Picture-perfect skin has become the new normal in the social media era. You can literally edit images to be whatever you want it to be with apps like Facetune, Airbrush, Retouch and so many more. With a swift cinch you can snatch your waist and with a simple swipe you can erase your acne. Why are we like this? Why do we desire perfection so passionately. And I say "we" because I am guilty of using Facetune to edit parts of my body and face. What's also mind-blowing is how body positivity is more prevalent than skin positivity. In this age of envy, society has become enthralled with living the picture perfect-life with picture-perfect skin and a picture-perfect body. It's not realistic and it creates illogical standards.
Our bodies and our skin were created to be unique; there is truly beauty in divergence.
Above all, beauty is being comfortable in your own skin and even OG Edgar Allen Poe once said, "There is no exquisite beauty… without some strangeness in the proportion." Truth is, people relate to you and love you more when you keep it all the way one hunnid. And if we are being real, we are way too self-critical.
Here, three bold and beautiful women share their stories on learning to believe in their purpose-built beauty and share advice for women struggling to accept themselves.
*Responses have been edited for length and clarity.
Courtesy of Berlange Presilus
"I am fashion (role) model, teacher, entrepreneur, warrior and advocate. I was born with a rare condition called Klippel Trenaunay syndrome, KTS in short. KTS is a rare congenital vascular disorder in which the limb may be affected by port-wine-stain (red-purple birthmark involving blood vessels). 1 out of 100,000 people are affected by this condition. Growing up, something was noticeably different about me as an infant; my right leg was longer, bigger than my left leg, it was deformed; and I crawled [and] walked differently than a normal child. By the age of twelve, I began to suffer the most with Skin ulcers, migraines and blood clots.
"I have battled with depression along with a great measure of anxiety. I struggled with rejections, pain, self-insecurities and suicidal thoughts. I have fought with life and the feeling of not being good enough to do and be anything worthy. I wanted to belong…
"I have constantly battled with my emotions, doubts and questioned my abilities and aspirations. Most times I was just confused about my existence; aimless, helpless and bothered. I lived a worried life! I spent years seeing all kinds of doctors but I was not able to get any help. The doctors had thrown their hands up in defeat because they never encountered such a mysterious condition in all their years of experience. In the end, I was assured by one doctor that I would die by the age of 19 due to being chronically ill.
"For years, I lived vicariously through those that were brave enough to speak their truth, reveal their pain, air out their wounds and did it with such passion and pride. I, too, wanted to be that brave. However, I was never that brave. After two surgeries and countless hospitalizations, I developed another long-term condition called Lymphedema. Even then, I had to make a decision to either pity myself or embrace and be proud of every inch of affected region of my body.
"I chose to stop living with fears of being judged and being talked down to. I became determined to own my truth boldly, live life with a grateful heart and full dedication to inspire the masses. Growing up, I had no role model, no one to relate to. For that reason I grew up confused, lonely, hopeless and unfitting. Nevertheless, I never gave up. Somewhere in between my misery, I found strength and my purpose. I would like to call that period of time my 'AHA period'. I recognized my power, the power that lied deep inside of me. Now that I recognize my strength and power, I am being everything I needed when I was growing up. I represent possibilities!
"My mission is to show the world that despite being born with one of the rarest syndromes, beauty is an introspective perception and one's attitude towards themselves and others. Beauty is not about outward appearances, but rather, the make up of one's character.
"Your perception of beauty will be varied through time, but always remember that beauty is an attitude...a mindset. Beauty goes beyond skin because it comes from within. Beauty is simply happiness...BEAUTY IS YOU! Your story only means that you were created with a gift. Although you may have spent years confusing your gift as a curse, I hope you can look in the mirror and face the strong woman you are.
"Your story isn't yours alone. It is through every pain, hurt, rejection and disappointment you will become who you were meant to be: A force! YOU are your own magic! There is only one you in this world, one out there who looks like you and no one can do anything like you…that is your magic. Whether you know it or not, everything you need is already inside you."
Courtesy of Ashley Featherson
"Living with psoriasis has been a challenging yet rewarding journey. Growing up, it was difficult because I wasn't 'normal' or looked like everyone else. I didn't like the stares or being asked so many questions or even [being] picked on at times. Over time, however, I had to really deal with it and stop allowing it to control my life. I would cover myself in makeup and wear clothes to cover every inch of my body, even during the summer.
