Every day while crafting hair and beauty at my studio or on the set of a film, television show or commercial, my clients expose their innermost thoughts and feelings about their looks -- often dissecting themselves from from head to toe.
They often critique themselves (and others from the tabloids) as they strive to be a bigger, better version of themselves. Sometimes they dish. Sometimes they share their personal journeys. Sometimes they weigh in on how some celebrity, friend or frenemy has gone about enhancing themselves.
Having seen this firsthand, I know that the quest for beauty can be an unconscious and endless search for some. For others, it can be a way to define, develop and revel in their inner and outer beauty.
Either way, it is a personal journey -- a path of choice. True beauty is a complete package and involves a mental, physical, emotional, spiritual and financial commitment. Beauty, in its ultimate state as an empowerment tool, is built on a solid foundation of open-mindedness, experimentation and positivity. While the path is different for every man and woman, seven steps can get you started on redefining what beauty means to you and how to achieve it. It's all about drafting, revising and mastering a plan to live out beauty on your own terms.
1. Get in touch with your own definition of beauty. Pause, reflect and use your five senses to get in touch with your sincere understanding of what you believe defines inner and outer beauty. What you smell, touch, hear, taste and see influences your perception of beauty. Be conscious of the fact that it's your responsibility to own your definition and to be the best you possible -- so write it down. What is it that "defines" beauty for you?
2. Diligently seek out and document your "definition" by journaling or creating a vision board or scrapbook. For some people, rattling off a concept of beauty or creating a definition is easy. For others it's hard. That's why I suggest mentally taking note of those subtle or bold nuances of life that surprise you, inspire you or stimulate you to appreciate the beauty in something or someone -- and especially in yourself. These are the dots that guide you to your very own beauty connection. Write it down. Document it on a vision board. Create a scrapbook that represents what beauty means to you.
3. Appreciate and accept what you have discovered. Now take a deep breath, knowing that you have just captured some of the most beautiful things that life has to offer you. Warning: Don't let your inner critic rear its ugly head; you must avoid all sabotage antics. Instead, tap into your inner grace and wisdom (every person has it), which will allow you to accept and appreciate self-actualized pure and honest beauty.
4. Step into action. Now that you have created a visual roadmap that inspires you, you are perfectly primed internally. Now it's time to create and enhance externally. Overhaul and build your look from head to toe. Go out into the world, try on many different hair, makeup and clothing styles, get advice from professionals in the industry and check out online beauty sites for inspiration.
Bring a trusted friend along for the journey -- you can bounce ideas off him or her and bank on your friend telling you the truth! You will feel your inner beauty guiding you and fueling your excitement -- which is a great energy to be in for trying new things. These "new things" might include a department store makeover, at which you experiment with the latest skin, hair and makeup products. Or it might include spending a few minutes watching a YouTube instructional-style tutorial or tuning into a style makeover TV show. It might involve going to a recycled clothing store and mixing and matching your closet's staples with a funky accessory or bold accent. Your mission is to stay inspired and feed the desire to actualize your vision and commitment to change.
5. Refine what you have learned. Along the way you will find hits and total misses. Update your style portfolio or vision board. It is important to run with what works and feels good. For example, if you tried out being a redhead with shorter bangs and it doesn't fit, don't panic or crumble -- you can always redefine a hair color dramatically with subtle highlights or contrasting lowlights and add a new barrette or headband to offset your look while you grow your fringe out. If you've discovered that blue eyeliner doesn't work for you, then switch out to a smoldering bronze. Maybe convert to a dewy bronzer, fresh mascara and a sun-kissed gloss while you figure out your best look. Flexibility is your new middle name and versatility is your new game.
6. Whether it's a total makeover or just a simple shift in your unique style, embrace the changes, revel in the mirror and enjoy maintaining them. You are living proof that you can experiment with beauty ideas to create a look that is more empowering. Whether you've simply changed your lipstick color, covered the grays, committed to hot yoga or Pilates three times a week or booked an appointment with a nutritionist, these small steps lead to bigger ones. Some women I know completely transform their skin and body regimens from head to toe. They love the results that come from shocking their body into transformation. Your power will lie in finding the balance -- and the process -- that works for you.
7. Pass it on. Yes, people will stop you on the street and ask "Where did you get that bag? Who cuts your hair? and How did you get your jeans to fit just right?" (Secret: It's not the jeans -- it's the butt-crunchers you've been doing!) "Passing it on" will keep you on task and in the flow of sharing information. Kick it up a notch by throwing a handbag-exchange party or beauty-buffet (co-ed!) pajama party. Who knows the potential possibilities that await you. New relationships, a new charity -- perhaps a new business? Be open to learning from others, dishing what worked for you and why, and trying something new yet again. Be real, be bold and -- dare I say it? -- have FUN!
Nicole Cothrun Venables is a Hollywood stylist with two dozen films and television shows to her credit. Her interviews and beauty articles have appeared in Elle, InStyle, Women's World and Los Angeles. For more tricks of the trade, read her blog on Red Room.