The person you are today is incredible.
You have so many unique, wonderful qualities that it would be nearly impossible to list them all.
You don’t have to be a certain size or shape; you don’t have to have a certain skin, hair, or eye color.
No matter your age, you have a body with strengths and weaknesses, features and flaws. Being alive in that body—just exactly as it is today—is a gift. It’s time to start viewing it as such.
If you are having trouble accepting the truth of your beauty, you need to work on your mindset. Even a small shift in mindset can help you to see yourself in a whole new light.
Right now, you may think that in order to feel attractive, desirable—yes, beautiful!—your outward appearance has to align with all of the artificial beauty standards I exposed in previous chapters.
In fact, there are simple lifestyle adjustments—mental and physical—you can make that have been shown in numerous studies to help you feel more satisfied with your body and appearance. In other words, you can choose to see yourself as beautiful.
Clear Your Mind
Before you can add any of the following practices to your life, you have to clear mental space for them to be effective. If your mind is full of negative thoughts about yourself, there is no room for the good to come in and effect change.
Let me demonstrate. Right now, take a deep breath and hold it for as long as you can. (Really, go ahead! I’ll wait.) When you can’t hold it any longer, when you need more air, go ahead and stop holding.
What is the first thing you did? Was it to suck in more air? No, you exhaled first. By exhaling, you cleared your lungs of carbon dioxide, a toxic waste gas, before you breathed in new, clean oxygen.
It works the same way with your mind. You have to empty it of all of your toxic thoughts, beliefs, and paradigms before you bring in the newer, healthier, more freeing thoughts and perceptions.
One of the best ways I know to change your mindset, clear out the negative, and make way for the positive is by practicing gratitude. Take a few minutes each day, ideally at the beginning of the day, to think of at least three things you are grateful for.
Of course, you can acknowledge the big things: your health, your family, clean water, abundant food, and so on. But I also encourage you to find the small things to be grateful for: your steaming mug of coffee, a text from a friend, sunshine, your baby’s giggle.
Many people find that keeping these thoughts in a gratitude journal is a great way to challenge yourself to come up with new things to be grateful for each day. Reading back over what you wrote is always a mood booster when you start to feel that negative mental mindset creeping back in.
If you really struggle to overcome negative thinking and find things to be grateful for in your life, I recommend seeking help from a therapist or counselor. A mental health professional may provide a fresh perspective and help you have a better understanding of your thoughts and emotions so that you can flip the script and begin to see things in a healthier, more positive way.
When you are able to eliminate your toxic thoughts about yourself and become open to seeing yourself as the beautiful person you are, you can begin to take more of the following steps.
Obviously, exercise can have a physical effect on your appearance, and I don’t just mean making you thinner or more toned. When you move your body regularly, oxygen is pumped through the blood and you experience improved circulation, even at rest.
Your body’s cells—including skin cells—are nourished by the increased blood flow which leads to more effective cellular repair and replacement. In other words, your skin cells are healthier, which will give you that so-called healthy glow.
Beyond that, studies have shown that moderate exercise can help prevent and reverse the signs of aging. A research study including individuals sixty-five and older who exercised more frequently had healthy skin resembling individuals of much younger ages.
With just thirty minutes of moderate exercise each day, it is possible for you to turn back the clock for your skin.
Exercise also increases confidence, and confident people tend to radiate physical appeal and charisma.
The effects of exercise on self-worth happen even before measurable physical changes related to exercise are observed, which means once you start moving your body, your energy levels go up. That is directly tied to your self-assurance. Nothing is more beautiful than feeling good in your own skin.
It seems logical that getting praise and compliments from others would be the best way to boost your self-image. In actuality, neuroscience studies have shown that your inner voice, the way you “speak” to yourself, is far more powerful.
It may feel a little awkward, but repeating positive affirmations to yourself in the mirror, or saying things that you like about yourself will help you validate those traits and value them in yourself.
I’m not really a fan of the pre-packaged one-size-fits-all affirmations that you can find with a quick Google search: I am kind. I am worthy. I am smart.
I believe it is far more useful to write and then say affirmations you come up with that are unique and purposeful.
Start by being honest about the negative things you are telling yourself.I can’t lose weight. I’m not smart enough for that job. I have too many wrinkles.
Whatever it is, write it down. Then flip the script. Imagine the world was perfect, and rewrite those negatives as positives.
I am capable of becoming fit and healthy. I am smart and learn more every day. I have been blessed to grow older and have beautiful smile lines to show for it.
