I believe looking good starts with feeling good.
Before we consider what to put on our faces, we must confront what’s going on inside our heads! For a lot of us, it’s a blurry mess of negativity. But right now, we can choose to make a change: we can decide to sharpen our focus and start seeing the positive.
I hear the skeptics out there already. Hey, Carmindy, that ’s great and everything, but could you just show me how to make my lips look bigger? Well, guess what? I can show you lots of ways to gloss up your pucker, but you’ll only be pretty if you feel that way without a darn thing on those lips. And you’ll only be beautiful when kind, loving words pass from them!
Words are incredibly powerful, and thoughts are even more so. Need proof?
How often have you stopped a friend whose eyes were clouded with worry and said, “What’s the matter? You look upset.” Or conversely, you’ve seen that same friend floating on cloud nine and said, “You look amazing. What’s going on?” Same woman, different thoughts—a totally altered appearance.
That dynamic plays out on our own faces every day. How we think affects how we look. Period.
Though we can’t always control how the world comes at us, we can decide to feel good about ourselves and to meet challenges head-on, with our best face forward. A confident face that knows its finest features and plays them up. A one-of-a-kind face that honors its special beauty and owns it from the inside out.
I’ve built my career by homing in on the natural beauty I find in each woman I consult with. But do you know what I spend the most time doing? It isn’t mascara. It’s convincing a woman to see the gorgeous potential I see in her and to believe in her own gifts.
Fans of What Not to Wear know how stubborn I can be about this. I simply won’t allow a capable, captivating woman to sit before me and tear herself down. How can I consider a makeover a success if a lady hasn’t first made over her mind? This goes especially for you, my friend!
You chose this book because you want to bring out your best. It’s such a privilege for me to play a part in your transformation. And so exciting! Let’s get going by turning off those negative old thought patterns and switching on the lovely light you know is burning inside.
Here’s how. . .
Drop the Flaw Focus
Sounds simple, right? But after two decades in the beauty biz, I know how difficult it is to shut out the negative messages coming at us every day.
Think for a moment about beauty “experts” who show us how to fix what they perceive is wrong with a given face. They see and point out the flaws first—expecting us to agree with the criticism— and then give instruction on how to camouflage the “issue.” We can get so caught up in obeying their authority that we start transferring other women’s “problem areas” to our own faces: suddenly we can only see dark undereye circles or thin lips. Before you know it, we feel worse than before.
We can hardly place blame on the beauty industry alone. Often the destructive cycle starts much closer to home.
No matter who you are, chances are people in your past have made negative comments about your appearance. Maybe a childhood bully yelled, “Hey, pizza face.” Or an uncle whispered, “Quite a honker of a schnoz she’s got there.” Or a controlling boyfriend hissed, “Your eyes are so tiny, no wonder you can’t drive straight.”
I’m sure you have your own painful list. Why is it that we remember the insults and forget the compliments? Beats me, but we do—especially when we’re young and forming our ideas about ourselves, and looking to others for guidance. When people close to us try to boost their selfimportance by cutting us down, the wounds go deep.
Again, it’s all about the power of words. We hold on to these negative opinions as truth. A nasty remark said in passing turns into a long-lasting insecurity. Rather than fight the insults, we agree. What’s worse is that we take over the role of critic and turn up the volume.
I can’t tell you how many women I have worked with who, when I say, “Wow, what beautiful eyes you have,” argue that they are too small. Or if I say, “Check out your terrific complexion,” they’ll point out how big their pores are. I feel like calling the Centers for Disease Control to report an epidemic of facial dysmorphic disorder!
Even if you have been lucky enough to go through life unscathed by negative comments, you may have chosen to generate your own, perhaps as a member of the age-hating party. You may be one of those women who tracks every miniscule change, scrutinizing and agonizing. Every trip to the mirror ends in panicked dread.
It’s ridiculous. It’s also a serious misuse of our feminine power.
By focusing on what’s “wrong” with our looks, we’re—by definition—dwelling on the negative. When we’re harsh with ourselves, we’re agreeing with those who sought to hurt us. And we’re fueling a damaging cycle that not only dulls our appearance but also darkens our days. Now I ask you, is that how we want to be? Acting as our own worst enemies?
I hear you, feisty ladies. N. O.
So, what do we say yes to instead? Being positively beautiful by celebrating our individuality and enhancing our unique assets.
