The first 5 of 10 tips for combating the High-Maintenance Blues

It’s a sad day for some when your hormones are about to run out, your botox has worn off, you’re down to three fake eyelashes (the ones in the middle that make you look like you pulled an all-nighter or need glasses) and they can’t see you for an appointment for TWO weeks, then you realize they don’t make your favorite eyebrow pencil anymore so you have to use one that’s a shade too dark which makes you look like a clown. If that’s not bad enough it’s about to be summer, which means black leggings are not happening, which means you are depressed that you still haven’t lost that 5, 10, 20, or 30 pounds you told yourself you would by now, which means you will now be on a diet the whole summer because you can’t fit into anything, which also means you won’t be having any fun because it’s just not fun being on a diet when everyone in the world seems to be running around naked, drinking beer and playing volleyball except you. Then you look up and realize: What about those 10 gray hairs that used to be located in one spot that have now spread like wildfire eclipsing your entire scalp, requiring bi-monthly visits to the salon that even if you can’t afford pisses you off—and no it doesn’t matter that the new trend is young women everywhere who think it’s cool to dye their hair gray, which just pisses you off more because it reminds you how dyeing your hair used to be fun and something you wanted to do and now it’s fallen into the growing list of “have to’s.” And just when you think you can’t take another high-maintenance bell signaling something else is about to sprout up, fall off or die, you realize that beyond refilling your hormone Rx, it’s been more than a year since your last gyno exam, mammogram, or blood panel, so if you weren’t already exhausted and depressed going through this list, now you are terrified. Which makes you want to start eating, drinking, shopping, or worse—watching TV, all of which just reinforce everything you are trying to stave off.

Okay, I realize you probably want to hang yourself right now and that you might be thinking, how did this happen? When did it become so tiresome to prune and polish myself? When did it stop being fun playing with makeup, dressing up and celebrating that I am in a body? At what point did I cross the line? Was it when you started injecting your face with needles and saw the bloody gauze up close, realizing OMG, I just let someone stab me in the face with a needle? Or when you first went under the knife, when you voluntarily let someone put you under general anesthetic and cut part of your body or slice it up and move it around? Or was it as simple as recognizing the gentle whisper that has now turned into either rage or depression telling you that who you are is not good enough, that you have to do all these things in order to be loved, accepted, or get ahead in the world?

To date I have yet to meet anyone I admire who has looked back at their life and thought, “Boy, I wish I had paid more attention to how I looked, I wish I had done more Botox, fillers, had more plastic surgery, and spent more of my hard-earned money trying to look better.” What they have said is, “Boy oh boy, I wish I had known how beautiful I was, naturally, just me. I wish I had spent less time in the mirror and more time doing what has deeper meaning for me. I wish I would not have been so hard on myself and been more loving. I wish I would have had the courage to stand up and say no and not cave to the pressure from outside influences that made something that was once playful and fun cross the line to that which is dangerous—even lethal. That I would have done more inner work aligning myself with true beauty, that inner glow that you can’t buy, inject, or wear.”

While I suspect there are those few who have felt all the upkeep has been worth it, I feel certain they too will take their private regrets with them to the grave, given the intense vulnerability it takes to admit one has succumbed to a standard you yourself did not create but tacitly support. And what happens when we realize this is not just about me, this is about being a role model for the young women coming up just behind us? What are we telling them? “You are not okay as you are? If you don’t like it cut it off, dye it, slice it, inject it and feel better about yourself?” But why? Who is dictating what beauty is? And why are we willing to pay such a high price to achieve this exterior ideal? You can see how slippery this is, how what used to be fun and decorative has now crossed that line, not only with ourselves but generationally and has become a conversation about self-worth.

If I look a certain way I will_____? Be more likely to have a good relationship, get a better job, be loved, be accepted? It seems true that some people will excel using their looks in the realms that absolutely demand you look a certain way: media positions, poser relationships that require arm candy, etc., but the real truth is, most of us will never be that person, because the truth is those people are not even those people. Real beauty is not static or fake. You absolutely CANNOT buy it, wear it, insert it or acquire it.

Which brings us back to the overwhelm most women start to feel at a certain age. It all just becomes too much. What was fun starts to become a chore and even a burden. And what even more upsetting is no matter how pulled together you are, you start to resent yourself and feel fake. The real maturity and presence you have gained drip by drip stings every time someone says “You look so good,” or “Wow, you look so young,” and little by little a part of you can’t really let it in because you know you are hiding behind the false. You know you are hiding yourself and so does your body. The body never lies which brings me, (finally), to the 11 tips for combating the high-maintenance blues.

