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Mari Lyles Headshot

Thriving Through Acceptance of Self

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WOMAN LOOKING IN MIRROR
Dougal Waters via Getty Images

Somewhere, right now, multitudes of women are attending seminars urging them to think differently about themselves, live their best lives, believe in themselves and grow. And no matter how wonderfully uplifting these seminars may be, they are outmatched, out-ranked and out-gunned by the thousands of media ads daily streaming on television, radio, billboards and the internet debunking every joyful thing the seminar speaker states about how fantastic women are. The ads focus on looks, the number one thing guaranteed to grab a woman's attention. And they tell women:

No, you're not beautiful, you're a hot mess, you're overweight.
Sexy? Hell no! Your legs/breasts/thighs are too fat/thin/lumpy.
Your hair is ratty, you need product X.
Your skin is splotchy, product Y will clear it up.

To prove their point, the ads display gorgeous, thin women with beautiful smiles and long, flowing tresses, or exceptionally curvy women with long tresses, all prancing around in skimpy clothes or nearly nothing. Their lips are plump, their lashes are full and their teeth are shiny and pearly white. Our lips are cracked, our lashes are falling out and our teeth are coffee-stained. No, we are not beautiful, we suck.

We can't hide from the prevalence of the messages; they're invasive and program our psyches consciously and unconsciously any time of the day or night. Because they are so prevalent and forceful we endure face lifts, breast lifts, tummy tucks, lip injections, liposuction and Botox, while redesigning noses, eye-lids, cheekbones, skin color and more. We fear age and stave off its progression all because the Beauty Gods have determined natural aging, with its accompanying crows-feet, wrinkles and jowls, has no place in today's youth-oriented society.

Consequently, a number of Asian women succumb to blepharoplasty, eyelid surgery, to have their eyes "Westernized," while a number of African-American women convince themselves that classic beauty lies in a bottle of bleaching cream or a long, luxurious weave cascading down their backs. Hispanic women may undergo injections to have the well rounded derriere of video-vixens. Our Middle-Eastern sisters, meanwhile, seek appeasement of the Beauty Gods by undergoing rhinoplasty, hoping to eliminate perceived pronounced noses and to better "blend," while Caucasian women opt for fuller, plumper lips and tans deep enough and brown enough to have themselves mistaken for women of other cultures. From our heads to our toes, a woman's beauty (or lack thereof) is scrutinized and dissected and laid under a public microscope for the world to judge, all at the expense of a woman's self-esteem. And, just as women have accepted the industry's definition of beauty, men have cosigned it, fully on-board with the media's ideal image of "hot" women. Many women, fully cognizant of whom men notice and fearful of being ignored, do their best, whatever it takes, to be one of the chosen.

We find ourselves left with a multitude of women who are afraid to accept the beauty they alone possess, preferring to trade it in for something the media has concocted. To any lady wrestling with questions regarding your looks, I have the following:

Try Beauty on Your Own Terms

Only you and you alone can be the arbiter of your beauty. That decision, along with any indecisiveness lies solely in your hands. For whom are you judging your appearance? Ask yourself, who are your trying to please or impress? If it's anyone other than yourself, step back and ask why?

Beauty changes. Beauty is a variant depending upon culture, location and ethnicity. What's beautiful in South Korea is not necessarily beautiful in South Africa. One year, blondes are in, the next brunettes. There was a time when thin lips were considered exceptionally beautiful. Now, full, pouty lips are in vogue. During the Renaissance, voluptuous women were in while thin women were totally out. In those days, being thin equated with being poor. Once upon a time, tans were considered gauche, too indicative of the working class. Now, however, tanning salons and/or sprays are a mainstay in our country.

Be the Best You

You own the skin you're in, so make the most of it. Find out what's most becoming to you and let your intuition lead you to rock your very own style. It's really not about how you look, but how you rock how you look -- like you're the baddest, flyest woman in the room. You'll catch fire with the right attitude.

Be Beautiful From the Inside Out

There is beauty in serenity and peace. You can look like Angelina Jolie or Halle Berry, but if you have a troubled, anxious, angry spirit, no amount of makeup can hide what comes bubbling up. Seek your inner peace; you'd be surprised how attractive it is.

I'm not condemning beauty; heck, the majority of us would trade average looks with those of drop-dead movie stars in a minute. I'm simply stating that our beauty lies completely in our own hands, it should not be controlled by anyone other than ourselves. We have the remarkable ability to design and redesign ourselves at any given moment. Our looks respond to whatever name we give them and choose to walk in. I will never be considered a classic beauty by the media's definition. But I'll always be "uniquely" beautiful because I've declared myself to be. I've met my own standards and they're good enough for me. I love my looks, and quite frankly, I could care less if it matters to anyone else. It took me many long, hard years to reach that place of confidence, where I owned my looks, despite irregular features, a scar across my face, eyes that bulge ever so slightly and a nose considered too wide by some. But my own concept of beauty allows me to be as beautiful as I want to be, and I've noticed that the world responds on my terms.