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Perfection and The Daily Upkeep

October 8, 2009


If you open any magazine or watch any T.V. channel, you are almost immediately inundated with products that claim to make you better.

“Get rid of wrinkles,” tout one cosmetic ad, or “say ‘no’ to grey hairs” says another.

We live in a society that wants us to obsessively re-evaluate ourselves and say “I can improve.” While it is certainly good to grow, learn, and accept change, we should always make sure it is true self-improvement, the kind that comes from lessons learned and an individually made up mind, not those that arise from the needs to feel excepted or validated by others.

Surrounded by six-pack abs, flawless skin and the so-called “perfect life,” resisting pressures to change who we are is hard to do, for both men and women. How many of us have said “If I only looked like so-and-so, then I could…”? I know I have.

Self-acceptance is hard. For me, it comes from the daily practice of saying “I accept growth and room for improvement, but I also accept and love myself just the way I am now.” Self-acceptance does not give us excuse to be complacent or lazy. We should always strive to be the best we can be. Still, it is important to not confuse it with wanting to be like someone else. Sure, we can have role models, but do not turn those role models into idols. Everyone has room for improvement.

Learning to love myself, I’ve stopped listening to advertisements that claim to have the perfect product to make me “flawless.” I actually like some of my flaws. Still, there are some products I do recommend for daily maintainence. Health is important, both internally and externally. Some of these “miracle cure” products may actually be very damaging to you. Personally, I prefer beauty products that are as natural as possible. Here are my favorites:

  • Dr. Bronner’s Castile Soap – This soap is a dream. It is certified organic with all natural ingredients like hemp and olive oil, and leaves my skin feeling super-soft and moisturized, not dry like most alkaline-based soaps. I prefer the Peppermint Castile Soap, although all the other scents are great too. The great thing about this soap is that you can use it as a shampoo, a facial cleanser and a body cleanser. You can even use it as a laundry or dishwashing detergent! It’s really wonderful, and the original owner’s super-religious inscriptions on each label make for a great read :)
  • Witch Hazel – Witch Hazel is a natural astringent that is great for minimizing pores and cleansing your skin, as well as treating bug bites and cleaning scrapes or cuts. I use it everyday on my face right after I hop out the shower, and love how refreshed it makes me feel. You can find it at any drug store, but the one I am using now is called T.N. Dickinson’s Witch Hazel.
  • African Shea Butter – I live by Shea Butter! It is the king of moisturizers, and I really cannot go a day without it. Unlike water-based lotions, which tend to dry out my skin, shea butter contains natural fatty acids that literally rejuvenates dehydrated skin cells. It can be used as a natural sunscreen (although it should not take the place of SPF-based lotions for those with fair skin or those prone to sunburn), and as a wind protectant. It is also a great way to prevent post-pregnancy stretch marks, and can help in the treatment of blemishes, acne scars and eczema. And these are just a few of the things it can do! If you want to feel truly moisturized, and have a wonderful glow that will last all day, I recommend Shea butter.It can be found at most African stores and at some beauty supply stores. If you are in the New York City area, you can also find many African sellers selling it along the streets of Harlem. Shea Butter can look either white or yellow, and I believe it all depends on the type of refining process used. I prefer the yellow kind, although I’ve heard the white one is just as effective.A common misconception with shea butter is that it is only for people “of color.” This is not true. It’s properties are great for everyone, especially those who are prone to skin problems, such as dry or chapped skin.
  • Old Spice Deodorant – Truthfully, I am still on the lookout for the perfect deodorant. Most organic or “natural” ones I’ve tried do not last all day, and I end up smelling the results of a hard day’s work before I even get home. Old Spice keeps the odor under control all day, and I enjoy the scent of the Original one.

So there’s my daily survival kit. It’s certainly not a lot, and I honestly prefer it that way. I’ll leave all the extra stuff to the “perfect people” :)

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