"After several people, both loved ones and strangers, kept complimenting my beauty and encouraging me to step away from makeup, I finally did. It was the best thing I could've done. I still like to get dolled up here and there, but I don't wear it as a mask to hide what I once saw as flaws.
"Since this newfound confidence and self-love, I've become a part of a community that understands the highs and lows that comes with unique skin; I no longer call it a disorder or issue.
"I've also pursued modeling and enjoyed amazing opportunities with that. I started doing things out of my comfort zone to help boost my confidence. My advice to others is you have to love yourself and embrace all of you! How others treat you is a reflection of how you love and treat yourself. Take a leap into enjoying activities that you may not necessarily do. Spend more time reflecting on why you feel the way you do about something and really dig deep to heal from it. Live life to the fullest and stop worrying about the opinions of others.
"Now instead of feeling ashamed or annoyed when asked questions, I use it as a moment to teach or even help someone that's dealing with anything that keeps them down. It's such an amazing feeling when parents, children, and peers thank me for being an inspiration. I've finally learned the beauty in being different."
Courtesy of Iomikoe Woods
"I got vitiligo at the age of 25 years old. I noticed a tiny white spot under my arm while shaving and I immediately contacted my family doctor. He told me it could have appeared because I was allergic to razors, so he told me to stop using them. I did. But then a couple of months later, a tiny white spot appeared under my left eye. I panicked like, Why was another one popping up? I ended up moving and relocating to Arkansas because of a hurricane where I lived in Louisiana. It started to spread even more after we moved, so I told my ex-husband and he suggested I contact a dermatologist because my skin was only being affected. It took about a month to get my appointment and there were so many things running through my mind.
"I thought I had skin cancer. I didn't know what it could be. Was I being cursed for something I did? Why is my skin turning white? The dermatologist knew immediately what it was when he saw me; he told me I had vitiligo. I asked him if there was a cure or any medication that could treat this or if I had cancer. After saying 'no', he laughed, but I didn't think it was funny at all. The doctor told me of a few treatments that could or couldn't work and if I did want to use these treatments, they might cause skin cancer or even severely damage my skin. He showed me pictures of other people with vitiligo and my heart dropped to my feet. I was so devastated, I cried all the way home. I'll never forget that moment.
"I was so depressed, I covered my skin condition for over 12 years with makeup. I spent thousands of dollars on makeup to keep my secret hidden. I didn't want anyone knowing I had it.
"Then, it spread so much I couldn't hide it anymore. I tried long sleeved clothes, sweaters, gloves, whatever I could use to hide it. One sweet day, God sent me an incredible man who loved me no matter what. I even hid it from him when we first started dating and one day I got busted without my makeup and he said, 'Oh my God, have you been hiding this from me? Why didn't you tell me?' I told him I thought he would think I was a monster. He replied by saying, 'You are so freaking beautiful. I love you. I only see true beauty in you. My God, woman you're stunning. So what you're different. You should wanna be, you stand out from everyone.'
"One day we were laying in bed and I came across a photo on Facebook of a model who looked like me. Her name was Winnie Harlow and she was a beauty. He said, 'You see. I told you vitiligo is beautiful. She's a model. You can model too, honey.' I thought he was only saying that 'cause he loved me but he reassured me he was saying this because he wanted me to believe that for myself.
"When I looked in the mirror, I saw with my eyes and I didn't see myself through God's eyes.
"I used to write affirmations on my mirror and I believed it. When I did, my life changed. I've been on television, I've done magazine articles and appeared on blogs around the world. Through modeling, I've changed so many people's lives by just being myself. It was hard to be free from people's judgment and just be the woman God called me to be. I made it to my peace when I stop letting them stop hindering my destiny and followed the path and purpose God had for giving me vitiligo.
"I want women to know that you are beautiful no matter if you're different. Embrace what people call 'imperfections' because what are imperfections? It may be imperfect for them but it is perfect for you! I say embrace your difference because it makes you uniquely you, so follow your purpose. Yes, it's hard living in a society where social media controls people and a society that tells you what you should look like. Follow your own path, the path to your own purpose. Walk in your truth and be youthful. Own who you are, own your beauty and your difference. It's what makes you stand out from the rest."
