If you’ve ever stood in the make-up aisle, seen a commercial, or glanced through a beauty magazine (or any magazine!) you know what I’m talking about. The infinite steps required to make you beautiful.

It’s so simple, really. First you remove the facial peel and replenishing night cream (that you hopefully applied the night before), wash, exfoliate, apply a facial oil (with age fighting ingredients like retinol and vitamin C) to your dry areas, a tone correcting cream (with soy and vitamin A) to your age spots, and an acne treatment (with allonin) on your acne prone areas. Then add a moisturizer with SPF or a BB or CC cream with SPF (that both corrects redness and protects skin from UV rays).

And now you’re ready to start your make-up routine! Simply apply concealer (for your dark spots), and eye cream (for those dark circles), a pore vanisher (to give your face that air-brushed look), foundation, mineral based powder, blush, eye liner, a minimum of 2-3 shades of eye shadow, mascara, lip stick, lip liner, lip crayon, protective gloss, and finally a bronzer, (which you’ll need for that “natural-looking sun kissed radiance.”)

By this time it’s 11:30 and you can get to work on your hair, which requires shampoo, conditioner, curl enhancer, hair color, hair serum, deep conditioning treatment, hairspray, volumizer, shine spray, and dry shampoo. Then you can begin styling. 

All you have to do is set your alarm for 4:30 and by 1:00, you’re ready to show your face to the world.

I am overwhelmed when I look through magazines on all the latest and greatest “must-have’s” to finally achieve beauty. I am one of countless other women who have a beauty supply graveyard. Things we bought with high hopes that we’d finally feel beautiful, that just didn’t deliver. As I look back, I never really was satisfied with my appearance. Maybe I would have been in my mid 30’s if I could have lost a little weight. Early 30’s? Nope. Too many age spots. Late 20’s? No, my hair was too stringy and flat. Early 20’s? Nah, too pale. Teenage years? Nope. Acne. Suffice it to say, even when I was 96 pounds with no age spots, a clear complexion, and a cute ‘do, I still found reasons to be dissatisfied with my appearance. Will I be an old wrinkled woman in a nursing home who looks back on pictures of my younger, beautiful self, and shake my head sadly because even then I was blind to my beauty, thereby  never finding the confidence I needed to be TRULY beautiful? Because that’s the path I (and many of my friends) have been on the past 30 + years. In fact, the last time I can remember not being overly critical of my appearance was when I was…. well, my daughter’s age.

This realization is a bit alarming to me. Especially since she’s already made comments expressing dissatisfaction with herself. It’s already happening. She’s at a critical crossroads that will set her on a path to either a positive or a negative self-image. As I stop to consider the women in my life (many of them beautiful women!), I can’t think of a single one who is perfectly content in her appearance. We are never happy. So how do I stop my daughter from descending this maddening spiral that so few of us escape from? Well, I think I can start by being a better example. I stopped criticizing myself in front of my kids a long time ago. That was an important first step, and not an easy one. But it is only a first step. Now I need to follow it up by replacing negative self-talk with positive self talk. Verbalizing my strengths so she can see that it’s okay to like things about yourself!!!! 

Somehow without even realizing it, I started believing that admitting you have strengths was not ok, but admitting you have weaknesses is perfectly acceptable. I thought it was prideful or boastful to like something about myself. Being honest about yourself does not mean measuring yourself to a perfect standard. Sure, extreme pride and extreme self-loathing are both wrong. But simply loving who you are, being proud of an accomplishment or a strength, is nothing more than confidence. Something I, for one, could use a lot more of. 

Verbalizing my strengths, then verbalizing hers. Not just generalized statements like “beauty is within” , because that doesn’t mean much to a pre-tween. Especially coming from Mom. But very specific attributes. Her empathy for others, her affectionate nature, and the wisdom and strength she has gained from trials. Her compassion and outreach to ANYONE who is hurting around her, even those who are socially awkward, those who are mean to her, and those who have repeatedly let her down. She extends a tremendous amount of grace. She is truly an amazing little person. And if these things aren’t drilled in to her by the time she hits teenage years, it may be too little too late for me to start talking about her “beauty within”..

The answer for my daughter, therefore, isn’t trendy clothes, cute hair accessories, sparkly jewelry, or that hair glitter she loves. And it’s certainly not a 64 step beauty process when she’s older. The answer is when she can stand on a foundation that’s not skewed in either direction, accept that perfection is unattainable, but she is beautiful just the way God made her anyway. That’s when we achieve the confidence that shines through whatever skin we’re in, because we have learned to love ourselves.