Eternal Beauty (8-Minute Read)

Eternal Beauty is what you feel about yourself not what you see in the mirror
Connie Pretula Headshot

Connie Pretula

Connie Pretula is an inspiring health coach and Menopause Navigator to mature women, using a holistic approach to nutrition and life.

October 31, 2023

I recently met up with my dear friend and fellow business owner, Estie Gonzalez, she owns Derma Bright Clinic here in Vancouver.

We were talking about the immense pressure women feel to continue to have a youthful appearance. Estie has been immersed in this area for over 11 years. Her passion to have access to products and treatments that are good for skin and health started with her own journey.

The conversation prompted me to think about the effect this has on a woman’s self-esteem and overall, on her health.

Before the advent of television, newspapers, magazines and radio were the main source of advertising. Anything in print would have been drawn or it would include an unretouched photo. In essence, the only comparison a woman would have made to another would have been people she would see face to face.

When more households were able to afford a television, it became a popular way to spend time together as a family at the end of the day. Of course, it wouldn’t take companies long to figure out they had a captive audience and TV stations would be happy to sell them airtime for advertising.

When I was a teenager, Mariel Hemingway was a very popular model at the time, I would buy the odd magazine featuring her. Back in the mid-70s, photos were still real so what I saw was what Mariel really looked like.

I heard on a podcast recently, last year over 50,000 girls in Canada age 14-17 received cosmetic injectables. One-third of girls in the same age category are unhappy with their appearance and 74% want to change one thing about their body, those statistics are heartbreaking.

When a woman starts to go through her menopause journey, she starts to experience changes. I’ve had women tell me they had no idea their skin would feel drier, or that their hair would thin out. I had a friend tell me she did not want to age because she heard that her knees will eventually sag. There are so many fears about what we will experience externally.

Unfortunately, as technology has improved, it has also created perfect skin, hair and bodies. Anything can be fixed, changed or created now. With AI, it really is hard to know what is real and what has been created. With 24/7 access to anything on the world wide web, it can make the days we don’t feel great about ourselves, a never-ending scroll session of comparitis.

Another factor to consider is when a woman has focused on her health and doesn’t feel the age that her birth certificate says she is, it can be compelling to want to look younger. Many women look much younger than their mothers at the same age and women are living longer.

So is the obsession to look younger because of being bombarded with perfectly looking images? Or is it because we don’t feel our age and we want to look in the mirror and see a face and body that represents that?

Generally, when you ask someone if they could go back to a certain age, many will say, no, I have been through a lot in my life and I’ve done a lot of work to get to a place of feeling happy inside. So for the most part, mentally and emotionally, we are good with the path we are on or where we are at.

Why is there a disconnect with what we see externally?

I still remember my conversation with a friend in 2007 when she told me she decided to get Botox injections. She told me that I should go because it would get rid of my 11, the vertical lines between my brows. She assured me she had the best place and it was safe.

I went for the Botox injections and she was right, my 11 was gone. I was also dating a man who encouraged me to continue, he said it made me look younger. I should have stopped dating him right then, that could be a good blog post for another time. I continued for a couple of years while we were dating and stopped when I moved from Winnipeg to Vancouver. I was nervous about finding a clinic and didn’t know who to ask, actually, I was embarrassed to ask, I really didn’t want anyone to know.

When I was preparing for my bodybuilding competition in 2013, I will admit, I wanted my face to look more relaxed and smooth. I asked someone I trusted for a referral and my 11 was gone again and the lines on my forehead were relaxed as well.

I didn’t continue after my competition until I noticed that I was losing some of the volume in my face, part of that was due to the competition prep and part due to the natural aging process.

The doctor I saw suggested I get Botox on my upper lip instead of injecting fillers. I’m glad she suggested that with everything we now know about fillers. The funny thing is, getting Botox on my upper lip made it impossible to pucker my lips. I laughed when I tried to use a straw, I couldn’t close my lips around it. When I look back at my pictures from that time, I see how it changed my smile.

I was getting caught up in my external aesthetic rather than focusing on who I am inside. I decided to stop getting Botox and embrace aging naturally.

I believe our eternal beauty comes from inside. At any point and time, our life is a culmination of everything we have experienced. We are what we have lived and how we have lived, physically, emotionally and mentally.

We can glow from the inside out, part of that comes from how we view ourselves and how we view life, it also comes from what goes in and on our body.

When the pandemic had us staying inside and using video calling and conferencing, people started to judge their appearance even more. We could spend hours seeing our faces, something we had never experienced before.

When lockdowns were lifted, cosmetic procedures skyrocketed and continue to do so. I’m glad celebrities are sharing their personal experiences and being honest with their regrets, they are the smaller segment of the population though.

Cosmetic changes on our exterior are perhaps viewed as far easier than the internal work it takes to love what we see in the mirror.

Unfortunately, if we are unable to come to a place of loving who we are as a person, we will never be happy with what we see on the outside, I speak from experience. I was a very awkward teenager, my breasts didn’t show up until I was 18. I was in relationships with men who were not physically affectionate so I thought it was because of the way I looked. Then dating a man who encouraged me to get cosmetic procedures. I can easily blame them for not loving me as I was but reality is, I wasn’t loving me as I was.

I have had clients tell me they didn’t like anything about themselves, looking in the mirror is very difficult for them. These moments really are heartbreaking for me and I can understand those feelings because I have been there.

I wish I had an easy solution to learning to love who we are inside and out. One thing I do have, is, a compassionate ear.

Gaining the trust of my client takes time, through conversations I get to know more about her. Helping a woman appreciate who she is and how amazing her body is, will generally result in her wanting to implement the changes I’m recommending.

I know I’ve mentioned previously, my goal is to help women get off of the fad diet rollercoaster. I also hope the day will come when she looks in the mirror and smiles at what she is seeing. Not because she has achieved a certain goal weight but because she is glowing from the inside out and loves who she is.

I will be the first to say, getting to the point of loving and accepting who I am and what I see in the mirror, was not an easy journey. That is the one thing age and maturity gave me, it finally gave me peace with my external body and myself. Studying holistic nutrition gave me a deep appreciation for the amazing capability my body has to heal itself.

My hope or wish is, if you struggle to look in the mirror and like or love what you see, is that you can find one thing about you that you do love. Maybe it’s your eyes, your nails, your eyebrows, or your smile. It is not selfish to love something about yourself.

If you are still struggling to find a physical aspect about yourself that you like, shift the focus to something you do really well or a talent you have. Our external appearance is purely, as one of my friends calls it, “our skin suit”. It’s what is holding together everything else we are made of. Who we are goes so much deeper.

Every day, we are a new version of ourselves. Something about us has changed from the day before and that is completely normal, it is the human experience.

If there is a topic you are interested in and would like me to cover, please email me, I am open to suggestions.

Thank you for reading my words.

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