When I was younger (somewhere in middle school), I wrote in my diary about dieting. Now, I look back at that diary entry and wonder, “What was I thinking!?” I couldn’t have been any larger than a twig. What’s more unbelievable is that 20+ years later, girls are still trying to keep up with unrealistic beauty standards.
Countless books have been written to encourage girls and women to love themselves and embrace their uniqueness, each book offering a different perspective by the author. In her new book, Beauty Redefined How to Feel Authentically Beautiful in Today’s World, Seline Shenoy walks through the history of beauty and beauty standards, characteristics of a true beauty and how to feel beautiful in your own skin.
After reading her book, I wanted to learn more about Seline’s journey with self-esteem and beauty so we sat down to chat for a Q&A.
TDIM: In your book you mentioned questions that women often ask themselves due to the media pressures and standards. Have you ever asked yourself those questions during your journey with beauty/self-esteem? If so, what were your answers? Am I good enough? Do I matter? Will others love and accept me for who I am?
Seline: Yes, I absolutely did ask myself all those questions in the past! That’s why I understand the depth of the pain and self-doubt that girls and women go through. I was painfully self-conscious, especially during the phases in my childhood and teenage years when I was chubby. My self-doubt was compounded by the pressures I faced from my family and because I lacked strong female role models.
I continued asking myself these questions even after transforming my physical appearance. Even though I was receiving compliments from others and was considered attractive by conventional standards, I still didn’t believe in myself. I realized that genuine self-confidence has to come from within and it’s something that I have to actively cultivate by acknowledging my strengths and working on the deeper issues that was causing me to question myself.
TDIM: How would you answer those questions now?
Seline: Worthiness is not something that you have to earn by getting others approval. You’re worthy by virtue of being alive. Instead of wondering what other people think of me (you can never control that), I now strive to be a better person in every way and to make a difference. When I’m focused on love and contribution, I don’t feel the need to ask these questions. Always do your best in everything you do, and no matter what the outcome, you are enough. I still have to remind myself about this one whenever I’m stressed out about attaining a certain outcome.
“We cannot change the cards we are dealt, just how we play the hand.” ~Randy Pausch
TDIM: On page 40, you talk about how we can alter our appearance using the medical technology available, but we should only do so from a place of self-love and worthiness. How would a person know that they are altering their appearance from a place of self-love and worthiness?
Seline: It really is a fine line. The only way to understand your true intentions for having the treatments is to do some soul searching and be totally honest with yourself. Are you doing it because you don’t feel good enough and because you believe that by getting the treatment done others will love or like you more? Or are you doing it because you want to enhance the awesomeness of your existing beauty? Would NOT getting the treatment diminish your value and make you feel inferior? If you tune in, you’ll sense if the energy behind your action is one of fear, desperation and compulsion or if it’s from a place of love and worthiness. Your intuition will never lie to you.
TDIM: Has your lack of confidence ever held you back from a great opportunity? What did you learn from this?
Seline: Fortunately, even though I wasn’t confident about my appearance, it seldom stopped me from putting myself out there and testing the waters. Even though I knew that I there was a strong chance I may not receive a favorable response, I still tried out for the sports teams, auditioned for fashion show and dance tryouts, applied to the best colleges, and attempted to hangout with the popular girls in school. The rejection did hurt, but I chose to focus on the wins and that always made me stronger and more determined to keep trying until I succeeded. I guess that I’m blessed with a resilient spirit with the courage to always push the envelope and stretch myself to see what I’m capable of achieving. My credo is that you only have one life to live – don’t waste it by living on the sidelines watching others just because you were afraid of the possibility of failure.
TDIM: As an African-American women, I am often surprised at how limiting the beauty industry is in regards to “ethnic” facial features, hair etc. We still have a long way to go. How have you been able to embrace your heritage and features in a society that has set a different standard for beauty?
Seline: While I agree that we still have a long way to go when it comes to embracing ethnic beauty, I feel that we have come a long way from where we used to be. Makeup brands and other beauty products have become more sensitive and inclusive of the concerns that women of various ethnicities [have]. There’s more representation of women from different races, colors and national backgrounds now. Compare today with the past few decades of the 1900’s and you’ll see that we’ve made a lot of progress.
I’m Indian by ethnicity and even within the Indian community it can be tough to embrace your beauty. The physical features in India are so diverse – we have light, brown and dark skinned people. People with defined and less defined facial features, light and dark eye colors and even people with Asian features in the mountain areas near the border with China. My dad’s side of the family is light-skinned and my mom’s side is darker. So I got mixed messages about where I stood in the beauty meritocracy. I had a light-skinned relative who used to show off about her lighter complexion. Her competitive nature used to affect me when I was in a vulnerable stage.
However, after traveling around the world and moving to the US, my eyes were opened when I witnessed the entire spectrum of beauty that exists in the world. The prominence of Latina beauties like Salma Hayek and Eva Mendes and Indian beauties like Frieda Pinto and Priyanka Chopra; and biracial beauties such as Meghan Markle, convinces me that we are finally entering a new era where beauty is no longer seen as a homogenous concept. Diversity is beautiful and it’s what makes the world a colorful and interesting place. The more we embrace this, the healthier and inclusive we become as a global community.
TDIM: I love a lot of the tips in Chapter 5. Having a self care routine is everything to me and I believe everyone should have one. What is your personal self-care routine? Do you have separate ones for morning and night? How has having a self-care routine helped you redefine your beauty?
Seline: Self-care for me is all about paying attention to my needs – the needs of my body, mind and soul. I try to maintain a lifestyle that honors all those needs and harmonizes with the commitments of my personal and professional life. Since I have a tendency to overthink and worry about the future, a big part of my self-care practice involves monitoring the quality of my thoughts and incorporating practices that ground me and bring me back to balance. My self-care practice involves speaking to myself with kindness and allowing myself enough time for rest and play as I can often spend too much time working. I make it a point to eat healthy nutritious foods and surround myself with supportive people while weeding out the toxic ones. I think a self-care routine is unique to everyone and should be tailored to their preferences and what their need the most to stay whole, balanced and joyful.
To learn more about Seline Shenoy visit selineshenoy.com.