We live in a funny world these days. Full of endless possibilities, opportunities, and all kind of crazy new ways to carve our bodies & faces into what we are told we should be.
But to what extent will we go to achieve that? No one likes feeling overwhelmed and helpless - so, I have made the choice not to use visually disturbing images while I highlight these travesties - but to leave it up to your fingertips, imagination, and gut instincts.
I have also made it a point to present these shames in a special light. Not as to simply give you something to consider or feel unsettled about, but as a way to empower you. As demanding consumers, it is in our hands to shape what it is we desire- now more than ever, as our economy goes global.
1. False Marketing
Somehow, it has become all-too-easy for the beauty industry to get away with false marketing. We all know the strict punishment for making false claims verbally in advertising, but the rules often slide under the radar when it is proposed simply as pictures in magazines. While the vast majority of us know that advertising images are an enhanced, impossible dream, it still hurts. The pressure to conform to such narrow ideals can feel overwhelming.
What you can do: Be aware. The moment that you are comparing yourself to any of these women, or longing for what "they have", check yourself. Instead, check-in with real women, and discover *real* role models. Women that you admire, not for the products that they use, but for reasons that really matter to you. Personally, my favorite role models are women that model how health & beauty intertwine to help us all get to know our most beautiful selvesf. Some of my favorite inspiration comes from Miranda Kerr's book - Treasure Yourself- & Louise Hay's book - You Can Heal Your Life.
2. Animal Testing
Apparently, Americans lag behind on ethical issues vs. profit. I know we have heard this all before. And because of this, I refuse to put harsh images here. So, imagine the worst possible- or type it into google if you need to- and then multiply that 100 times worse. Regardless of your view on animal testing, I think it is safe to say that at this day in age - that kind of sacrifice is completely unnecessary for the vanity of simply selling cheap beauty products. And with that being said, if our products weren't laden with an over-abundance of unknown toxic chemicals, then animal testing would by far be needless.
What you can do: Do your research! There are SO many other options. You might need to start ordering online, but from my knowledge often even drug stores will carry makeup & personal care items that are labeled cruelty free. Remember, if it doesn't say it on the label, most likely, it isn't.
3. Women's Ethical Abuse
It's a rude awakening to know that the hair extensions we innocently buy are actually often as a result of crimes, and ethical abuse against women in other parts of the world. In the best situation, impoverished women & girls are paid to cut off their hair. In the worst scenario, women's hair is cut off without their consent & against their will. If you need to see the visual images, again - google it. It's all there in the raw.
What you can do: Again, do your research! Contact companies to ask about where their supply comes from. Check out Dream Girl, and Balmain, companies that claim to work within strict ethical standards. If it still isn't sitting right - try synthetic hair pieces. Or get creative, and try decorating your locks in other ways. Think - yarn, flowers, synthetic feathers. Also, make sure that if you do have hair extensions, love and cherish them. Don't throw them away because of incomfortable feelings. Instead, send your gratitude to these women for the sacrifice they have made. Again- the reason for this article is to empower the future, not dwell in the past.
4. Sodium Lauryl Sulfate & Other Chemical Irritants
It's completely contradicting when a face lotion (for example) that is marketed to be anti-aging will be causing a lot of damage and irritation over the long run. I could easily go on for days about the cheap toxic chemicals that are conceived for the use of cosmetics and body care, but it's actually very simple. Just don't do it! Think about it - chemicals on your skin. Is it really healing things over the long run?
What you can do: Choose products that are 100% pure and healthy. I personally love Tates, Juice Beauty and 100% Pure. There is also a lot to be said about using baking soda & apple cider vinegar for washing your hair (which I will get into more later!) and to tighten and firm skin - try real Aloe Vera (from the plant!) and hot/cold water therapy in your shower.
I realize it is challenging to leave a list like this feeling a little crazy. But you have permission to let that all go now! Like I mentioned in the beginning, this list is not meant to leave you feeling guilty about your choices, but as a a blueprint for how your choices as a consumer really DO matter. The power is always in our hands.
I know, I know...It's a bit past the new year. But I have really been wanting to do this! A reflection of 2013. Today is the first day of the new year in the Chinese calendar, so I am going with that as the perfect reason to sit down and do this reflection. Pictures and all. I encourage every woman to do the same; it's a great opportunity to look at your experiences and what you have learned from them. We are always our own greatest teachers.
For myself, 2013 was a year of truly unearthing my confidence as a woman with a purpose in this world. It was all what I was seeking, and had been working torwards for many years. I desired at such a deep level to really step into my talents, passions, and my relationship with myself and others - to stop holding back and being afraid to say what I really wanted. 2013 laid that solid blueprint for me to learn exactly how to do this.
FEBRUARY: I committed myself to physical movement.
I went jogging one random morning back in early 2013 because I felt like it might be fun to try. Let me just say - This was WAY out of my character. I was never exactly the physically active "type". It was snowy, cold, and I was wearing somewhere around 5 sweatshirts and some worn-out Asic Tigers. It sounds like torture, but honestly - I couldn't believe what a great day I had following that little jog. It was insanity to me that I suddenly was so excited to wake up early and go running in the cold winter weather. But I had fallen in love with the feeling. Since that day forth, I am officially a dedicated runner. I have no idea how far I go, to this day. I do know that it takes me about 15 minutes. I have had so many beautiful moments while jogging outside and breathing in the fresh air. I run on trails as much as possible, where it is peaceful, and I don't have to think about other people catching glimpses of my crazy running outfits.
