By Jeni Sykes, Former Head of Skincare & Co-Founder
We all want to put our best face forward.
It shows in our Instagram filtering prowess, in the cleverly crafted posts we share to project identity and document a life well-lived. Our platforms provide both an open stage to tell our stories and powerful – even addictive – evidence of approval and acceptance through the views and likes we’ve come to count.
We want to be seen, and we want the world we’re plugged into, both on and offline, to like what they see. We also know that this desire is nothing new. And the deeply human need to be seen and to feel accepted doesn’t automatically make us shallow.
In fact, resources like Gallup, Forbes, Fast Company, and the myriad others seeking to illuminate exactly what motivates us today also report two notable and noble aspirations shared by Baby Boomers, Gen-Xers, and Millennials alike – the ability to have a positive impact on the people, organizations, and communities around us, and the ability to experience a sense of well-being in our lives.
Yet there is also sense of inner conflict on the rise, in spite of our most positive intentions and shared dreams of purpose, passion, and wellness: Increasingly, we struggle to tap into that panacea of passion, to cultivate the deep and satisfying human relationships we envision, and to find genuine self-confidence and satisfaction in our personal and professional achievements.
It’s here at the impasse between desire and sense of deficit that we find certain buzzwords floating across our feeds as antidote. One darling of the day: self-care. But what does this word really mean?
We hear that self-care works to manifest this unicorn, Wellness, in our lives. We hear that self-care is about self-love, which is different than selfishness – an important distinction in an age where the words narcissism and entitlement are also frequent fliers. We hear that self-care is about making healthy choices. One should eat well, exercise, get a massage, hit this new class or service, read that book or blog, put the phone down, learn to meditate, get a handle on the right routine, and get ready for a Transformation.
But what if we embark on this journey to find that like our quest for purpose and impact, our honest attempts at self-care don’t always seem to be so successful or so profoundly rewarding as the others’ compelling snapshots of Wellness seem to portray? Basic questions come up. Like, am I doing this right?
Over the holidays I received a book from a friend, The Empathy Exams, and in it, my friend wrote a simple inscription that struck me. It said, “This book is about how we feel, not what we ought to feel. And that is an accomplishment.”
In a rapidly updated, overstimulating world where we stay carefully coiffed in order to avoid the pain or failure we fear under the seemingly constant gaze of others, we can also end up overwrought with judgments for ourselves. Often, we’re simply mirroring the judgments others have placed on us over time. But learning to engage in self-care also means learning to slow down enough to connect to ourselves in a different way.
If we only check off boxes on a to-do list of things that are supposed to make us happier human beings, it’s very possible to go through the motions and still end up feeling just as exhausted or overspent as we started.
Engaging in self-care can powerful. Habits can show us how to give to (not just of) ourselves and that receiving is part of what replenishes us as people.
Engaging in self-care can be challenging, too. It often takes learning a much healthier dose of patience with where we’re at today than we’ve grown accustomed to allowing, and showing ourselves a kindness we may not have been shown by the world. It takes letting go of some of the judgments, worries, and guilt in the small acts offstage. Regardless of the rituals you choose, it’s choosing to show up for ourselves this way that actually cultivates that evasive thing called self-love. And as mothers, shrinks, and gurus so love to tell us, that brand of loving relationship with one’s self is ultimately what leads to deep and meaningful relationships with others.
How does this connect to skincare? When you practice skincare as self-care, you can learn connect to yourself by learning listen to your skin, taking less time to judge it, and more time to understand its needs and turn toward it with care. You might have to ask for help. You might have to practice a little patience. For the long-term rewards, you do have to invest at least a little bit each day. With skin, cultivating caring habits that are right for you is what becomes magic in the mirror without a filter. And connecting differently to something as simple as your skin can teach you a whole lot about your whole self.
As one of our clients puts it in one of the most poignant emails we’ve received, “I love your brand and everything you all stand for – and you’ve made a difference in my life in a very meaningful way. Taking the small step of adding a facial to my regular routine has been a way to increase my awareness of the other things in my life I need to tend to myself – nutrition, physical activity, and most important of all, self love.”
Putting your best face forward can be something profound. This year, may your journey be long, and so deeply rewarding.