What IS Beautiful?

Re-Post…as a reminder to LOVE the SKIN You are IN! 

What IS Beautiful?


The word itself evokes so many images, so many definitions…and sadly, SO much distortion.  Women have such a skewed perspective on the subject and it is worth settling in and really getting to the HEART of the matter.  So grab a cup of coffee, take a deep breath and “sip” on this…

When a baby girl is born her mother looks at that precious child and sees beauty.  Crushed nose, bug eyes, stork bites, red face, and wrinkled fingers do not alter the beauty that her mother finds.  Her father sheds tears at the sight before him.  This little girl is BEAUTIFUL.  She grows up to the tender age of 5 or 6 and her little snaggled toothed self with freckles and a cowlick continue to scream BEAUTY to all those around her.

So what HAPPENS?  When does the shift occur?  The deception of this world slowly creeps in.  The outside voices begin to penetrate the TRUTH that has held her together for those first few tender years of life. 

The outside voices say—

“What are those ugly dots on your face?”
“Your legs are too long, too short, too big, too small.”
“Your cheeks are FAT!”
“Your hair is too frizzy, too flat, too poofy, too short.”
“Your teeth are not straight.”
“Your glasses make you look like you have 4 eyes.”
“Your nose, lips, forehead or chin are too big, small, or long.”

Some of the voices are NOT audible, they are merely suggested.  They are magazines and television shows with images of gaunt (not to mention air brushed) women wearing elegant colorful dresses, with fun, flirty shoes and dating “hot” boys.  Each picture sends the message:  “You are NOT enough…you are NOT beautiful…in fact, you are ugly.”  

The voices that had so loudly spoken to us before that made us secure, not question, and even comfortable in our own skin, are drowned out by the world’s  messages around us.  (Sadly even those that we loved and trusted can become the voice that breaks our spirit and causes us to believe that we have somehow lost our beauty.)  The deceivers, in the many forms they take, then lead so many precious pre-teens and teens in to a downward spiral of body image issues, self-loathing, and a general sense of DISCONTENT.  It is a slow progression that takes place over long periods of time…but unfortunately, those same voices can linger in to our 20s, 30s, 40s, and 50s…some of us will actually live out all of our days shaped, molded and haunted by those voices.  The messages sent may change, but our question remains the same:  Do you think I am beautiful?  We live confused about what beauty truly is—and it steals the joy from our daily lives. 

 We look to the mirror or a scale to measure our self worth.  We look to those around us to tell us we are beautiful.  Through outward actions and inward thoughts we ask over and over again, “Do you think I am beautiful?”  We listen to voices that were NEVER intended to speak truth over our lives.  So where does it end?  Where does a new definition of beauty begin? 

It starts with a fresh voice, new vision, a friend sharing a cup of coffee and saying:   “Honestly girl, you are BEAUTIFUL!  You are not just beautiful, but you are SMOKIN’ HOT!” 

As a personal trainer I want to start by saying beauty is SO much deeper and so much more than a six pack.  Beauty is so much more than being thin or even dare I say healthy and fit.  I have met plenty of trainers that might externally have the perfect physique but they are missing an inner peace and an inner beauty.  Beauty is more than big boobs, a rockin’ hair cut, and a great pair of pink pumps.  Society and this culture have REALLY done a number on women. External beauty has become our obsession and it is not only a complete fallacy, it is a lot like chasing a shadow of what society determines is “beautiful” at that moment in time. Janine and I are both constantly striving to realign women with the truth on this matter.  

Beautiful is a timely word of encouragement.  Beautiful is a thoughtful note or email to a hurting friend.  Beautiful is seeing those around you as more important than yourself.  Beautiful is a song sung from the heart…on or off key!  Beautiful is a long belly laugh.  Beautiful is a vulnerable cry after hearing sad news.  Beautiful is confidence and security.  Beautiful is the ability to lavish others with words of affirmation—knowing that you yourself may not have those same attributes.  Beautiful is the opposite of obsession…it is contentment. 