Lesson #1: Exercise achieves more than just abs.
Running gave me an outlet to be real with myself. After jogging for just a few minutes, my mind is clearer, and I am alone with what is really important to me. Sometimes it is harder than other times. Sometimes I feel like I have wings. Sometimes I just cry like crazy after I finish. Or feel like I'm on cloud 9. Or be so inspired by a new idea that I jump right into it. Or have an amazing peace about something that had me conflicted. Running helps me let it all go. 15 minutes or less.
AUGUST: I opened AURA's new studio location.
I made the big move. The opportunity to move my business into a "real" business location presented itself, and I knew I was ready. Call it fate, call it luck - the timing couldn't have been more perfect. My business was floating along happily before the move, but I knew that making the jump into a bigger location would present much more opportunity for growth, and an expansion of my aspirations. I went through moments of being very nervous and second guessing myself. But I just kept taking baby steps forward. I discovered my true courage and guts in this process (with the encouragement from lots of amazing family & friends! What would I do without you?).
Lesson #2: Desires will manifest in their own perfect time.
Now, I didn't know that I wanted to move right then, and didn't even know that I wanted to be in that particular space. I was so content where I was with everything that I wasn't even looking externally for these kinds of opportunities. But what I did know for certain, and what I was very connected to, was the dream that I wanted to be an awesome cosmetic tattoo artist. I wanted to be the best and offer the best. I wanted to help women feel amazing about themselves, and in the process - I wanted to find out how amazing I could be too. I wanted to know myself more, and take things to levels of my wildest imagination. I was infected with a crazy confidence that told me that no matter how challenging it felt, if I just kept the faith & kept moving forward that things would unravel naturally. And they did! And sure, it literally took a wall crumbling apart in my old studio to make me outta-this-world frustrated-enough to go see what other buildings might be available at that time, but it was all in perfect order. This new studio has given me the ability to be the artist I truly desire to be.
OCTOBER: I connected with my friends.
For about 10 years I have been the most intensively driven that I have ever been in my entire life. What can I say? I have finally found so many things that I love. Hobbies, interests, exciting new trainings, a new business, and the most amazing fiancé. But admist all these great things and my commitment to focusing on them all, I discovered that what I had left behind was the ladies in my life. My friends. It felt like it was always a struggle for me to find the time, and the sincere desire, to hang out with anyone, really. But the truth of what I was learning here, was harder than just me carrying around fearful, guilty baggage.
Lesson #3: Keep friendships simple and full of love - only.
The people who really love and understand me, are going to do JUST THAT. The friends that didn't understand and would constantly leave me feeling guilty - well, I finally got up the nerve to let those relationships go. In my heart I knew this was not only healthy for me, but for the other end as well. It doesn't mean that I don't love them still. I think it goes to say for all relationships, that it shouldn't feel like work. Or like prison. This sudden shift in perspective and newly found self-respect allowed me to begin enjoying the presence of friends in my life, the ones that placed no expectation or obligation on me, at a whole new level. It is my strongest intention to continue being there for those I love as well, and to be conscious of the expectations that I blindly place on them. Simply put: Drop the drama. Don't be afraid of letting go of what makes you feel anything less than joy.
DECEMBER: I got engaged to the love of my life.
I met Nic when I was 18 years old. I fell in love with him right away. We joke about it now - how I didn't know anything about why I loved him so much then, except because I thought he was the most attractive person I had ever seen. When my friend Val pulled me inside that night and told me: "Nic said he's going to marry you someday!" I almost passed out with butterflies. We joke about that too - he thinks I am crazy for not being extremely turned off by how creepy that must have sounded... considering it was the first time that we ever met. But what can I say? Love is never about sanity. It hasn't always been a fairytale, but the way our lives wove in and out over the years was magical in its own special way. In the time between back-then and now, we both moved across the country, went to college, broke each other's hearts, & found what was really important to us.
Lesson #4: True love takes patience.
It is easy to fall in love. But true love - that takes trust, respect, vulnerability, compassion, and- it takes misunderstandings. All which needs your nurturing and patience while it plays out. How do I know for sure that I want to be with this particular man forever? It's partially things I can't explain, and partially what I can. And what I can explain is this: We are two different people, who want to feel like one person all the time. But that is obviously not how it always going to work. So what stands out to me, is that even when we aren't on the same page, we both have a crazy desire to work through things and find our sweet spot again. Even if we have to stay up all night to get there. When we figure it out, I feel closer to him than ever, and more truly in-love with everything about life because of it. I have never known a love like that. It took patience for us to grow together like this. And I know that connection we have is worth the commitment. And even though I am still infatuated with his handsomeness- it's so much more than that to me now. It's about growing together, as well as separately. But always weaving in and out. That kind of love has been 100% worth the wait.
From here, 2014 looks bright. Thank you for reading this reflection; it is by far the most personal topic I have shared here. But this is another stepping stone for me, a way to share and learn, to be more open and authentic, and hopefully inspire you to do the same. This year it is my intention to keep growing, learning, and bringing out the best that I have to offer my friends, my family, and the world around me. There is so much to look forward to in the future, and so much to be grateful for in the past.