These tips are for those of you who have the courage to face your real beauty, and want to fall in love with what’s actually real and abiding. Read on…

1)   Strip down and FACE IT. That’s right, take it all off, or everything you can (of course, by everything I mean that which won’t cause a hemorrhage). Take off your jewelry, your push-up bra, your Spanx, your leggings, ALL your makeup, and if you’re really daring take out those hair extensions and false eyelashes. I know some stuff is permanent: this it is what it is right now. The goal here is to face what you are so afraid of, and just breathe. That’s it.

For some of you this may be terrifying, as you are your own worst critic. Or perhaps it’s been a while since you sat with yourself this way; let me just say, no critics allowed. The idea is simply to be with yourself with what’s here, not trying to fix it, judge it or change it. Just being present to you, as you are and breathing. This may bring up a lot of feelings, so grab some Kleenex and maybe your journal. When was the last time you sat with yourself and just looked in the mirror without trying to add, take away or do anything and just faced your unique self?

2)   Get CONNECTED. Now that you have the gift of your own attention, take a couple of deep breaths and drop inside of yourself. See if you can relax into that inner place that connects your outsides and insides. The place that is spacious, where you can feel your heart. The part of you that looks at children and the sky at night or a sunset with wonder and appreciation. Go ahead and close your eyes for a moment and find that peaceful grounded, connected self, (you will know when you are there) and then open your eyes and look at your whole self from there.

Now that you are really connected how do you look when you see yourself? I think you will be amazed. I remember the first time I did this I cried like a baby. I was so exhausted from my mind’s “perfection patrol” that this exercise changed me forever, because now I knew it was about from where I was seeing myself. It might takes a few tries to get beyond the critic but I promise, your most high and real self is there. And if you really want it, once you see the truth from this place it will always be available.

3)   Practice, practice, PRACTICE! As most of us have heard, neurons that fire together, wire together. Rather than boring you with a lesson (or nagging reminder) in self-regulated neuro-plasticity, just know that the more you think something with conscious awareness the more deeply ingrained it becomes. So see if you can add this exercise as part of your routine before you add anything else, turning your attention inwards as you try to return the place where “getting yourself ready” is more about fun and celebration from a place that’s real than about shoring up or covering up. You will begin to see with new eyes the whole truth that you are more than your parts.

4)   NO Bulls@#$%. Okay, I have to say this because some of us are sooooo good at rationalizing that we are having fun and celebrating versus the truth which is more often that we are too scared yet to let go or come out from hiding because maybe we are so afraid that what we will find is just too yucky or unacceptable. Or that you are afraid that this is too risky because your husband will leave, or your friends will dump you or whatever you are really terrified of. This is OKAY. The idea here is that the truth, even a little bit, will set you free. The gift is listening to your heart, soul, and body, listening for what your whole self truly desires. Step number one when done with all your heart and soul will reveal what is most true. Give yourself a chance to drop your fear; you may be uncomfortable at first, but in time you will come to find the relief you crave. By the way, in case you didn’t know it, we are not really fooling anyone anyway, not even ourselves!

5)   A BETTER BAD CHOICE.This is something I learned from a wise woman, a doctor. I loved her saying so much I adopted it, because it really works. I am not saying you need to go cold-turkey and stop doing the things you do. I am saying, “Be honest with yourself and over time you will begin to make better and more real choices that make you truly feel better about your whole self. For example, if you have hair extensions because you have no hair and you love having hair, fabulous! Who doesn’t love hair?” The point here is to be with what’s real inside, not just outside. And to feel good about yourself, not fooling yourself or trying to be someone you are not. If you can honestly say you LOVE yourself the same way or without your fake whatever, than blessed be! You are in the celebration zone!

If you notice yourself putting on airs or being fake because it gives you a false sense of self-esteem or power, or it makes you feel better than others, or as good as others, this is simply something to look at. In the meantime just keep making better bad choices, like trying a different haircut or maybe growing out one patch of your grey—or maybe for you it’s just too much, so you can start using organic colors or semi-permanent and finding a way to play with it again!

Maybe you wear a lot of makeup and want to wean yourself off—try what I did once. I went out to a fancy event and didn’t wear a bit, not even powder. Only one person said something to me, which made me feel bad for a moment but then I thought hey, it is what it is. It is my face and that’s as my teacher says, that’s not all of me! I had a fabulous time and honestly since then (my 20’s) I wear very little makeup except when I do TV stuff (which still bugs me)!! As for the injectibles, I know they take years off your looks, but you may want to space them farther apart. Or use pasties, for a change. You stick ‘em on at night so you don’t get Sharpee face in the am. You will find what is right and real for you!! Who knows maybe you will do a “What’s fake about me?” cleanse! Stranger things have happened…

Stay tuned for the next 5 tips next week!