We’re always on the lookout for interesting stories about the way that beauty, both inner and outer, impacts our lives, and boy did we find one recently. Seems that in Blackburn, England, there’s a place called the Evolve center where stabilized drug and alcohol addicts practice “beauty therapy” on each other. Basically, they give each other haircuts, massages and manicures under the supervision of a community support worker who has had training in “beauty therapy.” Finally, after years of us telling everyone how therapeutic a trip to the salon could be, someone comes up with a formal program and certification confirming it!
You can read more about this rather unique program here, but we’re less concerned with the novelty of it as we are with what such a thing says about our need to feel beautiful and help others feel the same way. Sure, there’s value in having recovering substance abusers do anything productive, but why not have them cleaning up trash on the side of the road, or helping out in a soup kitchen? Why beauty? As we’ve written in our book, feeling beautiful is fundamental to our sense of self-esteem, so much so that when we feel unkempt and unattractive, it exacerbates any feelings we have of being out of control and isolated. That’s why one of the most morale-boosting things that can be done for long-term hospital patients is to give them a shave, haircut or manicure. We feel better about ourselves and our ability to deal with adversity when we know we look our best.
This effect isn’t limited to the grim outer limits of substance abuse and addiction. We’ve done it; gotten dolled up when we knew we were going to give birth to our children. It’s not hard to find women who have gotten waxed or had their hair done the day before going in for a scheduled Cesearian section. Why bother when your baby, not you, is the star of the show? Because it feels good to look good. It makes us feel less like a patient and more like a person.
This dovetails perfectly with the concept of “Beauty 911″ that we talked about in our book. The idea is that during traumatic or stressful periods in our lives—illness, divorce, financial hardships—it’s especially important to take steps to look and feel beautiful because the simple act of caring for one’s beauty and health serves as a reminder that we’re still here. We’re still vital and one day, things will get better. Under such circumstances, beauty becomes much more important than it is when everything’s coming up roses in life—it becomes a kind of lifeline that affirms the belief that things can improve and addiction can be overcome. For the women in this program, who are passing through one of the darkest phases a person can experience, beauty treatments are a small reminder that recovery is possible.
So for these women battling drug and alcohol habits, the appeal of getting beautiful is simple: it’s an act of recapturing part of a normal life, an affirmation. When you can spend your time getting a great highlight job or having your cuticles trimmed, that implies that you’re NOT spending your time staring into a liquor bottle or finding ways to score prescription meds. It says, “I’m back.” Beauty, perhaps more than anything else we can do for ourselves, helps us define who we are. That’s why we treat it with such respect.
Debi & Eva