Keeping up appearances

I wanted to put something encouraging and uplifting at this challenging time and was reminded of my mother’s advice to me when I was a young girl (not that long ago!).

My mother was a combatant in the Second World War with its many enormous personal challenges. I remember her telling me how, when stockings were nonexistent, she used to dye her legs with gravy browning and then draw a line with her eyebrow pencil up the centre of the back of her legs to make it look like a seam. Quite ingenious really. Having red lips was also a symbol of femininity in that era. What was all that about? Surely, staying alive was the primary focus? Why bother trying to look feminine?

We’re not on a war footing, despite the parallels being drawn, but there are similar dynamics at work: struggling to get food and maintain a healthy diet, keeping our bodies and minds active, maintaining our morale and just trying to stay alive. And all this within a framework of isolation and stress. Consequently, it may seem a little trivial to think about taking care of ourselves aesthetically.

But nurturing the right attitude does keep us from despondency. And thus, back to what my mother told me. When she shared her wisdom she had already had a series of major strokes which left her partially paralysed. Getting out of bed was a considerable challenge for her and she had great difficulty in lifting her arms. Yet, each morning, she would change from her bedclothes into her day clothes, wash and do her hair before she would come downstairs. When I asked why she made so much effort because, as she was housebound, only her family could see her. She replied, ‘ You should look after your appearance for your own self-respect, not for anyone else’s approval.’ As a woman of few words you took notice when she spoke and her words have stuck with me some 35 years later.

I think her attitude helps to reinforce a sense of self esteem, not by worshipping the body beautiful but by creating routines in your life to maintain the health of mind, body and spirit. We can all vouch for how much better we feel when we’ve had a relaxing bath, invigorating shower, haircut, manicure or pedicure. These outward activities have a influence on our inner self.

I would therefore encourage the instigation or maintenance of a beauty routine for the benefits it brings in helping us to focus of how life must go on; in lifting us out a tendency to despondency. It reinforces our sense of purpose, helps us to look beyond our immediate circumstances and recreates a sense of normality.

I read recently a beautiful and sobering notion that ‘women set the temperature of the home’. So let us make it an ambient one. It isn’t selfish or vain to spend some time on ourselves.Everyone benefits from our reduced stress if we give ourselves permission to take a mental as well as a physical breathing space.

I am grateful to my mother for her wise words: they have influenced my life and informed the ethos of my clinic.
As an aesthetician of 40 years experience I can testify to the truth of the proposition that my clients obtain health-giving benefits which go beyond the positives of the physical treatment alone. It is why I love what I do – it’s ‘whole-istic.’