Beauty Column: Improving Our Self-Images By Erin Cook

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Welcome back to our “Inspired By Beauty” column – I thank you for visiting!  As always, I offer my gratitude for this opportunity to share my voice and passion with the Lehigh Valley Woman’s Journal reading community!  It is truly a pleasure.  I hope that you are all enjoying my monthly beauty column.  If you’ve missed any previous articles, the links are always available following this month’s article.  This month, I’m reoffering November’s article for those of you that missed out!  A topic that is so important, I’ve decided to give it one more month of attention.  It’s time to “get real” – from one woman to the next.  Please read on, share (if you see fit) and enjoy!

In my previous articles, I have addressed common misconceptions, given some beauty advice, and offered some tips in achieving your desired looks.  This month, I’m taking a slightly different approach to beauty and will be shedding some light on one of the biggest issues, across the board, with women and men, alike.  Throughout my twelve years of working behind the chair as a stylist, and now being more in tune with all of our studio guests, while assisting my stylists with consultations, there is one issue that arises with almost everyone – every time they look into the mirror.  On average, I see approximately 40 guests per week, give or take.  You can easily multiply that a couple of times for our guest count, overall within the studio, for the week.  Nine times out of ten, this is what we hear (when our guests look into the mirror):

“I look old.”

“I don’t like looking at myself in the mirror.”

“I need this length here, because it hides my fat.”

“I need this, because it hides my wrinkles.”

“I can’t do this, because it’s only for young people.”

“I need this, because it hides my scar.”

“I can’t wear my hair like this (or that) because it make my face look too long, too round, too fat.”

“I can’t go with a darker color, they say you’re supposed to go lighter as you get older.”

“I can’t go shorter, they don’t like it.”

“I can’t grow my hair longer, because they say it should be shorter as you get older.”

“I don’t like my forehead.”

“I don’t like my nose.”

“I can’t change this (or that) because it hides my double chin.”

“I want something different, but what could you possibly do with this?”

“I’ve really always loved this cut, color, style – But, it wouldn’t look good on me.”

I think you get the gist.  And, these, are only a few examples of what we hear.  So, this month, let’s talk about all of YOU and your self-images.  We must. It just seems to be getting worse with time.  And, if I’m being completely honest – you are breaking my heart. One a daily basis, I come across many of the most beautiful women I’ve ever known – Only they honestly do not see themselves that way.  So, I would like to challenge you to see and enhance YOUR beauty – inside and out.  And, please, please, please – Stop listening to THEM.

If I may, allow me to share my personal story with you, from one insecure woman to the next.  Because, well, I’ve yet to meet a TRULY secure woman.  We all have insecurities, we all – at one time or another – had someone stomp on and damage our self-esteem.  Unfortunately, most of us participate in negative self-talk on a daily basis.  So, for your sake, in efforts to offer you a relatable, honest source – who happens to be a 35-year-old Lehigh Valley Woman’s Journal beauty columnist, a salon owner and a stylist – I will share with you my story.  Based on the last sentence I just typed, even I would think I have all my beauty ducks in a row.  But the truth is – I do not.  I struggle just like the rest of you.  Most of you are more put together than me – and that is a fact!  As I’m sitting here at my computer typing this article for you all, my nails are weathered, with the sparse remains of red nail polish that I wore for an event recently.  This week, alone, almost all of my nails broke off and I have yet to have, or take the time, to file them down.  My nails are stained from the hair color I work with.  They look pretty bad, actually.  Nails – Added to my to-do list for today!  My eyebrows are in need of some serious waxing, my face always looks so lifted after having my brows shaped!  My hair could use a slight color refreshment and could really use a good shaping.  And, I should probably be exercising off last evening’s dinner (which was a little outside of usual diet), instead of typing right now – but, I do need to meet my deadline.  Reading over this paragraph, it’s obvious that I should take a little time out of my day for myself.  All things mentioned above, make me feel very differently about myself when they are all maintained.  In fact, these are the surface beauty enhancements that make most women radiate slightly more confidence, walk a little taller and add a little pep-to-their-step!  So, why do I not simply keep these minor things about myself, and my image, maintained?

Because –  I’m just like most of you!  I am a mother of two sons, currently maintaining my household, my business and my sanity – on my own.  There are other priorities, many other priorities – and, somewhere along the way, I have taken myself off of the list.  I’m simply too tired most days to fuss over myself and my image.  Scratch that – I’m usually just flat-out exhausted at the end of the day.  Just like so many of you.  The worst part is – that I’m aware of the expectation of me “looking the part” of a salon owner, of a stylist, and – well – I’m not sure that I fit the average mold.  Beauty, however, is one of my greatest passions.  But, possibly, not in the way you would think.  Believe me, I work behind a salon chair the majority of my week – in front of that same mirror you all don’t want to look into.  Talk about not liking that mirror!  Imagine working in front of one, every moment you’re at work!  Yikes.  You almost cannot escape your insecurities!  It has taken me MANY years to find any level of comfort in working in front of a mirror.  I suppose it is an ongoing search for comfort – Still.

