How do you feel about your skin?
When you’re in front of the mirror, do you ever get up real close and analyse your skin? "Ugh, is it time for Botox? FML why didn't I wear sunscreen growing up?! I curse being a child of the 80s!"
In my late 20s this was more or less my sad relationship with with my skin. This phase peaked right after a rough breakup, so I also had bit of the classic "Will I die alone?" fear narrative running through my veins at the same time (never fun). Meanwhile, my flustered, erratic take on a skincare routine did not help my appearance, nor how I felt about it.
Our skin impacts how we feel, no joke
Research tells us that how we feel and what we believe about our skin can have a huge impact, positive or negative, on our overall confidence. I mean, anti-aging products make up nearly 40% of the facial skincare category in the US! And, in the least surprising news ever, societal prioritisation of youth is a pressure felt most strongly by women (Mintel).
We're put in a tough spot, clearly. We are supposed to be all, have all, and look 21 forever. Or at least that's what they say. I fell for this narrative for a long time. The worst part of it was that you can never win. The whole thing is such a cruel joke. Honestly, screw that.
When in doubt, look to the sisterhood
How can we move past this neurotic, self-critiquing behaviour and get to a place where we feel good about ourselves? For me, the journey was both philosophical and physical.
First, I made the effort to read about and surround myself with women of different ages who I could learn from and admire. A sisterhood of women who had gone through the same nasty, insecure phase and come out on the other side, stronger, more irreverent and just generally with high-levels of badass-ness (real word? new word). There's something galvanising about that particular high you get after a great night out with your truest girlfriends. That's power.
One popular quote captures it for me, "No one can make you feel inferior without your consent." - Eleanor Roosevelt. She's right. At some point I decided, despite the million ways that society tries to make me feel a certain way about myself and how I should act, and look while doing it, they can't make me feel anything without my consent.
Even more importantly, I realized that the biggest battle wasn't between me and "society" at large, it was between me and my own thoughts. Thoughts are real things. When I learned to be kinder and more generous to myself, it made all the difference. It's a work in process but I'm not the same person that I was at 28 and thank goodness for that.
Take control of your skin
Alongside trying to understand and overcome my self-critical attitude, I learned how to take care of myself in a way that produces real, physical improvements to the appearance of my skin. I combed through blogs, learned about ingredients and the best kind of routines and then made the active decision to follow through on this commitment every day.
I found that through taking care of my skin, I learned to love it and understand that it's a) the largest organ on our body so deserves some respect and b) such an awesome partner, with its freckles and smile lines, as I continue to write chapters in my life.
So these days, after a lot soul-searching - and a healthy amount of investigation into proper skincare - I've settled on a more Monet-like level of self-scrutiny. By which I mean I stand several feet from the mirror and think, “Hell yea, good enough!” before racing out the door and getting on it with it.
And once in a while, when I'm having a decent hair day, and the light catches the top of my cheekbone at just the right angle, I meet my own in eyes in the mirror and think to myself, "Maybe I am secretly gorgeous after all."
Welcome to the sisterhood.
By Renee Parker
Photo credit: Theo Wargo/NBC/Getty Images