The Power of Complaining, April 1, 2012

I’m at the beach with my kids…it is their spring break.  I am headed out to the beach and of course, the fun part of this whole Naked Face Project will be exploring what I will add back in.  (Yes…I shaved this morning. 🙂 )  Think about that!  What an awesome place to be.  I feel NO obligatory need whatsoever to HAVE to return to any of my previous beauty habits…because if truth be told…nothing changed.  Absolutely nothing…at least as far as other people’s response to me.  What did change of course was this incredibly elevated sense of comfort I now have in my own skin.  I will wear make up again (not nearly as much)…I will fix my hair (not nearly as much) and get dressed to the nines (not nearly as much)!  But I won’t be doing it because I think it makes me look better, prettier or makes me more valuable in some way.  I’ll be doing it because it’s fun, I feel like it, I want to express myself in some way, or the formality of the occasion merits it…you know…a kind of respect for the environment.

I really do feel like I am in alignment with what I practice with the girls I serve.  It’s not about anti-cosmetics, beauty, being pretty, judging those who love to wear it and those who do not…its about the WHY we partake in any of those…and if there is (or was as the case is now) any part of that “why” that isn’t delighting in my own awesomeness…how can I expect the girls to delight in theirs…ESPECIALLY with the pressures they are going through right there at adolescence…many of these pressures for the FIRST TIME!

And that got me thinking…which for me can be a very dangerous activity. 🙂

The POWER of the complaint.

Complaining is an interesting activity.  We use complaining to bond with other people, to relieve anger, sorrow, frustration…but I think, for me anyway, complaining is the activity I choose when I feel like I don’t have any control over a situation.  Simply put, there is something I don’t like and so I complain about it.

For years I’ve been complaining about the influence the media and elements of the advertising industry have on the emotional, mental and physical health of girls.  I’ve complained a lot.  I started all that complaining in the early 80’s when I started teaching high school.

In 1996 I started Girls on the Run International ( to tackle many of these cultural challenges and negative messages by empowering girls…let’s empower them so these messages will fall on deaf ears.

But then…I realized my ears were still listening.  Listening a lot…often times without my even KNOWING I was listening.  And because I was still tangled up in it…I was still complaining…unaware that I could even go deeper…peel off more of my own buy-in to those messages and go deeper into my own increasing levels of empowerment.

Something quite marvelous has happened over the last sixty days.  I feel like I am actually doing something about it.  I’ve consciously decided to no longer complain about it, but DO SOMETHING!!!!  I realize now (although I couldn’t have told you this when I started the Naked Face Project) that I was just SO TIRED of all that complaining…it was taking me nowhere.  Things for girls just didn’t seem to be getting any better.  Cutting, starving, eating, drinking,  drugging, cyberbullying, suicide…we read the news reports and its more than I can take.  I simply WON’T take it anymore.

But when I look back over the last sixty days…unraveling from our culture’s overemphasis on appearance and leaning into what beautiful REALLY is…has empowered me more than I ever thought it would.  I’m not going au naturel, burning bras or getting hairy for some cause.  Nope.  I’m marveling in my fabulosity, your fabulosity OUR fabulosity.

Joy Has No Limits

Their isn’t an ounce left in me that believes I somehow need fixing, propping up, need a different body, age, hair color, face, skin texture, different lips.  I’m all good, thank you very much.  All of me.   I am no longer choosing to be influenced by those cultural messages that tell me, even in the most insidious ways, that I’m broken, need fixing, am too old, too wrong, too wrinkled, not okay.  I am no longer choosing television shows or commentary that portray women as mean, stupid, demeaning to one another or nothing more than their appearance.  I just can’t do it anymore.

And guess, what…the complaining is reducing in its volume and its frequency.

A friend told me about a great billboard he had seen.  It went something like this.

“Don’t like the traffic?  Well guess what?  You ARE the traffic.”

I’m going to start examining with delight…what I complain about.  I believe more than anything that cultural change begins with me.  What I complain about provides a portal into what changes I can make personally..because after all as much as I don’t like things in our culture…I AM the culture and any action I can take…big or small within the circle of my influence to no longer BE the parts of our culture I do not like, is indeed doing something about it!

