The B of Living Imperfectly: Beauty and Belonging #atozchallenge

As the ladies and gentlemen arrive, each should be shown to a room exclusively provided for their reception; and the gentleman conducts the lady in his charge to the door of the ladies’ dressing-room, while he goes to the gentlemen’s apartment, each to prepare their toilet suitably to entering the reception-room – Martine’s Handbook to Etiquette and Guide to True Politeness, Arthur Martine, Dick & Fitzgerald Publishers, 1866.

B Challenge LetterResearch for this year’s Challenge has led me to find some great reading material. One such treasure has been  Brene Brown’s book, The Gifts of Imperfection, Let Go Of Who You Think You’re Supposed To Be And Embrace Who You Are. The title says it all, doesn’t it? If a book could be a mirror, this one would be mine right now.

In it, she describes midlife in a nutshell:

People may call what happens at midlife “a crisis”, but it is not. It’s an unravelling – a time when you feel a desperate pull to live the life you want to live, not the one you’re “supposed” to live. The unravelling is a time when you are challenged by the universe to let go of who you think you are supposed to be and to embrace who you are.”

It truly does feel like an unravelling. And after the unravelling comes the sifting, the sorting and finally the reassembled product. Perhaps it is our discontent with perfectionism that finally brings us to this point. Maybe we discover that we can truly never control perception, because by its very nature it is in the eye of the beholder. And perfection is all about perception, our own and that of others.

Which leads me into today’s topic of beauty and belonging. As Brene Brown so eloquently puts it, belonging is the innate human desire to be part of something bigger than ourselves and we so often try to acquire it by fitting in and seeking approval. However, according to Brown this is a false pretext because:

true belonging only happens when we present our authentic, imperfect selves to the world, our sense of belonging can never be greater than our level of self-acceptance.

Strong words. Strong concept. Holy Guacamole!

To most of us beauty plays a central role in self-acceptance. It is the basis upon which the cosmetic, cosmetic surgery and fashion industries are built all of which sell the outward ideal of perfection. The messages start early and young, especially for women. Being physically beautiful is essential to social success and possibly even success in general. Physical beauty should be a priority, because physical beauty (or lack of) is the first thing people notice about you, it is essential to perception, it is a worthy investment. Beauty is an industry and perfection is its weapon.

Which brings us to the recent phenomenon of the no makeup selfie. You may have seen invitations through Facebook or may have given one Being yourself battleyourself to post a no makeup selfie to raise funds for cancer research. Whether this concept actually raises money is still up for question as is the issue of whether it actually has merit in the eyes of cancer sufferers. Leaving both of these aside,  what I have found extraordinary about  is that posting a no makeup selfie should cause such a level of angst or be seen to be a brave thing by women.  This has been expressed in various ways including some expressing relief that they did not receive an invitation to post. Have we really come to a point where showing your true authentic self without “your face” on is that novel or indeed that newsworthy?

To belong, we need to accept ourselves first. And that means with make up and without.

Sleep, nutrition and self-love are really the only make up we need to put our best face forward. Further, none of these run or smudge.

About the curtain raiserhttp://raisingthecurtain.netI have spent my life in offices. For now I am putting that behind me and preparing for the second act. Middle age didn't come with acceptable signposts so I am making my own through my writing. A journey shared is more fun than going it solo.

19 thoughts on “The B of Living Imperfectly: Beauty and Belonging #atozchallenge

  1. I so long ago learned that it doesn’t matter one hoot what one looks like. I could be the most beautiful woman in the world and I would still be struggling with a husband who is dying and raising two grand-kids at my age. How is my being beautiful going to help. I haven’t worn makeup since Richard had a stroke almost 3 years ago. And I quit coloring my hair as well. And he still thinks I am beautiful. I am loving your theme.

    Paula at /Smidgen,Snippets,&Bits

    • Thanks Paula, appearance is certainly not the defining trait of beauty. Your time is precious given all who depend on you, so why would you waste it applying makeup? I wear a smear of lipstick when I go to work and that’s all.

  2. I love the concept of middle-age as an unraveling, then sifting and sorting, and finally reassembling. I’ve never heard it put that way, but I like that so much better than the term ‘crisis.’ It much better defines the process. Wonderful!

  3. Thank you for these wise words. Interestingly enough, I’ve started to put on more makeup these days because I feel my age shows. But I’ve realise I still feel the most comfortable not having too many things slapped on my face.

    • What a wonderful realisation. I feel most comfortable in that state as well. Frankly the time and cost involved in keeping up with makeup turns me off . Apart from which I really don’t have the skill 🙂

  4. You’ll get enough comments on the whole push from the cosmetic industry, and you spoke well of how it impacts us. I want to comment on the midlife “unraveling”. For me, it was much more about having given my 20’s and 30’s to a profession and career I absolutely loved, and suddenly discovering that wasn’t enough when I reached my mid-40’s. Where was the meaning? What fed my soul? Why did I feel so empty inside? Unraveling, indeed!

    • Sammy, I just wrote about that very thing in my C post! The same thing happened to me. It sent me into a tail spin of huge proportions, but happy to say back on track now 😉

      • I think it happens to (mostly) many women. I was ill with gastro-digestive problems for years until retirement. Look forward to reading “C” in a little bit.

  5. “true belonging only happens when we present our authentic, imperfect selves to the world, our sense of belonging can never be greater than our level of self-acceptance” Wise, wise words, and great post. Will definitely be back. Hope you’re enjoying the A-Z challenge 🙂

  6. I spot a neat coincidence: Yesterday I have started to pepper my upcoming search term poem post with some images I had taken with my smart phone in passing. One of them is a “no make up selfie”. It is interesting to learn that this means being part of some movement of the brave.

  7. Judy, great point. Belonging is a key need. The Greeks had a word for two needs balanced together – recognition and belonging. They called it Thumos. One of my favorite authors and columnists here. David Brooks, wrote about this in one of his books, “The Social Animal.” He used the example of a high schooler as it important to either belong to a group and/ or be recognized. The ones who had it tough were the ones who did neither. To honor your other word, your post is beautiful. BTG

    • I think we all know people who had it tough like that in high school. The yearn for belonging is strong even in adulthood. Sadly, some adults still conduct themselves as if they were in high school. I may have to read “The Social Animal” sounds rather interesting. I am all about trying to unravel the mysteries of human relationships right now.

      • Judy, I definitely agree on the high school conduct as an adult. In the US, we have these faux reality shows about spoiled brats who are old enough to know better. It troubles me that kids watch these and think that is how you are supposed to act. Do check out “The Social Animal” as Brooks takes you through how a couple who get together were raised, interact, etc., to illustrate social behavioral psychology. It is fascinating. Best wishes, BTG

  8. And I just asked you if you read the book! 😀 Her work has really impacted me deeply. How absolutely amazing he insights and wisdom are!
    I too wondered why posting a no make up selfie was such a big deal.

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