Thursday, August 8, 2013

Keeping Up Appearances

Hi Ladies,
  A little forewarning before i get into this post ; first off, it's pretty long.We're going to cover a lot of ground here.In going over my notes, i tried to figure out a way to hone it down a little, but ultimately felt that the subject matter was too relevant and important to cut it short, so bear with me! Secondly, i recognize that the issue of body image can be a very sensitive and emotional topic for women; please don't feel down on yourself - be encouraged! 
  Now that that's out of the way, i'd like to start off by revealing a little secret that i found to be both surprising and saddening; in writing her book "For Women Only" ( which again, i will be referencing frequently in this post) Shaunti Feldhahn asked men what the number one thing was that they wished their wives understood.You know what the answer was?

How important it was to them that they [their wives] keep themselves up.

Smarts a little doesn't it? Did you feel some growing resentment or an attitude of self defense rising up within you as you read that? Let's be real for a minute here though : look around you. We are living in a nationwide epidemic of sloppiness, laziness, apathy, and in general, a  state of being unkempt and out of shape. Not to mention unhealthy which greatly contributes to all of those things. We go for the easiest, most comfortable and cheapest at the complete expense of our appearance. We make excuses for letting ourselves go - the kids, the house, our weight, the budget, lack of occasion/opportunity/time, "higher" thinking.....then ironically, we get depressed because we look in the mirror and don't like what we see! We lose confidence, feel insecure, unattractive, undesirable. For some women, we can also allow this to make us feel bitter, threatened, insecure and jealous because that son-of-Adam husband of ours happens to cast a sideways glance at some fit and stylish young woman at church, lingers a little too long over a magazine or billboard advertisement, or is tempted by pornography. The reality though, is that time and gravity are unstoppable forces, and neither is a respecter or persons. Life happens.Kids happen.Sickness.Stress.Hormones.Financial difficulty. 25 lbs. happens! We are all going to have times in our lives that we are not perfectly satisfied with ourselves in a physical sense for one reason or another, and we have to decide how to handle this.  One thing we shouldn't try to do is deny it, although we are seeing more and more examples in our society today of women who try through botox, cosmetic enhancement, and inappropriate dress. Another popular option for handling (or should i say mishandling) this dilemma seems to be to 
 Give up and give in.
We feel hopeless and consequently resign ourselves to the idea that this is just the way if has to be. " I can't/don't know how/don't have have time to be more fit,healthy, stylish, or attractive than i am right now." We convince ourselves that we ( and our husbands) should be content with whatever condition we are currently in. Or perhaps we have just adopted an attitude of laziness; we just plain don't want to put forth the effort to care. Again, we go for whatever is easiest, cheapest and most comfortable when is comes to our hair, makeup, body and clothing. We already got our man, no need to work for it anymore....
Maybe we have ourselves convinced that our looks shouldn't matter - that "higher" thinking that i mentioned - no one should judge a book by it's cover right? Here's some food for thought on that from FWO - 

"...those of us who don't believe in divorce may need to own up to a sneaking complacency.Think how off  limits it is in a church setting to emphasize physical appeal. "God looks not on the outward appearance but on the heart" we say, and we expect our husbands to to the same.Because our husbands have pledged their faithfulness for better or for worse, and because we know "it's what's on the inside that counts" we can easily migrate to the idea that what's outside doesn't matter...many women feel that true love should come with no strings attached, but we still want to be attractive. And while we were delighted that he liked our looks during courtship, we can find ourselves feeling outright resentful that our appearance still matters to him now."

Let's be honest; it's no coincidence that men like breasts and we happen to have them.Yes, they are for a purpose, but they didn't have to be beautiful. God is an artist. He fashioned beauty into every facet of creation and then designed us to have a nature that appreciates it, and there is nothing wrong or shallow about that as it relates to human physiognomy and attraction. We can make the comparison here to the romance issue for us. They already won us over right? Why then is it so imperative to our sense of security, self worth and happiness that they continue to put effort into romancing and pursuing us? Because for us, that pursuit - those impromptu date nights, that little note left on the fridge, those thoughtful little acts that don't necessarily come naturally to a man or are maybe just downright difficult, are a huge part of him saying
" I still love and care for you,You are important to me and i'm going out of my way to show it, because i think you're worth it." 