What does a beautiful body look like?  A beautiful body is found in a woman who is comfortable in her own skin.  A beautiful body is much more thankful for the way her body moves than how much she weighs.   A beautiful body is wrapped around a 70-year-old women wrinkled with time wrestling on the floor or running around the park with her grandchildren!   A beautiful body is covering a tired and sweaty 41-year-old woman who just finished her first 5k.  A beautiful body is one that adorns a bikini for the first summer in a long time only to share her curves and her stretch marks knowing that they gave her 3 beautiful children.  A beautiful body is one that has been worked hard and her muscles reflect her effort and discipline. 

I am reminded of an old folktale that I heard many years ago.  It is a story of an antique shop that carried all kinds of ornamental glass, and wooden treasures.  There was China and crystal and Venetician glass, all items that held great value intertwined with just old junk that families dropped off unable to part with or throw away.  One night a mischievous thief broke in to the store.   Instead of stealing anything, he just exchanged the tags on the merchandise inside.  The items that were most expensive he replaced with a tag of the least expensive item.  Once all the tags were switched he left.  The next day as customers came and went they purchased the China paying pennies for it, not realizing the gem that was in their hand.  Other customers paid high dollar believing that they were receiving an antique treasure when in fact they were paying for an overpriced piece of JUNK!   

The same is true for the world in which we live today.  In this world the BEAUTY tags have been SWITCHED!  We have foolishly bought in to our culture’s overpricing of external beauty, a beauty that fades, a beauty that is never fully satisfied or attained.  We have walked down the isles and have been duped in to believing that the right make-up, jewelry, clothes, highlights, or “look” would set us a part and send a message to the world that we are beautiful.  We have even chosen more toxic routes like eating too little or exercising too much or have altered our hair, skin, or body in hopes to feel more beautiful and please others.  In doing this we bypassed the gem sitting on the shelf marked “unconditional love”…”generosity”…”kindness”…”contentment” and went straight for the big ticket items believing that they would not only bring us happiness but they were more valuable.  We have ALL done this in some form along the way…I know I have!    My encouragement is to take a long look in the mirror before we make our next purchase.  Try it on…does it ooze of the deception of this world—or does it shine with an ever-lasting quality?   Be certain that the investment that you are making is one that will last!

Why as women do we look at one another’s weaknesses and flaws instead of pointing out our strengths and gifts?  Truly beautiful women do this…but they are rare.  I also hope to tackle the messages we are sending our children and those around us by having our own distorted sense of beauty.  How can we change this?   I will end with this loving reminder…YOU ARE BEAUTIFUL!  You are not just beautiful but you are SMOKIN’ HOT!

May You Be a Blessing and May You Be Blessed,

Jenni 





Shedding Our Masks Promotes True Sisterhood

Insecurity masks herself in such ugly ways.  She comes across as aloof, abrasive, angry, or rude.  More pleasantly, insecurity masks herself as overly apologetic, the eternal martyr, or “super woman” who in one single leap conquers her entire universe.
While donning this mask of insecurity women send other women a message.  Sometimes it is, “don’t mess with me, my job, my husband, or my network of friends”.   Her actions say, “keep your distance, don’t look at me or talk to me”.   Other messages say, “I am weak and any feedback from you might send my fragile soul over the edge”.  Still another message might be… “you could never keep up with my schedule or my good deeds.” 
All of these messages are in some way or another toxic.  They are relationship killers and they are what keep women at odds with one another.   Whether she wears the mask of insecurity and is frightened of the external arrows that might come her way, or whether she does not believe that she is worthy of the affection of another…no matter the reason…masks destroy sisterhood.
Healthy female relationships are hard to come by.  Rarely do you see great mother/daughter models.  Sisters who invest and care for one another the way that we think they “ought”.   Our masks are rarely lifted over an occasional chat on the way to the mailbox, a trip to the movies, or at a random bunko night.    I do not pretend to grasp the full female relational breakdown but I believe that the masks we wear inhibits us from full being “seen” and from fully being “known”.  To take off that mask would force vulnerability.  A vulnerability that we are hesitant to expose. 
For the past few weeks in POWER we have removed the mask.  We have personally examined our preconceived notions and core beliefs on the subjects of beauty and health.  We have uncovered our faces, exposed our bodies, and taken our thoughts captive.  Hopefully throughout this time of self-exploration we have grown more honest, more confident, and more comfortable in our own skin.  The more we take off the mask, the more okay we are with leaving it off.  Then…and only then, can we see women and be seen by women in a way that promotes sisterhood.  

