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When I turned 15, I got my braces off. Suddenly, I transformed from a cute yet awkward girl with buckteeth and a bad perm into a pretty young woman. I started getting attention from boys, something I relished in greatly, and I began putting lots of attention on maintaining my beauty – not all healthy, I can tell you. I did things like take diet pills, exercise twice per day on an empty stomach, and at the recommendation of dermatologists, I took antibiotics and Accutane to help rid my skin of acne, which did absolutely nothing good for the inner beauty and health of my digestive system or liver, and of course, ultimately made my skin worse.
When I was 22, fresh out of college and a tragic breakup, I felt so dependent upon my beauty. The concoction of medications I was on gave me clear skin, but my self-esteem was in the trash. I hinged everything on my looks: if I looked good and people were drawn to me, then I must be okay.
This obviously was a set up for an enormous amount of stress, as well as some shallow relationships.
I remember sitting one evening in my room in my Victorian house in San Francisco in front of a mirror, praying to God that somehow, in some way, I be released from this intense need to be beautiful.
You know, it’s true: you can pretty much count on getting what you ask for, and I’m here to relay that it may not come in the ways you want, but always the ways you need.
For me that occurred as a powerful spiritual experience that utterly rocked my world in August of 2001 (a story for another time).
As a result of that experience, I began my journey deep into the messy, bone melting cocoon of the chrysalis: not yet a butterfly, but definitely unrecognizable from what I had been prior to that awakening experience.
In short, I went through a massive existential and health crisis, one that, 15 years later, I still feel like I’m integrating.
I left my job in finance and took off with a one-way ticket and a backpack to Asia. I left the guidebook at home, as I was most of all committed to the exploration of following what felt true for me. My identity began to slip away, and with it, I let my dependence on medications to keep my skin clear follow suit. Something in me knew I needed to find true health within and this was the first step.
But what followed was extremely difficult.
The crux of it is that I developed truly disfiguring cystic acne on my face. For a former beauty queen and Homecoming Princess, this was nothing short of devastating and I literally spent about two years hiding from the world.
The funny thing is that during that period of hiding, when it must have occurred to everyone on the outside that I was utterly lost, I began to experience a massive surge in creativity, the like of which I had never experienced before. Poems. Songs. Dance. And a deep dive into what I can now only describe as the divinity within myself. I had no context or understanding of what was happening to me, only that I felt I had lost my largest playing card in life and the thing that was the most valuable about me – my physical beauty. In its wake I came to eventually realize that I was falling into a deep recognition of the beauty of my soul.
This picture here says a thousand words: wandering gypsy at 24 years old with a pretty bad hair dye, and as you can see, intense acne rosacea all over my skin. It’s very edgy to share this picture. But for every woman out there who has ever felt ugly, I want to tell you: I can relate. Deeply. And I want to remind you, in case you haven’t rediscovered it yet for yourself, that there is a river of beauty within you that has magical powers. The more we tap into that current and flow of beauty within, the more its essence works its way through every pore, nook and cranny of our lives – until we cannot help but pulse with radiance.
I tell you all of this because it’s vital for me to let you know, before I start dishing out body and beauty tips, why the heck I care so much. I’ve been deep into the pits of despair feeling so ugly and invaluable to the world, and I’ve come to regard self care as one of the highest forms of art and love there is.
What good is a woman with no external beauty?
I certainly asked that question many times, and something deep inside said “But wait! What about me? What about this gorgeous poem that is rising through my blood? What about the infinite grace of how I move my arms when I dance? What about the incredible ideas I am having about how to heal this world that is so deep in suffering? What about all this Love I feel?”
I had to travel deep into the pain of how I had made my very existence subject to being valued on the outside by others, aka “external validation”, and in the wake of this deeply personal, private journey, I discovered something truly incredible:
That I am love.
That my very nature is beauty, well being and joy.
That is the most valuable discovery of all time.
I am valuable because I am.
And that, I truly feel, is the very heart of what it takes to cultivate true, reliable intuition and inner guidance – especially when you are questioning how to care for yourself and your body.
Why? Because the more you are connected to – and rested in – the truth of who you are, the more clearly you can hear the voice of truth within.
So, my friends, here are the things that have helped bring me home to my body and my beauty. But more than that, these are the ways in which I love myself.
Many of you have reached out over the years and asked about my journey with acne and how I have healed. While I do experience breakouts now and then – and I do – they are small, and few and far between. I do not freak out about it as I once did because I now know what to do to support my body in coming back into balance.
What I share below are not your typical insights on health or acne & beauty. (And to be clear: this is not advice. Just take what works or appeals to you and disregard the rest. These have worked for me. I by no means think there is a one stop shop on health care or healing, so your path will be uniquely your own. If I can support you in even a tiny amount in opening more fully to the voice of truth and healing within, then I feel I’ve done my job with this post.)
However, I do truly believe that some of these get to the core of the what’s going on to create true health.