This has the same kind of effect for them.One man put it this way:

".....If she doesn't take care of herself, dresses sloppily around me all the time, never exercises and has no energy to go out and do things together, i feel like she's choosing not to do something that she should know is important to me.And then it becomes a real issue because it affects her ability to do things and her self worth and desire - and then it affects may not know this, but it's not about whether or not we want our wives to prance around the house in a little Bo-Peep outfit - although that would be great too. I mean, who are we kidding! But really, i just want to see that my wife cares enough about me to make the effort."

Did you catch that last sentence? If you truly care for your husband and want him to know it, this is a grossly overlooked tool with which to do so. And like most tools, it can also be used as a weapon in the hands of the unwitting wife. If making the effort says you care, what are you telling him when you choose to be lazy or indifferent?
The way we keep ourselves is of monumental importance to our men. Think about the term "trophy wife". A trophy is a symbol of honor and reward. Everyone who has a trophy wants it kept shiny, polished and sparkling so they can show it off to others whenever they get the chance.  Make your husband proud to show you off! The Bible also speaks of a woman being the "crown" to her husband. Have you ever seen royalty making their rounds or even sitting around the palace wearing a crown that is dingy, lack luster, or bent out of shape? Make your husband feel like a king with a sparkling crown and he in turn will make you feel like a queen! And, as a side note, if your husband is looking more pauper than prince these days, there is no better encouragement for him to clean up his act than the thought of going out in public with you and people thinking that you got the short end of the stick!

Maybe your husband has never said anything about the way you look, but chances are,  he still cares, and you should too. We've all heard it said that men are visual creatures and as difficult of a topic as this is for a lot of people, i feel i would be remiss to not point out one last thing regarding this, and that is the "lust of the eyes". I don't know about you, but in the past i have found myself dreading the moment when some bombshell beach babe saunters out into our line of view wearing nothing but a couple of strings to cover the essentials. I know how men are wired. I know it's hard to not look, But i know that out of respect for me and a desire to keep his thoughts pure, my husband tries. I want to honor him for that, and i want to do whatever i can to make that constant temptation easier to fight. The awesome thing is, i have the power to do so! Don't take my word for it though, check out this quote from another man:

"When you take care of yourself, your expectation of "i only have eyes for you" seems fairer and easier to accomplish.....we need to see that you care about keeping our attention on you - and off of other women. Sometimes it is so hard for us to look away.It takes a lot of work and a lot of effort! But it helps me so much if i see that my wife is willing to do her part and purposefully work toward staying in shape and looking good." 

In other words, let's be fair ; if i want him to look only at me and not other women, i need to give  him something worth looking at! It's a hard truth, but the sooner we set our minds to it the better. It's not like the old days where if a guy got bored he really had to look for "alternative scenery". Now it comes looking for them whether they want it or not. This is an often overlooked area where we need to be working that role of "helpmeet" in the battle.So, what's "worth looking at"? Consider this tip form Shaunti -

" If you are not realistically happy with your overall appearance and fitness level, assume he's not either."

The emphasis  here being on the words realistically, and overall. I struggled with psychological  body image issues for years before i realized it as that. We're not talking here about one feature that you dislike or the fact that you don't look like Scarlett Johansson. In general, how do you feel about the way that you look? How you feel about the way that you look will affect the way you carry and treat yourself, which in turn will affect the way you actually appear to others. I cannot stress this enough. And how you treat yourself is half of it anyway;  83% of men - that's 5 out of 6, with regular churchgoers agreeing even more strongly, stated that it wasn't so important that their wife look just as she did the day they met, but that she make the effort to take care of herself for them now.It's not that the results don't matter, but they will be a by product of our efforts to take care of ourselves.