In true sisterhood, other females are not competition, and what they have is not to be coveted or resented.  In true sisterhood, other women are not seen as the enemy but yet another amazing being that is almost assuredly full of flaws as well as absolute beauty.  When we look without the mask we see with different eyes.  These eyes are filled with love.  Love for self and love for others. 
Women then become partners in this life.  Women become sojourners on this adventure toward health and wellness.  Women are considered friend and not foe. 
This week we challenge you to leave the mask off.  We challenge you to look to other women with a new fresh set of eyes.  Eyes of love.  May each note you write this week be sincere and heartfelt.  May the women who receive them be blessed.  May this refreshingly new sisterhood make deep impact daily in the lives of all of the women you encounter! 
May you be a blessing and may you be blessed. 
Jenni

Fierce Reflections Cause Us to Fly…

It hit me this week when walking through my studio watching the layers come off (literally and figuratively); that this month in our studios is all about COURAGE.  It is about courageously taking a look at our bodies, our thought life, our reasons for why we do things and the reasons why we don’t.  It is about looking at our inner thought life and our bodies in a different way.  It is about embracing the good for how great it is; and positively viewing areas in which we are typically negative.  Even more importantly it is about getting unstuck.  It is about moving past “ourselves” so to speak.   

The kind of introspection we have done this month takes GREAT courage.  It takes a fierce woman who knows there is more to this life than striving for media induced ideals of beauty.  She also knows that there is more to this life than keeping up with Mrs. Jones’ body.   She recognizes that in this life we will stay stuck if we can truly only see skin deep.  This fierce woman believes that her life is a culmination of experiences and relationships.  So while reflecting in the mirror she does not stop with the epidermal layer…she actually is beginning to see what others’ see.  Daughter, sister, mother, wife, neighbor, friend, and confidante.  She sees beauty that runs deep, high, long and wide.  In her reflection this fierce woman sees life experiences that have shaped, formed, and carved her in to who she is becoming.  This fierce woman is able to find joy in her “now” and hope for her  “soon to come”. 
I commend each of you for the brave steps that you have taken thus far.   There are two weeks left in our challenge.  The first two weeks of this month were about getting comfortable in our discomfort and taking an inner look.   This coming week we will shift and look outward to our sisters around us.   We believe that next week other women who have watched your courage might decide they themselves want some of the inner strength that you possess. 
“Just when the caterpillar thought the world was over, it became a butterfly.”   Anonymous
It is time to stop looking in the mirror and seeing the caterpillar that “was” and recognize we have beautiful wings.   Simply spread your wings.  It is time to fly.  Inspire others.  Fly.  