Going forward, whenever you catch yourself having negative thoughts or feelings about yourself, flip the script. Don’t feed the negativity; rather, shine some light on it and reframe it in a way that will boost your self-assurance.
Then, every morning when you look at yourself in the mirror, be your own hype squad. Speak aloud your positive affirmations. And if you want to take it a step further, try doing what Mel Robbins, author of The High 5 Habit, does—give yourself a high five in the mirror!
Smile and Laugh—Often
While you’re looking in the mirror and reciting affirmations, try smiling. It’s no surprise that smiling makes you seem warm, attractive, and approachable to others, but you can get the same benefits from smiling in the mirror. Research has shown that you receive similar neural cues when you see yourself smile as if a familiar friend smiles at you.
Laughing can help you see yourself in a more positive light. When someone takes themself and every aspect of their life too seriously, it shows on their face.
Being able to laugh off the small things that might get under your skin will make you more relaxed, which in turn will be reflected in a more pleasant appearance.
A study by the University of Kansas found that laughing with another person can increase attraction, too. In the study, pairs of people who didn’t know each other talked, and the more the pair laughed together, the higher level of attraction they reported.
Boost Your Confidence
Confidence comes across the minute you enter a room. It’s in your smile, your body language, and your eye contact. When you are feeling awkward, people pick up on that, and it can affect how they perceive you.
Having good posture can make you look good, but it can also make you feel good.
A study from the Association of Psychological Science found that just sitting up straight can make you feel more confident and powerful.
So the saying “keep your chin up” can be taken literally as well as figuratively when you’re looking for a confidence boost.
Choose to dress in a way that you can feel comfortable and confident. This means you choose clothes that fit well and flatter you, no matter your size or shape.
Love color? Go for it! You’ll feel far more confident rocking a color or pattern you love than if you try to virtually disappear by wearing muted neutrals. Of course, if black or neutrals are your jam, and you feel gorgeous wearing them, then you do you!
If you feel better about yourself when you’re wearing a little makeup, or have some Botox or other cosmetic treatments, then, by all means, go for it!
Every day I see how people can feel more confident, and therefore more beautiful, by enhancing their appearance artificially, and that’s fine.
When you choose that bright red lipstick because it makes you feel gorgeous, and not because an advertisement made you think you needed to have it, you’re empowered.
In the same way, you shouldn’t feel like you have to be made-up to feel like your most gorgeous self. If your all-natural, makeup-free look is how you feel best about yourself, you’re also empowered! When you’re empowered, you’re confident. And confidence is beautiful.
Examine Your Friendships
It can be difficult to accept, but some friendships can be causing more harm than good. Allowing a toxic person to be part of your life may be preventing you from feeling your best.
If you have so-called friends who are constantly negative, put people down, act or speak rudely, or make little jokes—even about you, sometimes!—it’s time to cut those people out of your life or spend significantly less time with them.
Or maybe you have friends who don’t do any of those obviously toxic things, but they constantly fixate on their own appearance: Does this make me look fat? Oh, I’m having such a bad hair day. Ugh, I can’t deal with this breakout!
You can’t spend time around someone who obsesses about their appearance without starting to adopt some of the same habits. There is truth to the adage that you are much like the five people you spend the most time with.
When you choose to prioritize the people who spend their time supporting you and building you up, people who have a healthy self-image, you’re naturally going to feel free to be genuinely you—and that is beautiful, too.
Remember that Age Is Just a Number. The number of birthdays you’ve had does not have to define you. Be grateful for every single one you have, and remember that a particular number has little to do with how old you feel and look.
You get to define what it means to be attractive whether you’re twenty, thirty, forty, fifty, or beyond. Find women in your everyday life—not “Real Housewives” or other celebrities—that you see as attractive. Let them serve as your role models for aging beautifully.
Cybill Shepard, a beauty icon who is now in her 70s, told Oprah Winfrey in an interview that she only began to feel truly beautiful as she got older and her identity shifted away from her appearance.
If you measure your beauty and your identity by the artificial beauty standard, you will find yourself struggling when you age past what that beauty standard defines as ideal.
Alice Hart-Davis, award-winning beauty journalist and author, when asked about aging, wisely said, “Now in our mid‑50s, we know who we are and where we’re at, more or less. We know the clothes that suit us, we know the value of hair dye and a good blow-dry and we know that lipstick, mascara and brow pencils are our friends.”
So as you grow older, embrace the changes that come as part of the package. They are there to remind you of the life you’ve lived to this point—all of the ups and downs, easier times and harder times, joy and pain.
When you can take that perspective, it frees you to appreciate who you are today.