Featured image via @spottietoohottie_/IG
Joce Blake is a womanist who loves fashion, Beyonce and Hot Cheetos. The sophistiratchet enthusiast is based in Brooklyn, NY but has southern belle roots as she was born and raised in Memphis, TN. Keep up with her on Instagram @joce_blake and on Twitter @SaraJessicaBee.
This article is in partnership with Sensodyne.
Our teeth are connected to so many things - our nutrition, our confidence, and our overall mood. We often take for granted how important healthy teeth are, until issues like tooth sensitivity or gum recession come to remind us. Like most things related to our bodies, prevention is the best medicine. Here are five things you can do immediately to improve your oral hygiene, prevent tooth sensitivity, and avoid dental issues down the road.
1) Go Easy On the Rough Brushing: Brushing your teeth is and always will be priority number one in the oral hygiene department. No surprises there! However, there is such a thing as applying too much pressure when brushing…and that can lead to problems over time. Use a toothbrush with soft bristles and brush in smooth, circular motions. It may seem counterintuitive, but a gentle approach to brushing is the most effective way to clean those pearly whites without wearing away enamel and exposing sensitive areas of the teeth.
2) Use A Desensitizing Toothpaste: As everyone knows, mouth pain can be highly uncomfortable; but tooth sensitivity is a whole different beast. Hot weather favorites like ice cream and popsicles have the ability to trigger tooth sensitivity, which might make you want to stay away from icy foods altogether. But as always, prevention is the best medicine here. Switching to a toothpaste like Sensodyne’s Sensitivity & Gum toothpaste specifically designed for sensitive teeth will help build a protective layer over sensitive areas of the tooth. Over time, those sharp sensations that occur with extremely cold foods will subside, and you’ll be back to treating yourself to your icy faves like this one!
3) Floss, Rinse, Brush. (And In That Order!): Have you ever heard the saying, “It’s not what you do, but how you do it”? Well, the same thing applies to taking care of your teeth. Even if you are flossing and brushing religiously, you could be missing out on some of the benefits simply because you aren’t doing so in the right order. Flossing is best to do before brushing because it removes food particles and plaque from places your toothbrush can’t reach. After a proper flossing sesh, it is important to rinse out your mouth with water after. Finally, you can whip out your toothbrush and get to brushing. Though many of us commonly rinse with water after brushing to remove excess toothpaste, it may not be the best thing for our teeth. That’s because fluoride, the active ingredient in toothpaste that protects your enamel, works best when it gets to sit on the teeth and continue working its magic. Rinsing with water after brushing doesn’t let the toothpaste go to work like it really can. Changing up your order may take some getting used to, but over time, you’ll see the difference.
4) Stay Hydrated: Upping your water supply is a no-fail way to level up your health overall, and your teeth are no exception to this rule. Drinking water not only helps maintain a healthy pH balance in your mouth, but it also washes away residue and acids that can cause enamel erosion. It also helps you steer clear of dry mouth, which is a gateway to bad breath. And who needs that?
5) Show Your Gums Some Love: When it comes to improving your smile, you may be laser-focused on getting your teeth whiter, straighter, and overall healthier. Rightfully so, as these are all attributes of a megawatt smile; but you certainly don’t want to leave gum health out of the equation. If you neglect your gums, you’ll start to notice the effects of plaque buildup, which can irritate the gums and cause gingivitis, the earliest stage of gum disease. Seeing blood while brushing and flossing is a tell-tale sign that your gums are suffering. You may also experience gum recession — a condition where the gum tissue surrounding your teeth pulls back, exposing more of your tooth. Brushing at least twice a day with a gum-protecting toothpaste like Sensodyne Sensitivity and Gum, coupled with regular dentist visits, will keep your gums shining as bright as those pearly whites.
Imma tell y’all what — it seems like not one week goes by when I don’t see some sort of so-called term that has me like, “What in the world?” For instance, when I first stumbled upon “self-partnering,” honestly, I laughed. Then shared it with some other single people as well as married folks I know. And I kid you not, every individual was like, “What the heck does that mean?” When I told them that it was yet, one more way to seemingly define single living, basically everyone’s follow-up was, “Oh, brother.”
Why can’t (more) singles just be single and be okay with that? Good Lord. Why does there need to be some sort of relational play-on-words to make it sound like we’re with someone — even if we’re not?
