Pretty as a Picture: Take Off the Pressure to Look Good

This was never top of mind for us. Growing up, Margaret's mother preached: "Pretty is as pretty does." Why spend countless hours preening and piles of money to do so? But this was the pre-internet and social media era. 

Social media first popped onto our screens as a digital informal exchange in 1997 with something called Six Degrees. Facebook made its debut in 2004 with others to follow. When social media morphed into a social and cultural platform in 2005, it became a virtual gathering place. It was egalitarian.

Anyone, famous or not, had a soapbox to be noticed and heard. And many vied for that attention with their posts. We had a captive audience. 

Enter the influencers such as the Kardashians and their TV presence and perfectly sculpted faces and contoured bodies. They presented an ideal that the average person tried to follow as one might follow a big sister. The pressure to be pretty, and sometimes to extremes, was on. 

Add Smartphones and their wonderful cameras to the mix. Everyday someone is trying to take our pictures, then post and pin them, share images on Instagram that can be tweeted and retweeted, judged, commented un. The first reaction others might have when we disagree with someone's opinions--and there are many out in the metaverse--is to poke fun at their looks, "Oh, she's gained so much weight." "Look at that awful haircut," or "Did you see her facelift? Isn't it terrible." 

To a certain extent, we are all vain, and how we present ourselves to the world every day makes a statement. If you look like a slob, people might think you don't care about yourself. On the other hand, if you look put together, it might signal that you are self-confident. 

There are many ways to look our best. We might buy a new sweater or top, try good makeup, cover our gray, blow dry and coif our hair, use shampoos that add volume and shine, moisturizers with sunscreen. No one wants skin cancer or lines in our face making us look like old ruins. 

Some take it further and even to the top of the beauty food chain. They regularly use Botox and fillers, laser treatments, liposuction or cold contouring, plastic surgery to lift faces and necks, augment or reduce breasts, undergo rhinoplasty, eyelid surgery and eyebrow waxing. They might add hair extensions or wigs and in a variety of styles and hair colors, glued on false eyelashes, permanent eyeliner and artificial hand painted nails that in some cases resemble daggers. 

We concede, if you're in the public eye---on TV, the stage, in movies, on a speaker's circuit, you want to look stunning in front of an audience. Our rabbi looked stunning before this year's holiday services with perfectly done hair and classy makeup. She glowed. 

Like our rabbi, we both are well aware of the importance of looking our best when we're on a book tour, participate in a round table discussion on Zoom or in an in-person speaking engagement. That could mean a new outfit, good haircut and blow dry, maybe a facial, a manicure and pedicure, new hair color, a wonderful creamy lipstick, a natural-looking tinted moisturizer that evens out skin tone. 

But day to day, the need to look pretty as a picture can be a burden for all of us whether at-home moms or dads, clerks, office workers, first responders, exterminators, executives, doctors, lawyers, teachers, nurses and nannies. We don't want to feel locked in an endless beauty loop. As the pressure mounts, how do we stop the cycle? Here are eight suggestions, which are a great way to start the New Year of 2023.

These are easy, relatively affordable fixes. 

--Shut down social media, if you can, at times. Put away the Smartphone sometimes. Stop taking selfies and posting them. If you post them, the comments will come. 

--Refine your thinking; improve your mind. Read, go to lectures, take a class to get smarter about certain subjects and be more interesting and if you're going to resort to TV, consider some good documentaries or travel posts. Spend the money on experiences such as travel rather than beauty products. Perhaps, then your looks won't matter so much when you meet up with your friends and family or even strangers when you have lots of interesting things to share. You'll be good company, looks be damned. 

--Work on good health. Eat well, sleep well, exercise, if you can and whatever method you prefer. Floss daily and even after every meal. Use a Waterpik(r) of some kind. Brush after meals. Get your skin checked yearly, your eyes examined regularly, your hearing tested to stay in touch! Don't forget that colonoscopy and mammogram. Did we leave out anything? And schedule with a therapist if you have emotional issues. (Who doesn't?) When you're healthy, you are more radiant. Perhaps, you don't need all the external superficialities. 

--Go natural. Some people look better if we are our natural selves (many older women have gone gray and love it). Let your hair go wash and wear. No sticky stuff to fluff and puff. Shed the stuff on your face, too. Maybe, start with a hold on the false eyelashes. Wear less makeup or none. Many of us did so during Covid lockdown. It felt great and was healthier for our skin. Try skin cycling as suggested in an article in the New York Times (Oct. 6, 2022) by Rachel Strugatz. This is an approach to using beauty products so that "skin may benefit from fallow days and rotating chemicals." Should You Be 'Skin Cycling'? Even avoiding polish color when getting a pedicure or manicure can be good for your toes or nails periodically, Barbara was told.  

--Curtail or nix surgeries unless you consider them essential. Look how terrible some well-known actresses and actors look after having repeated work done. You barely notice their gorgeous eyes and smiles when they've over done it. Learn from their mistakes. And admire older women who forgo these such as Dr. Jill Biden. 

--Use clothing and color to give you a glow. Lipstick in the right color can brighten your face, a trick Barbara uses before going on a Zoom. Figure out which colors are the most flattering for your skin tone and hair and eye color. She rotates choices by season, now favoring slightly darker hues as we head into fall and winter. Come spring the pinks and corals emerge again. A friend of Margaret's suggested wearing white tops and pearl earrings. Both make your skin more luminous, she says. And even Oprah's former magazine, advised in one column that every woman should have a great white blouse. Probably, the same goes for men! 

As Barbara always told her daughters before they would head out on a date, to a party or an important interview or meeting--and still tries to remind them, "Don't forget to pack a smile." The absence of that can make you look angry or sad or WHATEVER but certainly not pretty and happy. In other words, start at the top and work and work your way down. You'll add more bounce in your step, we bet. 

Allow your personality and smarts to be center stage with your looks as a backup. You might like the new you, even start a new trend and definitely get complimented for all the important things you convey.


  • Lynn Marks

    thanks for wise suggestions: new ones & reminders of old ones. For me, the “messages” about the importance of looking good didn’t come from social media. Rather, from years before that: from my mother. In my 70’s, i am still working on focusing on what is REALLY important. Thanks.

  • Audrey Steuer

    Wonderful blog! I especially love the mention of the importance of a smile! Scientific studies have been published over the past few years confirming the positive power of a smile.

  • Marianne Logan

    What a nice reminder about simple steps to look good but more importantly feel good each day. Thanks for your wise words.

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