I wear red lipstick on a daily basis. I also have an arm full of tattoos, and, while I am currently a platinum blonde, I had pink hair for years. No lie, when I turned 50, my hair was full-on Barbie pink.
During that pink hair phase, I worked at the front desk of a library. One day, a woman slowly walked up to me and, with her eyes wide, whispered: “I love your red lipstick. I wish I could wear red lipstick.”
I leaned over the counter, smiled and whispered back: “You can.”
But … I wasn’t always so confident. For years, I was too shy to wear red lipstick. And I was too ashamed to get tattoos on my upper arms because I thought they were fat.
Decades later, I could honestly give zero f***s about whether my arms are fat or whether my style makes me stick out too much. Believe me, I’m not completely shame-free — I don’t love my double chin, for example — but I have built a few habits over the years that have helped enormously. For readers who are feeling wobbly about their self-image and their “flaws,” try these six tips for an injection of confidence (and no, you don’t have to dye your hair pink):
Pick beauty icons who are fire. As a kid in the 1980s, I read all the fashion magazines. Religiously. Stick-thin supermodel Kate Moss — the queen of “heroin chic” — was my hero. These days, I’m much more careful about my beauty inspo. For example: Rihanna and the models for her lingerie line, Savage x Fenty. They are all sizes and races, and some have tattoos and bright hair colors. Just looking at them on the Savage x Fenty website, I feel great. As Bad Gal RiRi told Vogue, “You’ve just got to laugh at yourself, honestly. I mean, I know when I’m having a fat day and when I’ve lost weight. … I’m not built like a Victoria’s Secret girl, and I still feel very beautiful and confident in my lingerie.”
Hang out with people who make us feel awesome. I have an ex who is an ex for a reason. Among other things, he would criticize the way I dressed, and once, when I told him I wanted to dye my hair pink, he winced and said, “Now why would you do something like that?” Recently, when I told this story to my fabulously kind hairdresser and friend — she’s the one who dyed my hair pink — she said, “I think you are beautiful and amazing for coloring your hair. You deserve to be with someone who loves you for who you are.”
Filter out the chicks on social media who make us feel like crap. Kardashians anyone? Yeah, they are fun to read about, but their filtered-to-perfection images bring out my insecurity. Now, I make sure I edit my Instagram feed very carefully. I follow curvy burlesque stars and women who would rather pursue their dope accomplishments rather than look perfect all the time.
Practice wearing a bold new style in baby steps. Always wanted to wear that red lipstick and some sick platforms? Try them in small moments rather than all day, every day. Wear them around the house, on vacation or for a girls’ night out.
Realize that our “flaws” may not be flaws at all. When I complimented my aunt about her long brunette curls, she told me she had spent much of her life hating her hair and ironing it straight. “But one day,” she told me, “I saw a woman walking down the street with a beautiful head full of curls. She looked so free. And I thought, ‘Why am I doing this to myself?’ I’ve worn my hair curly ever since.”
Finally, let’s look deeper for contentment. Gratitude is everything. Are we healthy and able to take care of ourselves? Yay us! Let’s thank our bodies for carrying us through our life journeys. Also, being of service to our fellow humans — whether through our job, volunteering or a spiritual practice — can get our minds off how we look. Iconic beauty Audrey Hepburn knew this. She was famous not only for her movies but also for her work with children’s charity UNICEF. This quote has been widely credited to her: “The beauty of a woman is not in a facial mole, but true beauty in a woman is reflected in her soul. It is the caring that she lovingly gives, the passion that she knows.”
Amen to that, sister. Amen.