Now masturdating? Even though it’s not even close to being a “real” word, it’s something that also brought a laugh outta me — although it was then followed by a genuine smile. The laugh because I almost immediately caught the play-on-words. The smile was due to the intention behind it all.
If you’re not familiar with what masturdating is and you’re curious about why you should even care, take a few moments to at least skim through what it’s about and why I think participating, as a single person, is a pretty cool (and effective) concept.
Masturdate: a date w oneself
What’s Masturdating All About?
Masturdating. Okay, so let the word marinate for just a moment. What does it sound like? Yeah…exactly. And since a huge part of masturbation centers around self-pleasure, it’s cool to explore how “self-dating” could produce similar (as far as pleasure is concerned in a broader sense) results. Because masturdating is all about spending quality time with yourself, pampering yourself, treating yourself— and yes, taking yourself out on dates.
Any of you who may think that masturdating is a consolation prize — and a pitiful one at that — for not being able to go out with another human being or get that dream $200 first date that social media was all in a tizzy about last year (bookmark that) — personally, I think that you’re the demographic who needs to try out masturdating first and the most. Why? Off top, I’ll share my three good reasons.
3 Reasons To Strongly Consider Masturdating
1. It’s an intimate way to get to know yourself better. I’ve been working with couples for a pretty long time at this point and if there’s a pattern that I see arise, OFTEN, it’s that two people are oftentimes so busy trying to “find their person” that they didn’t even know who they were. As a direct result, they found themselves in a relationship with someone who only complemented the “kiddie pool version” of who they were.
That’s why it can be so beneficial to spend time getting to know yourself on the “deep end” of things: what makes you tick, what your passions are, what you want most out of life, what are your interests beyond obvious things — and masturdating can help you to discover all of this. Whether it’s traveling alone or taking out a weekend to drink some wine and journal, the more you get to know yourself, the clearer you’ll be about who complements you on a romantic and friendship level.
2. It will definitely help to boost your confidence levels. I guess since I’m an ambivert, I don’t really get why people freak out at the mere thought of going to a restaurant or movie alone. Personally, I think it requires a helluva lot more energy and gumption to wait around and plan stuff with other people (#Elmoshrug). However, whether you’re an introvert, extrovert, or ambivert, there’s no way around the fact that the more comfortable you get with doing things alone, the more your confidence levels will increase — no, soar — because of it.
One article that I read on the topic said that doing things alone can make you more creative, improve your mental health, and help you to be totally okay with being alone (so that you’re not “needy” for other people’s attention). A psychotherapist from a New York Times article on the benefits of spending time alone said, “Getting better at identifying moments when we need solitude to recharge and reflect can help us better handle negative emotions and experiences, like stress and burnout.” And when you’re able to stare negativity in its face without flinching, how could that not make you bolder, more self-secure, and hopeful about your life?
3. It will teach you to value your time more effectively. In every facet of your world, you’re gonna operate from a healthier place if you’re operating from a “full cup” rather than an empty one. When it comes to this topic, think about it — if you’re constantly waiting on someone to call you to go out or wishing for a dream date with some guy, all you’re doing is wasting precious time that you could be spending taking a cooking class or hell, hiring a chef to make you dinner at your own home.
Indeed, waiting has two sides to it: when it’s in the form of patience, it is indeed a virtue, yet when it’s wrapped up in the notion that you’re not really living life unless you have an audience…it is totally working against you. Choose wisely.
10 Solo Date Ideas To Help You To “Master” Masturdating
So, what if you’re someone who has either never considered actually masturdating before or you don’t really know what to do beyond dinner and the movies? Here are a few ideas to consider:
1. Attend a workshop or masterclass that you’re interested in. If there’s something that you’ve always wanted to learn, sign up for a workshop or masterclass. The cool thing about this option is there are probably some in your city, as well as some that you can find online (like here) that are convenient and affordable.
2. Binge-read at a local coffee shop. Aside from their coziness and oftentimes inviting scents, I once read that a lot of us gravitate to coffee shops because we can be around people without having to actually socialize with them. So, if you want to “hang out” while still being able to enjoy a bit of solitude, take a book that you’ve been trying to finish to a local coffee shop, order your favorite latte, and sit in a big-ass comfy chair. Usually, you can sit there for hours, and the staff will be just fine with it (another bonus).
