Much of what I learned about beauty I learned from my teenage daughter.
That might seem strange, but at 14, she has offered me a view on myself and on the world that years of aspiring to a beautiful life has not.
Inga will often sit for hours in front of her mirror, applying cosmetics to perfection and styling her hair. Once satisfied, and looking like she is stepping out of a photoshoot with her long legs, perfectly arranged coiffure, and glamorous makeup, she arranges herself at our kitchen counter with a bowl of cereal or some avocado toast and watches a sitcom on her phone.
When this began, my practical self found it mystifying. Why bother? Why go to the trouble of applying make-up and curling, braiding, or styling her long hair, just to sit in the house and watch TV?
After observing in stunned silence for several weeks, I asked.
Her answer: Because it makes me feel good.
At first, I didn’t understand. With no one other than her mom around to admire her, it seemed a waste of effort and time. There were so many other things she could do with a Saturday morning! I asked her: why not take a run, see her friends, read a book, make pancakes? But, undaunted by my opinion and questions, Inga continued. It became clear that she was unapologetically putting herself first by taking the time to make herself happy—that what others thought was not the point. I began to realize that I could learn something if I took a page from her book.
I had to admit that I had become so pragmatic, so goal-focused, that I was forgetting to enjoy myself. I wasn’t really doing anything for my self, I was carrying on day after day from a sense of duty, not from a place of self-love. If I put on makeup, it was for a date or an event, to demonstrate that I cared enough to take time with my appearance. If I put on a little black dress and heels it was to turn up “presentable.” I didn’t make time to feel beautiful—I was always arranging my hair and makeup out of obligation, the way one puts on a slip under their skirt. It was all in my attitude and my priorities. Or, more to the point, beauty wasn’t in my attitude or my priorities.
I realized if I could adopt a fraction of Inga’s attention to her own desires and wishes for myself, that I could find greater happiness, satisfaction, and pleasure in my own life. She was demonstrating a kind of self-love that many of us don’t allow ourselves to engage in. The simple act of taking the time to pour her creative energy into her own happiness, into her own wish for herself—was its own magic.
Coco Chanel famously said ‘Beauty begins the moment you decide to be yourself.’
What I came to understand watching Inga emerge looking like a runway model after hours of primping weekend after the weekend was that she was not only making herself beautiful, she was also indulging her creative urge. She tried all sorts of color palettes, appearing with bright pinks one day, earth tones another, and a range of yellow and green hues around her eyes on still another Saturday. And there were all sorts of hairstyles, many different kinds of braids, buns, and curls. The variety seemed endless.
Coco Chanel, the iconic French fashion designer, and businesswoman who helped define 20th-century beauty, liberating women from corsets with a casual, sporty standard of style that freed our bodies. Coco made her own fame and notoriety on her sense of what makes a woman feel beautiful, attractive, and appealing. She defined fashion and beauty for a generation while demonstrating the strength of being a woman that honors and acts on her own ideas, taste, and beliefs. She did things her way, following her own convictions about what women would want, value, and adopt.
What I’ve learned watching my daughter these past years is that making choices from a place of self-awareness and self-love is the surest way to feel beautiful.
Treat yourself with the love and care you deserve, make time for yourself, give yourself attention.
Choose to honor what you need in a given moment–show up for yourself. Honor your desires, feelings, and ideas by recognizing them and responding to them.
If you aren’t feeling happy ask yourself: ‘what do I need right now? What would make me feel happier?’ And then arrange to do that thing, or the closest thing to it, that you can. If you can’t stop to do what will make you happy right at the moment, arrange to do it later.
If you don’t feel good in your skin ask yourself what would make you feel better right now? Do you need to make a different choice than the one you are making with this intention and time? If you aren’t feeling beautiful, do something that will make you feel beautiful. Maybe it’s just pausing to center yourself and breathe, or maybe you need to book a yoga class, put on lipstick, or go for a run.
Whatever it is, believe and know that you are worth it and it is both possible and important to put your happiness first. When you do, your life will be more beautiful.
Kirsti Frazier, M.A. Religion, is a writer, blogger, gardener, working mother of two, student of world religions, and producer of botanicals. The owner and gardener at Miller Hill Farm, a revolutionary-era farm near Boston, Kirsti cultivates herbs for botanical tinctures, infusions, teas, and fragrance.