I’m tired of complaining…so I think now, instead,  I’ll lean ALL THE WAY IN to my joy…at least for a while until something else gets under my skin and then, maybe then, I’ll decide what I can do about it.

But for now, I’m going to dance.  Come on now.  Let’s do this!

Today is the first day of the rest of your life.   What are you doing to do about it?  What do you complain about?  Is there possibly a way to do something about whatever IT is with a slight or small move within your own daily life?  Let’s talk about it.  Right here, right now.

6 thoughts on “The Power of Complaining, April 1, 2012

    1. That serenity prayer has pulled me through a lot…I’m coming up on 19 years of sobriety….and since then…the unraveling has been constant. I figure by the time I’m done with all this unraveling…I’ll be nothing but a ray of light. I’m kind of kidding and kind of not. Love to you…We’ve grown up a lot, haven’t we?

  1. I read this article with skepticism as well as your site for the Naked Face Project. Were these women feminist activists berating the common woman for being a slave to man made cosmetics and attempting to attain a perfection that doesn’t exist? I was pleasantly surprised after reading everything, that it was a journey. A journey to see who you really were under the layers and were these layers necessary for you. Makeup wasn’t an evil for even a bad thing, but rather just an additional step we as women take. I’m 21 years old. I wear makeup, not a lot, but some makeup. Though I regularly go without makeup. I’m comfortable either way. I think it is because I view makeup more like paint then as a cover-up. I joke with family and friends that if my college degree doesn’t work out then I’ll become a makeup artist. Makeup allows you to have the same fun with your face as clothing does for your body.I love clothing, I love to dress up, but I do it for myself. I am just as comfortable and beautiful in basketball shorts as I am in a ball gown. Makeup can allow you to be who you want to be for the day, whether its a black shift dress and red lips and you become a flapper or it’s a shirt dress and pearls and your a 50’s housewife. Makeup can allow us to live out our fantasies (I man that in a non-sexual way) Makeup does not make us into what we want to be, but rather another facet of who we are. I do believe though that the dependence women have on makeup just to leave the house is harmful. I’m not always comfortable with myself and I have been through a long struggle in the process of learning to love myself. I want to share with you part of my journey though because i want others to see that there are a variety of reasons for wearing makeup rather then it makes us “prettier.” I was recently diagnosed with a chronic illness and it has caused me to lose vast amounts of weight, become extremely nutritionally deficient, and leaves me very sick each day. I’m working on getting better. With all of the problems that it has caused, I find myself wearing makeup as a cover-up. However i wear it for the people around me, not myself. But I wear it for different reasons than one would assume. Because of the loss of nutrition and the physical toll on my body, I have become very pale but not a healthy fair skinned pale, on days when i am really sick, my skin takes on a grayish/green appearance. I have stated wearing foundation or bronzer in order to return that healthy glow to my face. I have done this more for the benefit of those around me. While it is hard for me to be sick,it is also hard on my family and friends watching me.It is hard to watch a loved one waste away and not be able to do something. Putting on a little bronzer is a way to make it easier on them, so they can’t see my unhealthy tinge. I hope that you got all that you wanted out of your experience. Continue with all that you do.

    1. Wow…you my friend are what beautiful is all about. I am so glad you shared this. Everyday this journey offers me more and more about the REAL of people, the WONDER of people and the various we all celebrate and honor that in each other and ourselves.

      I am so glad…SO GLAD…you came by.

      1. 14. The reality is that women don’t even look as baitueful’ as we think they do right now- hence the need for makeup at all. Many of the what we consider to be the most attractive young women in the world wear makeup regularly because they achieve a greater level of beauty with makeup than they could reach normally. Jessica Alba, Beyonce, Katherine Heigl, Ashley Judd, Naomi Campbell.. whatever your particular taste may be, most high profile women who are even moderately attractive wear makeup as default.Women are expected to be at a greater level of beauty than are men; cosmetic enhancement, a healthier diet, regular fitness training all could help acheive this for women. However, it’s obvious what women find to be the easiest choice, and therefore the choice more appropriate for them.

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