My point?  I get it.  We are more alike than we are different.  But, ladies – I must ask you – who are THEY and why is their opinion so important to you?  And, why are you HIDING?  Physically, you are you.  You are exactly the way YOU should look.  You are beautiful.  And, the moment you begin recognizing your best features, focusing on all of the beauty you do portray – you will begin to stop hiding and giving “them” your beauty power!

When I was in my late teens, I was getting ready to go somewhere.  I don’t remember where, actually. At the time, it was so important to me.  I remember fussing over everything.  My hair.  My make-up. My clothing choice.  Whether or not to wear my glasses.  Everything.  It was agonizing.  When I looked in the mirror I saw every physical flaw I own.  I saw nothing beautiful.  I was at my Grandparent’s house, at the time – my Mammy came into the back of the house where I was frantically getting ready and said, “Erin, what is wrong?”  I suppose she sensed my frustrated body language.  I remember telling her that I didn’t like the way I looked – that no matter what I did – I. Just. Didn’t. Like. Myself.  She looked over my shoulder into the mirror, where I stood with tears in my eyes and told me that I was perfectly beautiful. She said, “Just focus on one feature that you do like and play that up.  Now look at yourself and tell me what you like?”  In that moment, I realized that my eyes were not so bad.  So, I played them up.  And stopped wasting time hiding all of my flaws.  I felt better.  In that exact moment! I walked with a little more confidence that evening – after focusing on a feature that I did like, rather than filling my mind with negative self-talk and attempting to hide all the features that I didn’t like.  To this day, I never forgot that moment and, often times, I revisit this exercise when I’m feeling less than beautiful.  It’s like anything in life, I suppose – when we focus on the positives, we create more positive energy and perspective.  While focusing on the negatives, will only weigh us down and deteriorate our self-esteem.

So, I pass this along to you.  Whether your struggle is with your body, your facial features, your hair – whatever the insecurity – I ask you to simply look into the mirror and focus on your positive features.  Focus on this, rather than convincing yourself that you are so flawed.  As John Legend states in one of his latest songs, embrace your “all your curves and all your edges, all your perfect imperfections”.  Please.

One of the most common, mind-boggling experiences we, as stylists, encounter on a consistent basis, is when a classy, beautiful, put together woman sits down in our chair and begins to list all of her flaws.  It is often times the most uniquely beautiful woman we see, in fact.  It is utterly heart-breaking to see that scarred look in someone’s eye – scarred because of their own negative self-talk, or possibly the opinion of others.  We spend hours per week attempting to convince women to see themselves through “our eyes” and offer them permission to try a new look that has been calling them.  A look that may expose their insecurities, and quite possibly, in turn – enhance their natural beauty!

Please – I beg you – stop listening to “them”.  Who are they anyway, do you even know them?  Do they know you?

And, please – stop comparing yourself to your younger-self, your sister, your friend and all the women that you don’t even know. 

So, with all of this being said, please take a moment to look in the mirror – And tell me, what is it that you like about yourself?  And – FLAUNT THOSE BEAUTIFUL FEATURES GIRL!

We are incredibly hard on ourselves, as women.  We need to stop this behavior.  We are NOT flawed.  We are unique.  And We are beautiful.  Please stop hiding your “flaws”.  Please start recognizing and enhancing YOUR beauty.  Try new things that speak to you.  Embrace the various styles, whether it be clothing, make-up or hair – that call out to you.  Expose the naturally beautiful woman that you are!

Please.  And thank you!

Inspired by You new logoHopefully, this month’s article offers you some inspiration to embrace and enhance the beautiful woman that you are!  As always, please discuss options with your stylist to find a look that will inspire you to expose your lovely features.  If you are in need of assistance, my team of talented stylists are available for complimentary consultations, always.  Please feel free to contact us at Inspired By You LifeStyle Studio at 50 East Broad Street in Bethlehem, PA to reserve your appointment: 610.419.8819.   It would be our pleasure to meet you and work with you in achieving your desired look!

As always, it has been a pleasure sharing my passion with you all – I thank you for taking the time to read this month’s article!  Next month, I will be offering you an article to celebrate the New Year & New YOU!

Wishing you and your loved ones a Happy Holiday Season, as well as a Happy & Healthy New Year!  Be well – Looking forward to sharing the New Year with you all!


Warm Regards, 
Erin Cook                   
Master Stylist/Owner
Inspired By You LifeStyle Studio


Missed last month’s column? Read it now.

November: Beauty Column: Improving Our Self-Images By Erin Cook
October: Beauty Column: Frequently Asked Questions by Erin Cook
September: Beauty Column: Flawlessly Transition into Autumn By Erin Cook
July: Beauty Column – Going Gray With Grace: To Color or Not to Color? By Erin Cook
June: Beauty Column: Calling All Curly-Haired Ladies: This One’s For You! By Erin Cook
May: Beauty Column: Styling Techniques & Product Knowledge: Tips for Effortless Beauty
April: Beauty Column: What is the Current Trend in Hairstyling? Embrace Your Individuality