When I was 13, I wanted to look like Cheryl Tiegs. It was the late '60s and she was the epitome of beauty. She was tall, thin and blond. Standing at 5 feet 0, with dark brown eyes, dark brown hair and strong eyebrows, I couldn't have looked any more different, and I spent a lot of time feeling bad about what I wasn't. Then I saw Ali MacGraw in the movie Love Story. Those eyes, that hair, those thick eyebrowsI finally recognized the possibility of my own beauty.
Today I am troubled by society's definition of beauty. I'm not sure how it started, but there is a whole breed of older women who look nothing like the women I grew up admiring (my grandmother, Helen Hayes, Jessica Tandy). It seems that everywhere I turn, there are women who have altered and erased everything Mother Nature gave them. The sad thing is that most of them don't look any younger than their untouched peers. Why do so many women want to get rid of the features that make them unique in favor of a cosmetic-surgery-enhanced, cookie-cutter look?
We have a choice. We can buy into these images or we can make the conscious decision not to. True beauty isn't about looking like a supermodel (rememberthey're freaks of nature) or a twenty-something Barbie doll. True beauty is about accepting and feeling good about who you are. I hope some of the things I've learned will help you see your own beauty.
Instead of worrying about your "flaws" and the things you don't like about yourself, focus on what's right. I can't tell you how many times women come to my makeup counter so fixated on the size and shape of one feature that they overlook everything else. When a woman asks me how to make her nose look smaller, I point out her amazing smile and show her how to enhance her lips with the right lipstick and gloss. More often than not, she is pleasantly surprised by what she sees.
Live in the present
We waste too much energy feeling bad that we don't look like we used to instead of appreciating what we look like now. It makes no sense to obsess that you can't pass for 30 now that you're 40, because at 50 you'll look back at photos from 10 years ago and realize how young and fresh you were. I hated my arms when I was a teenager and often wore long-sleeve shirts. Now I see pictures of myself from those days and think that my arms looked just fine. I would have saved myself a lot of adolescent angst if I had made the best of what I had at the time, rather than trying to fight it.
Go with the flow
There's something incredibly beautiful about a woman with lines on her face, and I think we should start using the word living instead of aging. Lines are proof that we've lived life. We get them when we laugh and when we express ourselves. Take them all away and you end up looking like a plastic-faced mannequin. Tip: A little concealer and blush can do wonders.
Take charge of yourself
Focus on being healthy, strong and fit. Commit to making smart food choices and exercising regularly. This requires work, and it's not a quick fix, but you'll look and feel better over the long term. I'm 56 years old and I'm still learning that there's a lot I can do to be the best version of myself. I encourage you to make 2014 the year when you commit to pursuing your own best self!
Bobbi Brown is Health's contributing beauty and lifestyle editor. To keep up with Bobbi, follow her at everythingbobbi.com.