So, where do we go from here? It may seem a little daunting at first.Maybe your day is already full, the budget already tight, and you just don't see the light at the end of the postpartum tunnel. The good news is that there are plenty of simple solutions that can make a big difference in common problems. And, chances are that when you make the commitment to implement positive changes in this area of your life, you will find that you have more help than you may have expected. 97% of men said they would help willingly in whatever area necessary - money, extra responsibility, babysitting, etc, in their wife's effort. Think about it , it's in their best interest! They win as much as you do in the end - and not just visually; the wife sets the tone and mood of the home. A happy, healthy, self assured, vibrant wife will create an environment that any man would want to come home to. Here's how you do it: 

B)-Idealize your real.
In a survey, 77% of women 45 yrs. old and younger said that they had a deep need or desire to know that their significant other found them beautiful.I think it's safe to say that deep down, the percentage of women who want to feel beautiful period is probably closer to 100. But the world has a very warped sense of what being beautiful means and even in Christian circles it's hard to not be affected by that. If you're not 5'7", 110 lbs. and a 34D, don't cry yourself to sleep at night asking God to transform you! Respect your body for what and how it is, but make the most of it. Idealize your real. A man once told me ,
" Who you are- your talents, abilities, personality, that's like the picture.Your body- how you look, is like the frame. You want the frame to do the picture justice , to reflect and represent the beauty found therein." 
First, take a minute to think about what makes you feel pretty. For me, one thing that makes me feel extra special is getting my nails done. It's a relatively quick , not too expensive pick me up that is readily available in nearly every shopping center. It usually costs me about $35 for a full mani/pedi, and it takes about 1 1/2 hours , giving me some awesome decompression time as well. I like to ask for gift certificates for these services for my birthday and christmas, and i keep an eye out for coupons to local salons from Living Social, Groupon, or the City Pass Book. There is always the at home option too. After the kids are in bed, when you and hubby sit down to watch a movie or just relax is the perfect time for a little pampering. Here are my list of essentials for the perfect at - home manicure/pedicure ;

~ Bath salt or epsom salt and essential oil for soaking
Pumice Stone and nail brush
* Nail clippers - lg. and small
* Emery board or file
* Cuticle pusher
*Cuticle Nippers
*Burt's Bees Lemon Butter Cuticle Cream
*Burt's Bees Honey Bilberry Foot Cream

All of the above are available at most drugstores. The cuticle cream is my best friend though - seriously, you have to try it. Just smooth it on at night and in the morning you will have brand new fingers! Most men like color too, so surprise yours every once in a while with a pop of bright polish.

Hair : Here's a tip ; if your hair has to be styled in a time consuming way to look decent, it's time for a new do. The best cuts can be washed, dried, and done. Because the fact is, when we get busy, that 30 minute hair routine every morning isn't going to be at the top of the priority list. Clean, healthy, shiny hair is always attractive. Try switching out shampoos every 6 months or so to keep up the clean. An easy at home conditioning treatment is olive oil. You can also use things like mayonnaise, eggs, apple cider vinegar and even beer!  Pay attention to the way your husband likes it styled and wear it like this often. Funny enough, statistically, men tend to prefer the youthful, girlish styles that we might use on our daughters - ponytails, braids, buns.... I think a part of this is that these styles tend to be symmetrical.Studies have shown that symmetry is actually a foundational part of the way our brain interprets beauty. Experiment. Look online for ideas for homemade "fascinators" , or pretty clips. Fake flowers, feathers, ribbons, butterflies, all of these can add a little element of fun and femininity without a lot of work. If you're bored with your hair but are afraid of a permanent change, opt for a semi or demi permanent color. My mom owns a salon here in Fuquay and she and my sister offer a full range of organic, non toxic services and products. They graciously gave me several $5 off coupons to give out at the meeting on Wednesday and i have some left over. They are good for any service scheduled with Lilly, my sister, between now and the end of September. Please contact me if you would like one! A little commercial break here - the salon is really beautiful and a warm, relaxing environment. The services are excellent and the products are actually good for you! Highly recommended! I don't trust anyone but my mom and sister with my hair. Check them out here -
Wellspring Salon

Skin: Obviously we all want radiant, glowing, supple skin. Proper hydration if essential for this! Drink plenty of water ! Body scrubs are a great help too and both cheap and easy to make at home. Plus they make you feel extra pampered in the shower! We made our own sugar scrubs at the meeting using the following :

-Two cups granulated sugar
- One cup oil
-15-20 drops essential oil
- Fresh or dried herbs or flowers of choice

