BEAUTY, CONFIDENCE AND THE FUTILE PURSUIT OF PERFECTION
I’ve recently come to an enlightened conclusion: beauty as a concept is truly messed up. That it changes by season and culture, geography and social media fad makes attaining it a full-time, exhausting job.
As I write this, I’m thinking about my upcoming nail appointment and what simple yet creative design to do next, my laser appointment – which I’ve been putting off for two months now – and how much weight I “need” to lose before I can feel like the best version of myself.
The pursuit of effortless beauty is anything but effortless these days. And because of my personality type, I’m given to obsessing over things endlessly until they die a natural death, are somehow resolved or superseded by something else that carries more weight. I’ve been doing this for many, many years, and here are some things I’ve learned about beauty, confidence, perfection and the illusion of all of it:
- When Kanye West rapped “the people highest up got the lowest self-esteem” in All Falls Down, he knew what he was talking about. So don’t compare yourself to your faves on Instagram, or those you look up to for whatever reason. They probably don’t even look like that in real life, because *cough* filters and angles *cough*. People are out here dealing with a lot and hiding serious challenges with their self-esteem. They just hide it well – me included.
- You owe nobody a flat tummy or toned arms. Wear them out loud and proud. Let them hang, let them jiggle, let them breathe for as long as you want to. Should you decide to wear a body shaper, do it for you, not because of what people will say if you don’t. Let it smoothen those bumps, accentuate those curves, hold you in where you want it to – but do it all for you babe, not society.
- Confidence can be learned. That’s why I have certain songs on replay, because they make me feel confident and beautiful and sexy even on those days when the mirror says something else. Here are a few of my favourite jams at the moment:
- Choose your beauty battle, you can’t do it all at once – unless you have the budget. And whatever improvement you choose to make, repeat after me: Do. It. For. You. Do it because you want to become the best version of you, not because you’re trying to conform to unrealistic standards.
- Take pictures of yourself. Take pictures when you wake up, randomly throughout the day, before you sleep, when you’re feeling cute, when you’re freshly showered, when exercising; take pictures. It might seem a little vain, but trust me, a little vanity can do wonders for your confidence. And the best part is, they don’t have to be perfect, and you don’t have to post them. They can be that little thing you do just for yourself – a little diary of your journey to becoming you, at every stage.
- Start early and be consistent. Whether it’s staying active, eating what’s right for you (and what makes you happy), or skin care. I only started getting serious with my skin care in 2020 and I wish I had started earlier. I wasted so many years trying to hide acne, scars, hyperpigmentation and pores, when it turns out all I had to do was see a dermatologist to understand my skin issues and start using the right the right products for me. I’ve finally figured it out, and I love it! Here’s my current skin care routine:
– Cleanse with a gentle exfoliating cleaning gel for oily and acne-prone skin
– Exfoliate with a liquid exfoliant containing beta hydroxi acid (BHA) and salicylic acid to unclog my pores, remove dead skin and brighten (3x a week)
– Tone with brightening niacinamide toner to even out my skin tone
– Hydrate with snail mucin gel to lock in moisture
– Moisturize with NIVEA Luminous 630 Anti Dark Mark serum and day cream with SPF 50 (#ad)
– Retinol to smoothen and brighten my oily skin – I do this 2x a week and alternate with an adapalene gel to minimize acne breakouts and promote faster healing of pimples when they develop
– Hydrate with snail mucin gel again (hydration is really important especially when using retinol, which tends to dry out my skin)
– Moisturize again, starting with the NIVEA Luminous 630 Anti Dark Mark serum and layering on a night cream (#ad)
In the words of Lizzo in Water Me, “I don’t get dehydrated, I moisturize it daily / I am my inspiration, I am my inspiration.”
To the uninitiated, it might look a little complicated, but I promise you it’s not. I’ve been learning what works for me through trial and error and came up with this routine with the help of an aesthetician (Beauty Square). I’ve been using this regimen for the last 7-8 weeks now and I can see the results, which I’m loving.
I scar easily after each breakout and I’m constantly dealing with hyperpigmentation, so I’m super stoked that the NIVEA combo is complementing what I had already started doing with the help of the esthetician and dermatologist, and is doing exactly what it promises to do: lighten dark marks and reduce their appearance, and balance the production of new pigmentation to prevent the appearance of new spots.
This is especially critical to me because my period likes to announce itself with a few random spots each month and I don’t need the reminder on my face. And the SPF50 sunscreen in the day cream is a major, major plus because it cuts my routine by one step, which is great when you’re committed to keeping things as simple as possible.
- Last, and perhaps the most important thing: perfection is a lie and nobody can be perfect, even with technology, medicine and a fat budget. Perfection only exists online, and what we see here is often so heavily edited and curated, it’s not real life. So while we can’t be perfect (and there’s beauty in that), what we can be is healthy and kind to ourselves, which is what I’m learning after years of looking for every fault I have and talking down to myself in the name of self-deprecation. Even the healthiest skin has texture, pores and the occasional breakout, so don’t beat yourself up about not having that glass-like dewy skin. Once in a while I watch videos like this one to remind me.
Got any beauty and confidence tips you’d like to share? Tell me, and I could gift you a NIVEA Luminous 630 Anti Dark Mark serum and day cream from my stash! [UPDATE: GIVEAWAY CLOSED]
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The Cultured Cow