I mean, really, IS there anything that’s better than looking great?
It would seem that, as women, most of our attention, time, creativity, care, obsession, and focus goes toward how we look, ideally toward looking good, great, acceptable, lovable, etc.
One of the greatest areas of life that hobbles women the most is how we look — and who looks at us and how they look at us. The dominant culture hands us a script for how we should look, and reminds us to never STOP focusing on how we look (under penalty of loss of love and belonging).
And we also chime in on the oppression by oppressing ourselves, by spending so much of our time and attention on how we look.
And yet, for many of us, we’ve seen our compulsion for what it is and have begun to channel our precious resources (of attention, time, creativity, focus, etc) elsewhere and have come to realize that yes:
There IS something better than LOOKING great, and that is FEELING great.
Feeling great — and to a degree, looking great — is definitely an inside job.
The only way to truly know and confirm your own worth, value, beauty, desirability, and sense of self is from WITHIN you. No one or thing outside of you can ever really do the job. Only you can, in the quiet certainty of your own heart and body.
Last year, I reached out to a former client, to see how our work from a few years back was integrating for her and she said,
“Let me tell you a story of how well it is all going for me. I was recently traveling and had a bit of time before my plane boarded. I wasn’t particularly made-up, well-dressed, and I was a few pounds overweight, so I wasn’t feeling at my best. But as I walked toward my gate, I noticed a gentleman eyeing me appreciatively.
I wasn’t in the mood to engage, but inside I thought, ‘That’s right. This is what a goddess looks like. Enjoy the view.”
Enjoy the view. Wow, right?
Confirmation of your awesomeness (such as from the gentleman in the airport) must be icing on the cake, but definitely not the cake itself and certainly not your daily bread. My client is clearly in touch with her own worth and beauty, sourced from inside her, and yet allowed the icing of that man’s appreciation to confirm what she already knows.
So, while we know that we can’t rely on anything outside ourselves to confirm our value, while we know that we can’t base our self-worth on being PERCEIVED or RECEIVED in any particular way or another — and that is a GREAT thing to know — I want to speak to a paradox that is alive for many women.
For many of us, we feel enlivened and nourished and even better about ourselves by getting a reflection about how we are perceived — from our physical looks, our talents and gifts, both internal and external.
We know we’re not SUPPOSED to want or like these reflections, but we DO like receiving these kinds of affirmations.
So, here’s the thing.
There is a difference between LOOK AT ME and SEE ME.
A woman who is broadcasting LOOK AT ME with her energy is usually feeling rotten at her core. She is feeling shaky about her worth, value, and lovability. She tries to cover up those internal doubts with external “beauty" and achievements. She spends her time and energy on “looking great,” hoping no one will see how badly she feels about herself or confirm how truly flawed she feels she is — and then leave.
She invites everyone, LOOK AT ME, but it is done as a cover-up job so that no one looks too closely or deeply.
(I know how this goes because I used to operate like this throughout each moment of each day, until I was about 35 years old or so. Every so often, when I am really depleted or down, I can fall into this same swamp.)
Now, a woman who is broadcasting SEE ME, is at peace with who she is — the whole complex, wondrous, often-contradictory lot of it. She feels clear about her worth, value, and lovability, even as her life, relationships, work, achievements, and life go up and down. She invites everyone to really see her, to see the woman she is, flaws and talents alike.
She invites everyone, SEE ME, as an invitation: an act of connection, of play, of generosity, of vulnerability, of intimacy.
So here is one of my favorite potent practices to shift from LOOK AT ME to SEE ME.
Use adornment — clothing, jewelry, make-up, shoes, flowers in your hair, bells on your toes — or not — consciously and deliberately.
As you are getting ready for the day, ask yourself:
1. What do I feel like today?
And then choose your clothes, accessories, make up, bedazzlements, etc — or not — based on what you feel like today.
2. Or, What do I WANT to feel like today?
And then choose your clothes, accessories, make up, bedazzlements, etc — or not — based on what qualities or strengths you WANT to embody that day. In essence, you ask your adornment to help you shift into a different frame of mind and feeling in your body.
For example, if you are getting ready and you are feeling soft and flowy, and want to express, confirm, and adorn those qualities, you might dress in a gypsy skirt, a loose top, dangly earrings that catch the light, and some sparkly powder on your cheekbones.
Or, if you are feeling soft and flowy, but you WANT to feel bold and powerful and want to express, confirm, and adorn THOSE qualities, you might dress in tailored slacks, a button-down shirt, a leather jacket, dramatic make-up, and a ring on every finger.
So then how you look becomes a form of EXPRESSION, not REPRESSION.
So as you dress, make up, adorn — or not — you do so not to cover up perceived flaws, but as a form of expression of who you are and what you want us to see about you today. You let your adornment reflect, bring out, or enhance your character, your essence, your unique brand of beauty.
How you look becomes an act of CONFIRMATION, not CONFORMING.
So that what you choose to adorn yourself with — or not — is based on who you are and what you want to feel like, not based on the latest fashion trends or what your nation, friends, or family think is appropriate or fitting for you.
Let your adornment — or lack thereof— confirm or express the truth of who you are and what you feel — or want to feel.
As my client said, “This is what a goddess looks like,” and she’s right.
The goddess looks like YOU.
The goddess broke herself up in a zillion little pieces (and you are one of those pieces), so she could see herself everywhere, and everyone can ENJOY THE VIEW.
You are one of those pieces. So start acting like it — and adorning like it!
Perhaps you are the temple to the goddess of curves and wiggle, or the goddess of statuesque and cool, or the goddess of warm and full, or the goddess of athletic fire.
Whatever your shape, size, color, and flavor of the goddess you are today, let us not just LOOK AT YOU, but please, let us SEE YOU.
To you adorning the goddess you are,