I prefer a sugar scrub because it's less harsh and more hydrating to the skin. I usually use olive oil for it's healing properties and mild scent, but you can use any light oil such as jojoba, grapeseed, sunflower, or vitamin E. Some of my favorite essential oils are lavender, rosemary,  and eucalyptus, and you can use lavender flowers, mint leaves or rose petals as well. Just mix all the ingredients and store in a preferably non-breakable air tight container. To use, after washing, scoop out a generous amount into palm and rub vigorously all over, being careful of sensitive areas. Rinse and pat dry. Body scrubs help to exfoliate dead skin cells and improve circulation while providing intense moisturization . Your skin will feel luxuriously smooth!
My husband and i did the master cleanse earlier this year and we decided that since we were putting our bodies through a pretty intense process all day, we would make up for it with a little extra TLC at night, so one evening we gave each other facials. Not only was it a fun bonding experience but it felt amazing! And, we used products that were already in my kitchen.

Steps for an at home facial:
- Wash thoroughly, exfoliation massage optional (but highly recommended! )
- Nourish with a facial mask. Cover with a light even coat, avoiding eye area.Leave for 15- 20 mins.
-Rinse with tepid water and pat dry
-Steam to clean out pores.Fill a large bowl with hot to boiling water, add herbs if desired, tent face with towel, and lean over bowl for 10 - 15 mins.
-Rinse thoroughly starting with warm water and eventually changing to cold to close pores.

 Exfoliants:  Finely ground oats,almonds,or coffee, sugar
Herbs for steaming  - chamomile for normal skin, peppermint for oily, rosemary for dry
Common kitchen ingredient masks :  avocado,egg,plain yogurt,banana,honey,mayonnaise

Make up :  Make up can be a controversial topic; to wear or not to wear, how much, how often, etc. Many women simply don't know how to properly apply cosmetics, so they just skip them altogether. My take on it is this; i don't think make up should be used to try and change us, but i don't think there is anything wrong with simply enhancing or accentuating what we already have. If you take a few minutes in the morning to put on a little blush, mascara or lip gloss just for your husband, it will make him feel special. Think about it - if you only ever fix up when you go out, who are you really fixing up for anyway? Doesn't your husband deserve it even if no one else sees? I've never worn a lot of make up. In fact, as a general rule, most days i am bare faced.When Michael and i were dating he made a comment one time about not liking a lot of make up, so i made it a point to use it sparingly when i did wear it. One evening however, i was going out with a girlfriend and i had done myself up a little more than i usually did around him. He stopped by to see me and as i was leaving remarked on how nice i looked saying he was a little jealous that i didn't fix up like that when he took me out. I was confused and told him that that was very purposeful as i thought he didn't like it. He explained that he had only meant he didn't like "caked on" make up, but did indeed like the eyeliner and lipstick which i had been so carefully avoiding around him. All being understood, i quickly remedied the situation and have since enjoyed going the extra mile in this way when we go out. Make up can also be a great way to boost self esteem if you're looking tired and you know it, or you are self conscious about blemishes. Every mall has cosmetic kiosks that give free make overs, in the hopes obviously, that you will decide to buy one of their usually over priced products, but it's a great way to learn new techniques, try new products and colors and get some expert advice on your routine. Youtube also has a plethora of make up tutorials if you want to try something new.