Every woman has a special bloom all her own. Now is the time to take notice—starting in our own mirrors.
I realize your urge might be to fight me on this. Old habits are tough to break. But has being so tough on yourself brought you the results you want? Clearly not.
By dropping the flaw focus, you set off on a new path, one that’s freeing and wonderful.
To understand how silly it is to hold one standard of beauty and to see any variation from it as a flaw, play along with me for a moment. . .
Imagine hearing a floral expert on a home improvement show proclaiming, “Only roses are beautiful.” Our instincts would disagree. But, hey, we might still listen. A few minutes later, some of us might believe it and consider tearing up our magnolia trees and painting our orchids to look like roses. But why stop there? Delicate violets, striking birds of paradise? Hit the trash. Elegant calla lilies, scentsational lilacs? Off you go. Heck, we might grow to resent the rose’s beauty and stop caring about flowers altogether. How absurd, right? Well, we have spent far too much time plucking away at our petals, and it has to stop.
Let go of the past. Drop that destructive commentary stuck on repeat. It’s a tired track, and no one can dance to it!
Start by trying this simple exercise. Look into a mirror and speak aloud your usual negative thoughts, like, “Ugh. These dark circles.” Notice your whole facial expression as you say it. Now take a deep breath, concentrate on something positive in the same area, and praise it, loud and proud. “Check out my gorgeous eyes.” What happens to your face simply from switching your focus and your words?
I’d bet my bottom dollar you immediately look happier, more relaxed. Now, does it feel a little silly at first? Maybe. But it’s a whole lot sillier to be dishing yourself a big ol’ plate of negative energy that manifests itself right smack in the middle of your face. Speaking sweetly of yourself, to yourself is more than a nicety. It’s a necessity and the most potent beauty secret I know.
Ultimately, it’s up to you to let go and take that first step toward the positive. You’re in charge of your thoughts and emotions. It’s your face, your image, and your life. Do you want it to be about your flaws or about your fabulousness?
Kick Away Corrosive Comparisons
Getting your mind made up to be beauty-positive is a fantastic first step. But staying focused on your unique attributes requires constant care, especially when the media and advertisers conspire to sabotage our efforts by inviting us to play the most time-wasting game ever: Compare and Despair.
Television and magazines bombard us with images of so-called beauty ideals that look nothing like you or me. The motive? To keep us second-guessing our own worth. We see shot after shot of celebrities who are glorified when they are “perfect” and vilified when they “let themselves go.” We’re encouraged to judge these stars. And we do.
Comparison games create corrosive thought patterns, patterns that push us to talk negatively about ourselves and pit us against our fellow ladies. We all suffer the consequences.
Consider how many of us look at a photograph of a pretty woman—or, should I say, of a woman who fits with what society has dictated as pretty. First, we notice her beauty and appreciate it for its own sake. Then, about a half second later, that inner critic starts piping up: “I look nothing like her. Therefore, I’m hideous.” I can almost hear the announcer right there alongside you: “Yes indeed, ladies. Another great afternoon ruined by a fun-filled round of Compare and Despair! Dedicated to keeping you in your place by knocking your spirit!”
I want off that not-so-merry-go-round. How about you?
We are society so, it is up to us to choose how we respond to what we see. The media and marketers will only change if we change our thinking and our behavior. Thank goodness, it’s already starting to happen. For example, I applaud companies like Dove for their revolutionary Campaign for Real Beauty. Now is the perfect time to be your own beauty revolutionary, to stand up for what’s yours and to act accordingly.
Now, don’t get me wrong; admiring other women can be inspiring. As a kid, I idolized Marilyn Monroe and tried to emulate eighties supermodel Kim Alexis—both blondes with light eyes. Coincidence? Hardly. I find most women fixate on celebs who match their coloring, as if these stars are the ultimate remix of their own features. But guess what? If you were the famous one, those same people would be talking about your beauty.
After all, the actual definition of celebrity is “one who is celebrated.” Want to be a celebrity? Start celebrating yourself! Decide that comparing and despairing is tedious and toxic, whether the standard you’re applying is that of a fashion model or a woman at the gym Recognize that there will always be someone more “this” and someone less “that.” But the one with the most confidence wins every time. Resolve not to waste another minute keeping score.
You have far better ways to use that newfound time and energy.