Being authentic means different things to different people. This post is entirely about my views about ME being authentic, nothing more.
According to Merriam-Webster, authentic is defined as thus:
Not false or imitation, real, actual; true to one’s own personality, spirit, or character.
Being genuine, for me, means being real and showing up fully as myself.
Being Authentic for Me
At the tender age of fifteen, I remember sharing with a handful of friends how important it was for me to live an authentic life. I never wanted to appear as someone I wasn’t nor to be liked nor accepted as someone I wasn’t. I NEEDED to live true to myself.
Comes to find out it’s a high calling in a world which always shouts to us how we “should” be.
I may have been accused of many things throughout my life, nevertheless, and thankfully, being fake has never been one of them.
This fact is probably the core reason why I have never been into makeup. While I am not always pleased with my outward appearance and if prompted, I could give you a comprehensive wishlist of the attributes I would have liked to have been graced with in the “looks” department, I have never wished to alter my appearance by artificial means.
My philosophy about this subject has remained unchanged throughout the decades and is uncannily similar to my views on dinner: “you have two choices, take it or leave it.”
Yup, what you see is what you get. I have zero desire to bend to “acceptable” norms of beauty. I didn’t at fifteen, and I certainly don’t today.
Societal norms, which change from year to year. Likewise, they are also continually more unattainable unless one is willing to alter one’s appearance. I don’t contemplate spending an inordinate amount of money – nor time – on “improving myself,” a sentence which usually translates solely to mere physical appearance.
My goal is to become a better person I was yesterday, to work on my character and to grow with grace and gratefulness. My real longing is to reflect outwardly my internal state of being.
I desire to be fit and vibrant into old age, and yes, with my gray hair and wrinkles thank you very much.
Moreover, I seem to be missing a specific female gene. While some women can look amazingly gorgeous with their hair well-coiffed, and their makeup artistically applied, I cannot manage either task with dexterity.
While some can additionally walk gracefully in high heels, wear pantyhose without having to carry extras “just in case,” as well as look graceful and well put together; I wholly can’t manage to pull any of it off.
This state of “being” feels all wrong to me.
Don’t get me wrong, I am not all Tom-boy either but, instead, a blend of both. A mix of princess and tough guy.
While, I do love “poofy” (crinoline) dresses and princess tiaras, I don’t necessarily channel the princess vibe.
Instead, I would be the “princess” in the super fancy dress, with a strand of hair falling out, and my tiara askew. I probably would have a rip (or stain) on said beautiful garment, as well as a broken nail (or three) and maybe a trace of dirt (or food) on my face, and please, forget the heels altogether. Barefoot is more my style.
Now, you have a good picture of who I am.
Gratefully, I am not – nor will I ever be – my body, and neither are you.
I transcend my body.
My physical shape is a wonderfully made vehicle which enables me to live and love. I am grateful for my body and all I have been able to accomplish through it.
While being eye candy appears more prized than “having a nice personality,” I find no evidence that physical beauty manifests into a life of more joy and peace. If one were to observe the life of the beautiful and famous, I would say, they don’t have one up on happiness because they look “hot.”
The “Hot” Label
Call me cynical if you must. However, after living through just short of five decades, “being hot” usually has a sexual connotation associated with it. I don’t care for some random male to find me “hot.”
Finding me funny, intelligent, kind, warm, and loving has much more meaning – and depth – than being wrinkle-free or being “bedding” material.
I have higher aspirations than looking young as long as possible, as well as looking younger than my years. As if appearing youthful is some secret code to a better life or a more contented state of being. From what I have observed, it isn’t. There is no prize at the end (and I do mean THE END) because you looked good, young, or because you were “drop-dead-gorgeous.”
In short,* being authentic has always been one my core values. Always.
About three years ago, I was a tad miffed to discover a middle-aged woman staring at me in the mirror. Weird I thought.
Internally, I felt young, vibrant, fun, and ready to cause trouble (not really, well, maybe a little). I still was full of zest and spunk. The woman in the mirror had some gray hair appearing along with some “fine lines”. Gravity also seemed to have taken hold of the woman’s face.
Wow, that’s what it must mean to grow old!
I have heard others refer to this phenomenon. You know when the body decides to no longer reflect the inward state of being. Admittedly, it is a bit startling at first, if not even a smidgen disheartening. This anomaly is similar to being trapped in a body which no longer is in synch with you (if this explanation makes any sense.)
*I had to laugh at myself because “in short” appears to me as an oxymoron in this post which seems in fact rather long-winded.
The Gray Will Stay
Nevertheless, I don’t intend to dye my hair so that I may perpetually be a brunette until I am six feet under. Neither will I resort to Botox or any such artifice.
It is a fact; I AM a middle-aged woman. A truth which cannot be altered by a bottle of dye. I am proud to be middle-aged. I have earned those years, and I am grateful for them. Oh, how I am thankful indeed.
I am happy to say I have found an amazing tribe of women (young and old) who feels the same way and who inspire me daily with their authentic beauty.
While I can’t say I danced a jig at the appearance of aging on my physique neither did I sing a dirge.
Having – sadly – lost both my parents already, I am keenly aware that aging is a privilege not given to everyone. I may have wrinkles and gray hair. Likewise, I am also blessedly and gratefully ALIVE!
My desire to be authentic by not dying my hair nor being overly made up is not a slight on someone who makes a different choice. While I don’t fully understand anyone’s love of heavy makeup, this does not mean makeup is “bad.” Makeup is a just thing; it is neither good nor bad. It just happens cosmetics are not my thing (see my missing gene explanation for this statement above).
