When I was a little girl, not too long ago, people would always say to me “What a pretty little girl you are!” But I never believed them. Instead, I would always scrutinize myself in the mirror, searching for flaws and things that I didn’t like about my appearance, trying desperately for ways to look better. As I focused even more on my looks as I became older, I became increasingly self-conscious and dependent on how others perceived me.
If on one day someone complimented me and gave me attention, I would feel confident and on top of the world. But if I went for a day unnoticed, I would become upset and would go back to the mirror and try to figure out why. Of course I had heard the Chinese expression “what you are inside shows on your face.” But I have never really thought about what those words really meant. I did not realize what I was really looking for was a way to learn to love myself.
One day, I took another long look in the mirror, and suddenly I realized that how my face looked was not the problem—it never was! Somehow I understood that what I didn’t like about my face had nothing to do with my physical features. It was something else; something within my insecure self that was reflecting out and causing me to feel unconfident and uncomfortable facing other people. At that moment, I realized that there were two things I had to do. The first was to stop looking into the mirror. The second was to turn inwards and try to figure out what was going on inside of me.
And you ask me how the experience felt? I can only tell you that it wasn’t all an agreeable one. It was even painful, at times. But it eventually allowed me to bring forth a lot of valuable self-information. During my period of self-reflection, I realized that I was uncomfortable because I didn’t know how to be myself. This was also why I often felt insecure and unconfident with others. I was frequently trying to project someone else who was an ideal version of “me,” and that projection also depended on whom I was interacting with. Slowly, I started to learn about myself and the things that I was good at and what made me happy, and I found that I had a rhythm. Each one of us has our own beautiful flow, and you need to tune in and follow it. By going with my own flow, I gradually began to feel less self-conscious around others and much more comfortable with myself.
Nowadays women have more freedom and opportunities to express themselves through their daily lives and careers. However, numerous conflicts arise within, as the process of socialization more often than not oppresses natural emotions, or on the contrary to develop what is not natural for her. Many successful women who have chosen independence sometimes deliberately put on a cynical façade when they do not want to appear weak. They are afraid to show any signs of emotional dependence or is eager to avoid it altogether. Most of the times, this is a form of protective mechanism. But after a while, they become easily swayed by their cynicism. It in turn, poisons their emotional sphere, and compels her to be afraid of genuine feelings, and considers emotion a weakness.
To many people, being accomplished and successful is all about impressing others, and they value appearances and looking better than those around them. But is this what a modern-day accomplished woman should look like? I should think not. I believe that today’s accomplished woman is comfortable in her own skin. Maybe the accomplished woman in our 21st century is one who is happy in her own skin and making the world conform to her own vision of accomplishment. It shouldn’t matter if that means climbing the corporate ladder or just staying in the park climbing the jungle gym with her kids.
Somewhere along the road of your life someone must have heard these words spoken to you over and over again: “Be good to yourself“. “Take care of yourself”. “You have to love yourself before you can love anyone else”. And you probably nodded and kept right on going the same way you were. You might have thought that this talk about self-love is narcissistic or self-centered. But that is not what it is about. Those words are more about being comfortable in your own skin. Coming to a consciousness of who you really are—imperfections and all—and beginning a dynamic journey to accept your weaknesses and strengths.
It is not about being apologetic about who you are, it is about fulfilling your own visions.
This may seem like an abstract concept, as is the idea of beauty and personal style. Many people would probably recognize a beautiful woman when they see her. But there is something more in the elegant manner in which a woman carries herself in each situation. There is something that manifests in her voice, movement and body language, manner of speech, the way she stands sits, and responds to other people around her. Elegance is an abstract concept and fairly personal, but it is still universal as everyone looks for it.
We may have ended up on the wrong side of things, and resorted to worrying about our external appearance and trying to perform what is merely a shadow of elegance. But there is both a mental and physical part to elegance and hence beauty, and it is the mental part that sets the stage for everything else. As Coco Chanel once said, ‘Simplicity is the keynote of all true elegance.’ When you grasp the simple concept of being beautiful and balanced internally, elegance will then manifest on the external. It will manifest in the way you dress; in the way you conduct yourself and the way you interact with those around you.
Being a contemporary woman today has to do with shaping a meaningful life, and not just about impressing others. When you’re comfortable in your own skin, you don’t feel compelled to play the competition game and you don’t need to try and impress other people all the time. Knowing ourselves–and accepting ourselves for who we are–affects our relationship with the world around us, the way we dress and the way we think, the ideas and dreams we have.
When you are comfortable with who you are, and what you are, when you don’t feel the need to apologize for anything or to deny anything. To be comfortable in your own skin is the beginning of personal strength. Like all things that are magnificent, it starts with the simplest things in your own life.
Hair Kiri Yoshiki using ORIBE,
Makeup Tadayoshi Honda,
Model Bo Don @ Next management.
Artistic cube inc.