a point to look myself square in the mirror and say, “That’s okay. It’s more important to have a natural glow*.”
It’s been an emotionally charged journey to change my own thought process on feeling beautiful. My original intention had been to guide other women (and men! although it seems y’all prefer “ruggedly handsome” to “beautiful”, but…semantics) in discovering the hidden core of their own feeling of beauty, a God-given nugget inside of all of us that’s been obscured by scores of years and billions of dollars of advertising. In reality, it’s become more about sharing my own struggles as I try to accept emotionally what I seem capable of understanding intelligently. I hope that it’s still as meaningful reading as I had intended at the outset.
Yesterday, I cracked. I received a bad haircut from a stylist who wouldn’t listen to what I wanted, and I failed to convince myself that it didn’t matter. I said all the right things to myself – “Hair grows” and “I am not my hair” (isn’t that a song?) and “There’s been some pretty bad hair in history among world leaders, no one today measures their capability with hair”. And still, it was all I could do to keep still in the salon chair and not start to shout. 24 hours later and I’m still on the verge of crying.
In retrospect, I can identify three factors that broke my ISB zen. The first being that I’ve been doing a lot “without”. The scenarios I described at the beginning of this post are just a small sample of the discernment between “need” and “want” when if comes to taking care of myself. With so many ads, so many billions of dollars aimed at convincing women that they are inadequate, it’s an overwhelming, exhausting battle to fight. Halfway through my year commitment, and I’m pooped.
Second, the environment of the salon was everything that I’ve come to recognize as a beauty trap for consumers. Shelves lined with pretty bottles of product, huge posters of gorgeous women with amazing hair hanging on the walls, and a services guide on the wall – without prices. Stacks of books with innumerable nuances of cuts. Candy on the front desk lest anyone’s blood sugar drop and they get testy. After 6 months of grooming my consciousness to recognize when I’m being hemmed in by the beauty system, I cringed when I entered the salon. This was everything I’ve been trying to avoid.