On a side (and funny) note, I did work eons ago (as in over 25) for Estee Lauder. I also managed to be a makeup artist for a French cosmetic brand. During my interview, I was naive enough to ask if I had to wear more makeup. Despite, the fact I did truly ask this very question, I got the job, and I was – oddly enough – good at it.
Even during that time, I preferred to wear light makeup (and none on my days off). Nevertheless, I gratefully* complied with the rules of the job. I did wear the bright lipsticks which were provided for me.
*Grateful because I had a job.
Incidentally, I kept these very same bright lipsticks under my sink for years.
In the late 90s, my – then – two-year-old son not only found them but additionally, and promptly put them to good use by decorating himself as well as the bathroom vanity.
By the way, for the makeup novice, lipstick stains (both skin and wood indiscriminately).
You Look Good
I never – ever – wanted to hear: “you look GOOD all made up!” or worse, “wow! you look so MUCH better when you wear makeup!” These comments sound a lot like back-handed compliments to me, similar to “you’re not so hot, but the makeup helps.”
While I am well aware that well-applied makeup could – and most certainly would – make me appear “pretty” and “younger,” those adulations would be based on something other than me. I’ll pass.
Don’t get me wrong, I am as vain as anyone even though, for whatever incomprehensible reason, I am intent on being accepted as I am without the fluff.
Real vs. Reality
Why is “real” such a being deal?
I don’t readily know.
All I can do is be authentic to myself.
I still have my insecurities, which amazingly (and paradoxically) as I get older, seem to fade away. For years, I was afraid to run into a one of my husband’s co-worker concerned they would think: “why did he marry HER?”
How pathetic is that?
It also makes me feel vulnerable to admit it. We all have our insecurities as well as our well-developed wishlists of traits we would change if we could.
I am an enigma (even to myself), definitely quirky. I know it, but I don’t mind it.
The greatest explorer on this earth never takes voyages as long as those of the man who descends to the depth of his heart.
~ Julien Green
Humans are the only beings on the planet, who feel a need to alter their appearance to be accepted or dare I even say it? Loved.
A cat, for example, never has any self-esteem issues. Take Bob for instance.
Bobcat is our eleven-year-old orange cat. Bob also weighs in a tad over 20 pounds and at eleven plus years it ain’t all muscles. His substantial weight is not from overeating. He has thickened as he has gotten older despite the fact he is strong, spry, and very active. Bob can still climb on the roof like nobody’s business. Yet, despite his tattered appearance, he is still feline royalty around here and all the other cats – much younger than he is – know it and treat him with the deference he expects.
Not so with humans.
At our core – I am not talking muscles either – we all want the same thing: to be loved and accepted for who we are. We want to KNOW we are enough despite living in a world which likes to herald we are missing something (as TV commercials can attest to).
To me personally, being authentic means being able to accept, and yes, love myself as I am when I look in the mirror.
Not as easy a task as I make it out to be.
Truth be Told
If you are still with me after reading this long post, it may come as a complete surprise to hear that I am not always makeup-free although mascara is about all I wear unless I am going to something “super fancy” like a wedding.
I am not “against” makeup; I am merely against too much makeup ON ME. When my features are foreign even to myself, I have an issue.
My sincere concern is when women feel the need – or worse, are expected – to look a certain way to feel worthy.
Worthy of what?
Love, a partner, a job, to be invited to the party, to be in the “in” crowd, to not be lonely, to not feel less than, to not be bullied…whatever it may be.
Our God Given Right
Our birthright is to be loved as we enter and then, live in this world (despite our flaws) until we die.
Personally, when dealing with anyone, I have always found external frailties to be far easier to handle than internal ones. Yet, most of our culture’s focus is to hone on the outward appearance.
Sadly, neither men – nor children – are any longer an exception to this fact. I was informed that the new thing for men is to have no body hair (while sporting facial ones aplenty??!?!?). Likewise, little girls are sexualized very young through the clothing they wear. It is insane.
Eating disorders are at an all time high. All very sad facts.
For me, in the course of this Happiness Project, I have decided to be entirely authentic, and no, this is not limited to my hair and makeup. Being authentic also means being able to state my views and to show up as I am physically, mindfully, and spiritually.
To be authentic, wholly original, also means being willing to be vulnerable.
Believe me; this journey is not for the faint of heart. One must have boldness and courage to go against the status quo, especially when you are a woman (and an aging one at that.)
Am I in love with my grays?
Can’t say I am.
It does take some getting used to at first.
I am not in love with all my traits (physical or otherwise) either. However, this is my point. I don’t have to be perfect to accept myself fully and dare I say it? Love myself. Not an easy task for me. Negativity comes far too easy for most us, and I am no exception to that rule.
High Time to Show Up
For whatever bizarre and obscure reason, it is crucial for me to be as I am. I desire to boldly show up wholly as Florence…no masks. We all have them (masks). Sporting a mask makes us feel less vulnerable, and I personally like feeling less vulnerable.
However, I am tired of feeling like on occasion, I still feel the need to hide. Rejection is never welcomed by anyone.
My wish for you is to be your authentic real self whatever that may mean for you.
Please, let’s celebrate our individuality, and uphold our differences rather than war over them. Diversity is what makes the world go round (and a lot less humdrum).
Many blessings to you on your journey to being authentic.