Beauty becomes more important when life is falling apart

In our book, The Beauty Prescription, we talk extensively about something we call “Beauty 911.”  It means that when life knocks you flat with a tragedy or a bad turn of events, it’s important to devote a little of your time and strength to letting yourself be beautiful—to taking care of yourself.  This may seem trivial when faced with something like the collapse of a relationship, a financial catastrophe or a frightening health problem, but who made the rule that hard times were supposed to be endured with stone-faced stoicism?  What’s wrong with breaking the tension by spending an hour getting your hair blown out, buying a great pair of shoes or laughing with a friend until you feel nauseous?  Nothing, we say.  In fact, giving yourself permission to care about your inner and outer beauty during a period of great stress is probably one of the healthiest coping mechanisms we’ve ever heard of.

It’s all about control.  We live with a tentative, fragile illusion that we’re in control of our lives, but we’re really not.  Most of life is a roll of the dice.  We can’t control the stock market, the actions of other people, the weather or the DNA in our cells.  So when something happens that shatters our neat, controlled bubble, it’s devastating.  We feel like we’re floating without moorings, utterly vulnerable and alone.  In fact, it’s important to remember that while we may cherish the idea that we control the outcome of each day, there are only two things we can control: how we prepare for what happens and how we respond to what happens.  When something destroys your sense of peace and predictability, it’s essential that you regain some small bit of control that you can hold onto.  Focusing on your beauty gives you a little of your control back.

Let’s face it, even if you’re diagnosed with cancer and facing rough treatments, you’re still the one in control of what you eat, how you dress and how you look.  No one else can make those decisions for you.  Even if your home is foreclosed upon, you can still get your nails done and make sure your makeup looks perfect.  You can and should take time to meditate, work out, moisturize, and do whatever you must to look and feel as good as you can.  Beauty is a pillar anchored in bedrock that you can cling to when everything else seems to be pitching in the wind.  You say, “Well, at least I know I look great!”  It’s not a solution to your problems, but it’s something that can help you make it through the day…and some days, that’s all you really hope for, isn’t it?

Trauma also tests our inner beauty.  It’s easy to blame yourself for things that aren’t your fault and to wallow in guilt.  This can cause self-esteem to take a dive and pull you into a dangerous downward spiral.  It’s just as vital to tend your inner beauty: spend time with a Beauty Buddy, be with friends, talk with a therapist.  Find ways to become more objective about what’s going on and you’re likely to find that, even if you share some responsibility for what’s gone wrong, it’s not all your fault.

Beauty treatments are great for boosting your inner beauty and are also wonderful antidotes for the harmful effects of the stress hormones that flood our bodies during times of trauma.  Just having your toes done and being around other women in a supportive setting releases oxytocin, creating feelings of warmth and bonding.  And what could be better than a massage to knead away the tightness and exhaustion that come with life’s trials?  We know women who have gotten cosmetic treatments right before therapy for cancer, because knowing they looked their best was part of their act of “girding for battle,” going into the fight with guns blazing.  More power to them.  Confidence, self-esteem and inner peace are critical if you’re going to make it through life’s tsunamis.  Beauty 911 is something none of us should be afraid of dialing.

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