I'm a winner, baby.
-Diana Ross, Mahogany
Literary wit and bon vivant Oscar Wilde said, "To love oneself is the beginning of a lifelong romance." These are the words to live by. This is the bedrock of beautyliciousness: self-acceptance. Self-acceptance and self-esteem are about being in love with you, about having the ability to truly appreciate your talents, beauty, and uniqueness, and, above all, being comfortable with yourself.
You put the bomb in bombshell. Your looks are smoldering, your personality is dynamic, and the total you is, well, kaboom! Wow! Though you may find yourself asking, "Where is that incendiary minx? Hmm, does she only come out for All Saints Day and the lunar eclipse?" Most of the time you are slinking around like a sweet but meek calico kitty, because you don't quite believe that God's been so good to you. Clearly, you're oblivious to how great you are. You're not alone. The truth is that balancing and maintaining your self-esteem is a lifelong process, one that no one is exempt from.
Trust, all of the Dolls, from Josephine Baker to Halle Berry, have had their doubts, doubters, and detractors, but they've also had their hype list, affirmations, goals, and vision. Everyone has had to learn to push past her fears and underlying thoughts of "I'm just an ashy, knock-kneed gal from Harlem" to project "I'm the cat's meow." It may not have been easy; yet they put one Ferragamo-shod foot in front of the other in a soulful strut toward their dream. Sure, you'll fall, but what separates Ms. Beautylicious from the rest of the girls is that she'll get up confident, determined, and laughing. Think of confidence as a verb. It is an action. When you're feeling less than sizzling, do something! It takes an arsenal of mind games, affirmations, and reinforcements to appear confident when you really want to use your head for soccer practice. And, it takes grace, humility, and a bit of humor to recover from life's pratfalls. Don't worry, you'll reclaim the incendiary minx that has always been there. Use the confidence-building tools in your arsenal, but always remember Beautylicious rule number one: You rule!
Cast Down Your Buckets
So advised Booker T. Washington in his famous Atlanta conference speech. He was exhorting black folks on how to cope with racism during the turn of the twentieth century. While his advice was, in hindsight, umm, too accommodating of the racial mores of the time, it's right on time for Ms. Beautylicious. Cast down your buckets and pick up your mirror to lovingly assess your unique beauty and to start embracing yourself as you are now. Anyone can think she's ready to take over the world after her weave is sewn in or she's dropped twenty pounds, but the base of boomin' beautyliciousness is appreciating what you have now, whether it's your favorite feature or not. When you look in the mirror, know that the person reflected deserves love, fun, loads of fulfilling sex, success, Louis Vuitton bags, and all the best that life has to offer; claim these things and more as your due. And, when a flashback or a bad-hair day has rocked your fab foundation, be sure to reach for your looking glass and caress yourself. How? Try this technique, developed by therapist Carolyn Hillman in her book Love Your Looks: Show Compassion for whatever you are feeling about yourself, nonjudgmentally. Accept yourself and your appearance. Respect yourself for who you are. Encourage yourself to take the risks and the steps to achieve what you want out of life as you are now. Support yourself by believing in yourself and reassuring yourself that how you look is fine. Stroke yourself by praising yourself and giving yourself credit for trying. The love fest starts this minute!
Don't Play That Song for Me
What you say to yourself is far more important than what's going on in your life. If the CD My Greatest Misses and Disses is on perpetual random play in your head, it limits you--your talents, power, and beauty. How do you stop the litany of negativity? By replacing every negative thought with a positive one. It starts with confronting the negative thought--you know, the "I am fat, I am lazy, I am dumb" conversation that, when you think about it, some small jealous clown from sixth grade bestowed on you and you believed it. Replace that cut in your head with "I am not dumb. I am a smart girl and confident. Hell, I got it going on." The key is you have to say it out loud so that you can get the hang of it and begin to believe it. Repetition is good. Out in public and cut number five, "I am a loser," starts playing? A simple "No," said out loud (but not too loud), believe it or not, helps. It sounds like the last stand against the bogeyman, and in a way it is. No makes the offending thoughts dissolve. The real daily deal: Start talking pretty to yourself. Hips are no longer described as humongous. Nope, they're "curvy" and "cushy comfy." Give yourself a shout-out every time you pass the mirror or when a wave of doubt overtakes you. Granted, the first couple of times that you say, "I'd like to say hey to the baddest, smartest babe, I know . . . me!" may crack you up, but it's a great way to quickly shore up your confidence. You can replace the old stale tapes located in the windmills of your mind with a great new one entitled The Greatest Love of All!