May You Be a Blessing and May You Be Blessed,
Jenni 

Robin Rice’s "The Problem With Beauty"

Sometimes there is no need to re-create the wheel.  In this circumstance Robin completely got it RIGHT!   As we ask you to take this week to “look in the mirror”…we are given an opportunity to hear from Robin Rice and the lessons she learned while looking in the mirror…

The Problem With Beauty
Houston, we have a problem.  Miami, you too. Hollywood, it’s big. London, Paris, Dublin, you’re included. Podunk, Littletown, and No place Special—don’t think you’re exempt. It’s everywhere. Invasive and pervasive. Beauty has gotten out of hand.  Not real beauty, of course. Not the kind of beauty that emerges, even erupts, like a wildflower in the wilderness, in response to what we love. No, I mean the kind that we are trying to buy, wear, and posses in order to get love. Or prestige. Or even a better “in” with the hottest new spiritual guru. The kind we are sold a long side everything from diamonds to dog food. The version we are told via every magazine ad and television commercial that we will absolutely need if we are to have any hope of being happy in this life.  It’s not pretty. And it’s not new. In fact, it’s so old-news, so accepted, so normal, most of us no longer really notice the tactics that steal the soul of beauty. It’s just how things are these days. Even the costs, so obvious in the modern life, are chalked up to “the way of the world.”  So while we might say it’s a shame that there is an outrageous number of young women (and men) are starving themselves to death because they think they are “fat”, it’s not really news. And though it might make us gasp to hear of a 5’6”woman checking into a hospital at 94 pounds and feeling terrified to eat, unless it is our own daughter, or sister, or best friend, the conversation quickly sails on.  Likewise, we might groan at the truth that women spend billions of dollars every year on beauty products, not to mention diet foods, pills and programs. But we’ve seen enough infomercials and strip mall diet club storefronts, and we have spent enough of our own money at the cosmetics counter, that no real alarm sounds.  In fact, while we might all agree that the way food is grown, processed, modified and marketed is actually creating less beauty, not more, given the growing obesity epidemic that kills millions in one way or another every year, most of us don’t feel that’s really any of our business. It’s a matter of personal choice, isn’t it? People do what they want to do, right?  Even our very own insecurities, the ones that show up as criticism in the mirror every day—often many times a day—seem normal. The negative self-talk (“Look at those thunder thighs…those puny, sagging breasts…the wrinkles…and that gray!”) is so accepted, so expected, it’s viewed as nothing more than the annoying drone of a radio, the standard-issue background noise of a woman’s mind. The idea that there is something wrong with the message, not the woman, seems almost radical. Maybe even unpatriotic.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m not against physical beauty. Even the striking, wow-ser kind. I don’t think unattractive is better than attractive, or that we all ought to ugly ourselves up to make a point. I love to see the standardized beauty out there. There is a reason we all respond to a form that is easily recognized as lovely, and it is not only conditioning. Yet I also happen to get a rush from non-standardized beauty—the cracked and edgy, the burnt shadows, the otherwise overlooked. No, it is the idea of selling my soul for society’s current version of beauty, and only that version, at the same time as watching our young daughters sell their souls at younger and younger ages, that gets to me.  It’s Global, But It’s Also Personal.  I remember the exact day I sold my soul for beauty. I was just home from high school, all of fifteen years old. I don’t recall what happened to bring me to the bathroom mirror. But there I was, sitting on the vanity, my feet in the sink, crying. What do they see that I don’t see? I kept asking the young woman staring back at me. I’m ugly, unacceptable, substandard. Or so they say.  I, myself, didn’t feel that way. Sure, I knew I wasn’t going to win any beauty contests. But ugly? Unacceptable? Substandard? Bad enough to be rejected and ridiculed, day after day, like a game with a pre-designated looser? I might have been able to argue the validity of my own opinion to myself, if it weren’t for the fact that there were so many of them. So many standing against me, and only little old me standing for me. It was beyond what I, at that terribly vulnerable age, could pull off. I recall nodding to my image, eye to eye, tear to tear. It was a matter of majority rule, I told myself. They must be right. Not only must I be unattractive and unlovable, I decided, I must not be able to see any kind of beauty clearly. My judgment was obviously as distorted as my body. “Don’t trust your own opinion from here on out,” I said aloud, already becoming angry at myself for not seeing flaws that were so obvious to everyone else.  Yes, I would listen to them. I would side with society. I would ignore my own opinions, and I would learn the ways of the world. I would become beautiful, by the world’s standards, whatever it took. I walked away from that mirror a different young woman, and it would be twenty years before I went back to reconsider my true opinion of myself.  Twenty years, two children, two plastic surgeries, a wide array of diets, a divorce, and a spiritual awakening had to occur before I would tell myself I had been wrong that day. Twenty years before I realized that they—no matter how great their numbers—had no more right to decide what was beautiful than I did. Twenty years before I realized that virtually every woman I knew had sold out to play the game right along with me.  Twenty years, but I did go back. I sat on the vanity, put my feet back in the sink, and stared at the older, wiser woman in the mirror. I asked her, and my younger self, to forgive me. I told them both that I had made a mistake. I really was beautiful, not only before that day at age fifteen, but in all the twenty years between. I also told my younger self I’d make it up to her. I’m doing that here, now, with my reader as witness.