3. Have a spa day in the next town. You can never go wrong with a spa day. And while going with a friend can be fun, sometimes there’s too much talking transpiring to be able to fully chill out and relax. So, go off of the grid, get a change of scenery, and hit up a spa in the next city (or town). There are lots of studies out here supporting that day trips or “daycations” can actually be really good for your long-term health and well-being.
4. See a community play. Some of the best solo dates that I’ve ever been on consisted of taking in some of the local arts in my city. What’s really cool about this particular option is, oftentimes, they are extremely inexpensive, if not totally free of charge (in exchange for making a donation or putting money into a tip jar).
5. Plan a trip. Whenever people say something along the lines of, “If you don’t expect anything, you won’t be disappointed,” I know that they low-key have some (additional) healing to do from past disappointments. There’s simply too much intel out here to support that anticipation (of good stuff) makes us more motivated and optimistic, keeps our dopamine levels up, and makes life more exciting overall.
Since traveling alone is more cost-effective, gives you the freedom to do whatever you want (when you want), and increases the possibility of meeting new people and having new experiences on your journey — why not devote a day this weekend to planning a solo trip? All the way around, it’s good for you.
6. Try your hand at your own “$200 date.” Uh-huh. Roll your eyes if you want to, but it’s real easy to talk left about how a man should be able to just drop $200 like it’s nothing…until you actually try to do it. So yes, while taking yourself out on this type of date could serve as a bit of a reality check, it can also “scratch the itch” of waiting on some dude to do it for you. It’s also way less emotionally draining because, at least when you’re taking your own self out, it’s guaranteed that you’ll enjoy the company…right?
7. DIY some pampering. When you get a chance, check out “5 Reasons You Should Unapologetically Pamper Yourself,” “Want To Love On Yourself? Try These 10 Things At Home.,” “I’ve Got Some Ways For You To Start Pampering Your Soul,” and “When's The Last Time You Actually Pampered Your Vagina?” The bottom line here is pampering is all about, not mere self-maintenance; it’s all about treating yourself to levels of EXTREME SELF-INDULGENCE. So, if nothing else tickles your fancy on this list, at least consider doing that, chile.
8. Feed your creativity. Something that I used to be really good at is art. That said, one of my goddaughters is insanely talented, so she has reminded me to tap back into it. Also, a big part of what got me into the writing world is poetry; I actually used to be a house poet at a local spot. Sometimes, my best quality time moments with myself have been revisiting these creative sides of me — and this is definitely easier to do (and enjoy) alone.
9. Try some stargazing. When’s the last time you took a blanket into your backyard, laid down on it, and just stared at the stars for hours on end? While some say that stargazing can teach you to be mindful, others say that being in that form of nature reduces stress, while others believe that looking up at the universe at night can increase your attention span. All solid reasons to give it a shot, if you ask me.
10. DO. ABSOLUTELY. NOTHING. Let me tell you something that nobody will ever be able to make me feel bad about: doing absolutely nothing. I’ve got data to back me up. Good Housekeeping shares that doing nothing can help you decide how you want to respond or react to certain things. I like howThe Guardian says that taking this approach helps you to regain control of what you give your attention to.
TIME magazine says that it can ultimately make you more productive.BBC offers up that it can help you tap into your ingenuity.Henry Ford Health says that it can make you kinder and a better problem-solver. So, if you want to invest in yourself, do nothing sometimes.
Closing Thoughts from the Lovely Javicia Leslie
While some of y'all may know Javicia Leslie from being the former Batwoman, I discovered her back in the day from the indie series Chef Julian (and yes, "Julian" was right to say that "Mo" looks like Tatyana Ali...the real ones know). Sometimes I'll hop on her IG to see what she's got going on and this story popped up within a few hours of me penning this...so, I took it as hella confirmation.
TREAT YO SELF. WAIT FOR NO ONE.
WAIT FOR NO ONE. TREAT YO SELF.
RINSE AND REPEAT.
Sooo…what kind of masturdating plans do you have for this coming weekend? While going out with others has its perks, hanging out with yourself has a ton of ‘em too. Enjoy!
No…for real. ENJOY!
Let’s make things inbox official! Sign up for the xoNecole newsletter for daily love, wellness, career, and exclusive content delivered straight to your inbox.
Featured image by FOTOGRAFIA, INC./Getty Images