Fake It Till You Make It
Whether it's interviewing for a new job, giving a speech, or running into your archnemesis while looking less than lovely at the corner bodega, don't let the situation rock your world. Handle it.
Project strength even when you feel shaky. Begin to breathe; take deep breaths, inhaling from the nose, exhaling from the mouth. Shout down that inner voice of self-doubt and visualize yourself as a beautiful woman in control of the situation. There is something to imagining yourself as Condoleeza Rice or any other take-control woman before you give your office presentation. Hell, channel one of your personal best moments: graduation; that particular day that everything was working overtime; or any memory of you feeling great, beautiful, strong, and on top of the world. You'll not only convince others that you are in control but you'll really begin to feel that way. Look at the nervous tics and things you do when your confidence is low. Do you bite your nails, pull on your hair, or talk too fast? Break those habits now. No one will know you're feeling insecure if you don't broadcast it with nervous gestures.
Smell your roses while you're alive. Keep a running tally of your own greatness. Affirm, visualize, and fiercely protect your most exalted self. Here are the tools to help you maintain and bolster your confidence:
THE HYPE REPORT
Picasso dubbed Josephine Baker "the Nefertiti of Now." Orson Welles crowned Eartha Kitt "The Most Exciting Woman in the World." Lofty titles from lofty men, to be sure, but you can bet your Prada that when Jo or Eartha was feeling less than superstarish, those sobriquets cheered them up. Okay, Spike Lee hasn't put your essence into words yet, but I'll wager that your friends, family, and acquaintances have given you accolades. Of course they have, and you should record compliments and stash thank-you notes, letters of achievements, and love letters. Write down what you think is great about you and don't stint on the applause. Have fun with the hype report. List your fabulous traits in a sumptuous silk journal, buy a drawing pad and illustrate your compliments with cut-up words (from magazines and newspapers) and pictures, or just put together your own press kit, complete with "press clippings," of every glowing mention of you. Write your praises in calligraphy and tape them up to the mirror, where you can see them. Enjoy your external beauty and the manifestations of the internal. Feel free to drag out your list anytime to remind yourself that you are the bomb.
Baby, you must not be selfish. Let the whole world benefit from your incredible radiance.
The incomparable Duke said that to Lena Horne. Yes, it's hard to believe that the legendary beauty needed a boost, but it's also another illustration that even the most fabulous of the fabulous don't always think they are the bee's knees. Heed the elegant maestro's statement. You've got something special going on and it's high time the world knew about it! Get out there and share your star power. If you can sing, take it to the stage, to the senior-citizen center, or to your friend's wedding, but don't just save it for the shower. A brilliant mind? Celebrate it, don't dumb down for anyone. Create and teach a course at the local continuing education program. They named you "motor mouth" in seventh grade? Don't hang your head, use your deft verbal skills as an MC. Hey, you can be the next Eve or simply entertain as the mistress of ceremonies for an organization's fashion show. Or volunteer as a publicist for your favorite local haunt. The point is to just celebrate the things that make you you, and do it with your head held high!
THE SUPREME TEAM
Along the road to divadom, all of the Dolls have had to pack the proverbial security blanket along with the sequined gowns in order to quell potentially crippling fears and build sagging confidence. Some blues tools that you can use:
Diana Ross believes in positive thinking tapes. "One of my greatest tools has been my positive thinking tapes. I use them constantly; they are a great source of inspiration, and I'm not embarrassed to let people know how much they inspire and assist me in maintaining my self-esteem."
Kimora Lee Simmons looks inward. "When my confidence is kind of low, I do whatever I have to do to make myself feel better. It may be a yoga class, a warm bath, or writing in my journal--anything that makes me peaceful, because I can do great work when I am peaceful."