Robin Rice is a personal mentor to women leaders. Her award-winning, internationally published novels offer personal growth and healing atwww.BeWhoYouAre.com. These books offer genuine entertainment through well-woven tales of personal growth in a real world setting. They engage the harsh realities of being human while pointing us all toward a more rewarding and soulful existence.


Taking Thoughts Captive…

We tweet and twitter our thoughts.  We blog them and log them and even run and jog with them.   They are everywhere and in everything…they are constant and for many of us they dominate our mood and even our very lives.   

There are some thoughts that never make it on our facebook wall…they are not “pinned” as interests.   Those thoughts, they plague us.

Our thought life can set us free or shackle us. 

Janine and I feel that it is crucial to develop a practice of “taking our thoughts captive”.  Holding them in time and space and then if proven toxic…releasing them to the garbage where they belong.  The exercise that we have developed for this week of the challenge is one that acknowledges we all have thoughts that are not always building or encouraging.  They are a force to be reckoned with.   While standing in front of our mirrors “exposed” we certainly may be filled with words or phrases that are not constructive.  They also might follow us through carpool, to a business luncheon, or even creep in while having a peaceful quiet time alone.   No matter what moment of the day a thought floats in; if it is an unwelcomed ‘intruder”, recognize it as such.  Take the thought captive.  Don’t soul search and wonder where it came from or why it is there…and certainly don’t entertain it…simply ask it to be gone.  Ask it to leave you alone.  It was uninvited and must be properly escorted out of your beautiful psyche once and for all. 

I make this sound simple and for some it will be.  For others we have had tapes playing over and over for years or even decades.  This practice will take work.  We might take a thought captive and within minutes we must do it again.   It might take weeks or months to master.  It might even take therapy.  This week is a wonderful starting point to acknowledge that we have thoughts that don’t deserve the time that we give them.  The sooner we recognize them for what they are:  toxic and destructive, the sooner we can request their departure. 

Symbolically you might want to write down your negative thoughts…you might want to place them on scraps of paper and trash them…or toss them in to the fire.   If you have faith in God, then release them through prayer.    Be intentional with your thought life.  Find positive words to fill their place.   If you don’t have words, borrow a few mine.  (Even if you only partially believe them…try mine on for size and see where they take you.)
You are beautiful.   A jewel, a rose, a rock, a pearl, a peach, a diamond, a cool breeze, a lily, a shooting star, a sunset, a warm wind,  a soft whisper, a strong rhythm, a sparkling waterfall, a moon beam, a princess, a warrior, a mountain, a raging ocean.

You are a play maker, a trend-setter, a peace-provider, a giver, a dreamer, a healer.  

You are intelligent, witty, strong, whimsical, unique, passionate, creative, humble, powerful, kind, helpful, honest, and wise. 

You were not meant to be shackled…you were made for much more than this. 

You are loved, and lovely. 