Clothes :  A couple of rules of thumb for clothing:
1) Dress according to how you want to feel , not how you are currently feeling, especially if you're in a negative place mentally. What you wear really does affect your mood and general outlook and the way you carry yourself. Think about when you go to church; most of the ladies i know dress nicely, dresses, skirts, maybe heels, a step or two above the daily norm anyway. A lot of that is tradition for some of us, but a lot of it is also respect. We want to respect the Lord's house and His people and somehow that comes out in our dress. Why is that? What if you were to wear a pair of old jeans or shorts, flip flops, and a tank top on Sunday morning. (note here: if this is what you wear to church i am not slamming that in any way - to each his own. This is just speaking to the women who's Sunday morning attire differs from the everyday)  Would you feel differently? Would you act differently? I know for me there is a distinct contrast. I don't mean that i become somebody i'm not when i put on a pair of closed toe shoes, but i am aware of myself in a different way than i am when i'm running around the house barefooted as usual. On days when i wake up feeling down on myself and my body, if i just throw something on to cover my self up and leave off any efforts to give myself a boost appearance - wise, it just re-affirms the fact that i don't feel pretty or attractive, and every time i pass by a mirror throughout the day or come into contact with other people, i become more and more discouraged . BUT, if i say, "you know what, i'm not liking what i see today but i'm not going to let my overly critical perception control how i feel about myself" and i put a little extra care into my routine, 9 times out of 10 it's just the pick me up i need to get over myself and feel confident. Adding color to your wardrobe has a big impact too. Scientific studies ( really, i promise it's not just my hippie ideology ;)  ) have proven that color affects the brain. I have this reversible dress that is navy on one side and bright blue on the other. I was wearing it one day last winter with the navy side out because it was cold and dark outside, and i hate cold and dark, and well, it just seemed more appropriate. At some point during the course of the day i got it dirty and had to flip it around to the bright blue side. I'm not kidding you - immediately i felt different! More positive, more upbeat, less depressed by the weather.  Men are drawn to color as well which is one reason why red dresses and red lipstick have become so iconic in the world of beauty. Try it - it works! Keep it in mind as you shop for clothes.
2) Dress for the occasion more than the location. 
I'm a girl. I like to dress up. But, after getting married i found that the occasions for doing so seemed to be fewer and farther in between. Then i started to think about it; what am i really dressing up for? The restaurant? Or my husband? From then on i decided to dress for the occasion, and i consider a date to be a perfectly sufficient occasion to dress up, even if it's just to someplace casual. I get to wear my heels, Michael gets to enjoy the view of his "trophy", and let's face it, nobody at that Chick-fil-a knows that you aren't coming from or headed to a party, plus, who cares what they think anyway? You're not going home with them ;) .
3)When i buy new clothes, i try to adhere to the 3 Cs standard -
Comfy/convenient, Cost effective, and Cute.
Don't leave off the last one! Comfort does not have to look like we just came from the gym. Cost effective does not have to mean worn out of out of date, and cute can still be perfectly modest! I love to hit up the discount stores like Marshall's, Ross, Burlington Coat Factory, Rugged Wearhouse, and especially TJ Maxx, as well consignment stores like Plato's Closet and Uptown Cheapskate for good deals on nice clothing. I don't have quite as much patience when it comes to thrift stores because i don't like having to rifle through all of the junk just to find one or two good pieces, but when you do find those one or two, you can create a whole new outfit for under $10. Some thrift or consignment stores will pay you on the spot for your old clothes or give you store credit which is a fun way to switch out things you're tired of or just don't fit anymore, without really having to spend any money. Outside of new items, it's a good idea to learn how to accessorize , and how to re use old items for new purposes, or in different ways. I have literally watched an entire tutorial on various ways to wear a scarf! (Ever tried tying one around around your hips over a skirt or jeans like a gypsy? It's a winner...) Wear earrings when you have nowhere to go. Have pretty PJs and feminine sexy undergarments. When you can get a pair of colorful undies for a dollar and a half off of the clearance rack at Kohl's, you could buy a new pair every month guilt free! Hmmm....

I couldn't end this post (i know i know, almost there..) without addressing the issue of weight since that's kind of the elephant in the room when it comes to appearance, body image, etc. It's a big topic, and it's a valid one, so what i've decided to do is continue this subject into a second session this month to talk about  natural health in general, with some talk on achieving a healthy weight included.

OK.*whew* Told you that was a lot! I hope as always that you have found this helpful in some way and that you are encouraged.Be radiant! Be beautiful! Here's your challenge for the month;

~Take some time - a day, half a day, a few hours, for some self-pampering, whether at home or at a salon or spa. Enjoy the fact that you are God's masterpiece, created in His image and that means you are beautiful. Remember that you are loving your husband by showing it.

~Take one day a week to fix up just for your husband. Wear a little perfume even though you're not going anywhere. Style your hair the way he likes it. Put on a sundress and a smile and let him know that he is worth it!

Love and Blessings...Georgia

1 comment:

  1. Great post Georgia. One tip though is don't put on make up in the morning, wash your face, comb your hair and put it on 10 minutes before your husband gets home from work or right before you start cooking dinner. Lol. I the corse of daily life, make up just gets smeared and seems pointless for the 10 minutes you see them before they head out the door to work. Looking nice for the evening time when we're hanging out as a family is more my goal :) I'd love to come to the health class you mentioned but the 21st is Luke's birthday so I'll have to pass on this one. Elizabeth E.