Josephine Premice gazes into the looking glass. "I got over thinking I was ugly. A friend told me to stand in front of the bathroom mirror and repeat over and over, 'I am beautiful.' It worked. I began to feel beautiful, which is very important."
Mary J. Blige finds solace in the Bible. "I realized that my life was a gift from God and if I did not take responsibility for saving myself nobody else would."
My Life: The Remix
I don't lie. I improve on life.
Our girl Jo may have been the original mix master, for she gleefully rewrote and reinvented her life at will. One guess is it was partially to keep a sad and painful background hidden, and then after a while she did it simply because she could! The fab girl goes with a more modern, shall we say P. Diddyish, way of looking at her life. There is your life story, the pain, the glory, and the yawn of it. And there's the remix, which is used for the rest of the world. Now when I say remix, I don't mean outrageous lies. If you come from Baldwin Hills with two perfectly respectable accountants for parents, you don't tell people you're an orphaned princess from Tanzania who joined the circus. Save that for your creative writing course. I mean you are free to spin events that are not comfortable for you or no one's business in a manner that makes you feel empowered. You don't owe anyone and everyone full disclosure that you've taken the bar exam fifteen times or that you've revisited Bob, a poor choice for a boyfriend, fifteen times. The only exception to this rule is your physician. Ten to one, your parents don't need to know that you, ahem, were a party girl at college. Your doctor, however, does. Leave whatever you feel doesn't empower you at home. Psychologically this helps you, as you are not forced to relive a painful event, or dwell on what you perceive as a failure. For instance, while there is no shame in being fired--it happens to most people at one time or another--you don't need to give a potential employer or your ex-office mate the low-down dirty version. If your response is: "Mr. Jones/Girlfriend, I had to go 'cause my boss was a jealous, hateful shrew who always picked on me. I mean, gosh, so I came in late a couple of times and didn't do the proposal she was supposed to write, that heifer didn't have to do what she did . . ." Check the remix: "No, I am no longer at Acme, it really wasn't a fit." Notice how the remix kills all of the negatives; you're not going back down memory lane about your boss nor are you planting any negative impressions about yourself or your work habits in someone else's mind. And you told the truth; you're not working at Acme anymore. There is no rule saying that the assorted and sundry people you meet in life have to know everything. You choose who gets the privilege of knowing you inside and out.
To most of us, one of the highest compliments, yet a faintly damning insult, is "You're such a nice girl." Yes, we all want to be seen as that wonderful gal who bakes cookies, supplies friends with both shoulders and Kleenex to cry on, forgives the love man's major transgressions, gives her last dollar to the homeless, and leaps from tall buildings in a single bound. Er, sure, most days you're like that, but every now and again you just want to be left alone to do your own thing, give Brotherman and the selfish friend the tongue-lashing they deserve, and, well, spend a little time with your less-than-saintly side. How do you tell people where to go and how to get there, or just tell them, "No, I prefer to clean out the fuzz in my belly button"? Lightbulb moment: Just say "No!" The word no should be used freely, especially if it is going to protect your feelings, safety, and sanity.
Manners Make the Babe
We're training them for Buckingham Palace and the White House.
So decreed the Supremes' etiquette coach, referring to the endless poise, diction, and etiquette classes the singular girl group had to take. Hmm, now there's a quaint notion. Why would anyone need training in the new millennium? Baby, it's a Barnum and Bailey world. Jerry Springer antics, shot caller/baller/brawler mentality, and general ignorance seem to be the norm in all levels of society, while it appears that such qualities as poise, civility, and respect for oneself and others have gone the way of the Afro Sheen Blowout Kit. The beautylicious babe keeps it real by upholding the social graces, because she knows that good manners are the universal language. We all could brush up on matters of deportment, so I went old school for pointers from the mighty trinity of black finishing-school divas: Ophelia DeVore of Ophelia DeVore's School of Charm, New York City; Maxine Powell of Maxine Powell's Model, Host and Hostess Agency and Motown Records in Detroit; and Charlotte Hawkins Brown, educator and founder of Palmer Memorial Institute in Sedalia, North Carolina.
From the Trade Paperback edition.