May You Be a Blessing and May you Be Blessed,

Jenni

Uncovering My Dr. Pepper Lip Smackers Addiction…

I know what you are thinking…
“NICE,  Janine and Jenni!  You work in a sweaty gym all day…from your home no less!  Neither of you wear that much make up regularly.   Convenient for you to choose a subject that you are comfortable with, and then design a weekly challenge requesting the rest of us to ‘feel beautiful’ or ‘uncover the real me’!” 
It is confession time.  This week is NOT an easy week for me, because of these 5 little words…
“Go put on some lipstick!” 
Those 5 little words (heard all throughout my adolescence) started a “lip stuff” addiction in my life.  For the past 2 decades I went through a Dr. Pepper lip smackers “phase”.  It was in every pocket, purse and bag that I owned.  The genius thing about Dr. Pepper Lip Smackers is that it was cheap and also had a hint of color so when wearing it I would avoid hearing those 5 little words! 
Those 5 words were often followed by, “your lips look transparent,” “you look like a ghost”.  No matter what the words were, the message was clear:  without some sort of color on my mouth…I was not attractive.   Lesson learned.  Hundreds and hundreds of dollars later investing in tiny little tubes of great smelling chap stick…I never left home without it. 
I shifted in my mid-20s to a more “sophisticated” addiction.  I discovered a grand little green tube of gloss from Bath and Body Works.  Mentha Lip Tint that has a nice warm plum color, a fabulous sheen and even a little peppermint oil.  So now my lips are always “luscious” and I have a hint of fresh breath.  I feel VERY beautiful when I wear it.  (Or certainly not naked.)  
This week is a great challenge for me.  It is asking me (a girl who wears little to no make up) to put down the tube and dig a little deeper as to why I think I “NEED” to wear my “lip stuff”.   The answer was deeper than I had imagined.  I personally did not start wearing make up because it made me feel beautiful.  I wore make up to avoid feeling ugly. 
After this week you may still occasionally see me with a fabulously luscious set of lips.  I do not think make up is innately bad or evil.  I do think it is a great idea to question the status quo.  It is a great idea to question our motives or the things we have done forever…”just because”.  It is always a good idea to figure out why we MUST have or do something.  
Apparently Janine and I are not the only ones with this idea.  After we had drawn up our challenge for the month, we found this duo.  We would highly recommend checking out their journey and find out why they have started the “Naked Face Project”.  Their mission statement shares and we concur: 

“We’ve only approached feminine beauty in one way for our entire lives.  What might reveal itself when we give ourselves the opportunities to experience another way?”   
      
May this week not fill you with dread but with a new opportunity to question the status quo.  Or  more importantly, may you land on the other side of the next 7 days discovering a deeper, more complete sense of your own beauty.  

I will share with you the words I hope my daughter hears over and over until I have no more breath to speak them, “You are beautiful… just the way you are.”  (Quietly under my breath, I might add, “with or without the lip stuff”!)
May you be a blessing and may you be blessed!
Jenni 

Who Says? What is Beautiful? Video!

In hopes to inspire the women of POWER and women across the nation who are not in the area, we have created a video.  A visual with the questions that Janine and I ask oursevles all the time…

WHO SAYS?   WHAT IS BEAUTIFUL?

Thrilled to share this video and hope that it will spur conversations in your office, among your girlfriends, and even in your homes.

Just showed it to my 7 year old and asked her…”what IS beautiful?”   Her response was astounding…she teared up seeing the women with the lip plates and neck rings.  She said, “what was wrong with their bodies before?  Why did they feel they had to do that?”   I explained that the same women who were the fancy dresses, wearing lots of make up, or were simply “too thin” were trying to alter their body to achieve the standard of beauty in our culture.   Wide eyed she said, “mom, I think true beauty MUST come from the inside then!”   Well said.  Once again, from the mouth of babes.

VIDEO

Thanks sweet Christopher for sharing your skills and time to make this happen.  Your daughter will thank you someday too!

May you be a blessing and may you be blessed!

Jenni