Even if you do not struggle with acne, I think you will find some of my insights here relevant to any kind of physical healing and the development of inner trust and intuition.
I hope these insights support you on your quest into ever deeper self love and radiant, free expression of the truth of who you are.
In the midst of my skin crisis during my 20’s, I found myself praying at one point for the Universe to help me free my mind and end this suffering. A few days later, someone mentioned something to me about a process called “The Work.”
For those of you who do not know, “The Work” is a simple, powerful practice for questioning stressful thoughts and beliefs and for finding inner freedom.
I went to the library and checked out the book Loving What Is by Byron Katie, in which she lays out the instructions on how to do this process. I did The Work on a thought that had been creating a lot of stress for me around my fear of being seen and sharing my creativity, and found instant freedom and joy. It blew me away.
I went to Byron Katie’s website and discovered they have a 9 day School for the Work. I was a wandering traveler at that point and didn’t have the money to pay for it. But I wanted to go with all my heart.
Right then, I noticed on the website that they were holding a conference call with Byron Katie to listen to her do The Work with people on the phone, and that one person who registered for the call would win a free scholarship. Something in me knew that it would be me.
I registered, and two weeks later, I showed up on the call with 500 other people.
At the end of the call they announced the winner…and called out my name.
I remember dropping the phone, landing on my knees and laughing and crying with gratitude and awe. I knew right then in that moment that the Universe is designed to answer our deepest prayers for true freedom. I knew that I am so totally not alone.
The Work radically changed my life. For two years after that initial experience at The School for The Work (I have since gone two more times), I wandered around the world with my backpack, journal and pen in hand, and did the Work. Every day. Multiple times per day. On anything and everything that had my heart close and created stress in my body. Everything else going on in my life was fluff or filler. The only thing that was up with me was my mind undoing itself. And the biggest story of pain and suffering was about my skin: what I had it mean that I had acne, and the belief that I was unlovable and unbeautiful if I had pimples.
In the process of doing so much inquiry, I discovered something incredible.
Under all of the shame and the hiding and feelings of worthlessness, I found out that I am eternally beautiful, and nothing – no one and no thing – could ever touch that or take it away. Not a big red cyst on my skin. Not someone’s opinion of me. Not even my own opinion of me.
That is true of every human being, and yet it is the journey of a lifetime, and a deeply intimate and personal one, to discover that truth for ourselves.
When we access our true beauty and the ever-present flow of well being that is at the very core of our nature, only THEN can we be in touch with the inner guidance that appears in that space to help us heal our bodies and live our lives in ways that align with our truth.
It’s tough to do that when we are swimming in a sea of painful stories.
But The Work of Byron Katie (and definitely other modalities – this was the one that came along to help me save myself at that time) helps to part the sea of madness within and discover in an instant the limitless truth of our being.
Deepak Chopra said something that I wrote down and carried around for years with me in my journal. I’ve tried to find the exact quotation but have failed (so if someone has it please send it to me!) but it goes something like this:
When we keep bringing our attention back to Source again and again, our impulses become healthier.
We naturally make healthier choices. Our minds and bodies become more in tune with the river of well being that flows through us all. We become more in alignment with the authentic and unique creative intelligence that is expressing itself through us, as us. And we can hear the voice of truth – which is rooted in health – more clearly.
That’s the power of inquiry.
Whether it’s a hard conversation, a big secretive reveal, some piece of insight and wisdom you simply must deliver to the world, or a song that must be witnessed and heard – you’ve got to speak up & share your truth.
Keeping it locked inside can make you sick.
I know this because it’s no coincidence that when I had horrible acne, I horded all my creativity and wisdom, refusing to let it see the light of day even though every ounce of my being longed to share it with the world. My skin was expressing all that repressed creativity and all that intensity of shame.
I believed at the time that I had to be beautiful and all “together” and perfect in order to step out, speak up and shine my light. That is an insane and painful belief, and I can’t tell you how many women come to me and secretly reveal that part of their feeling held back in speaking up publicly with their wisdom is due to feeling shame about carrying too much weight or feeling ugly.
When I started speaking up, without waiting for my skin to be perfect first or to be outwardly beautiful by the world’s standards, I entered into the river of well being.
The more real I am in every area of my life, the healthier I am.
And that has everything to do with speaking up.
Sometimes it’s really, really hard and scary, but nothing does more wonders for your radiance than letting your voice and truth shine.
Yes. I love erotic, sensual dance. It’s how I pray. I’ve never done it professionally, but I’ve definitely considered it.
Currently, I am a student of S Factor and absolutely love & adore what they have done there and how they help women find this deep place of divinity within their bodies.
When I move super slow and let my body surrender to the music, something magical happens. I come home. And home is that river of beauty, pleasure and well being inside. The more we keep coming back to this place, the healthier and more beautiful we become.
Because when you feel beautiful, you are beautiful. In that state, your body can’t help but be more vital and alive.
Here’s the thing about erotic dance: when you are moving in a way that feels good and sensual for you, in that moment you are YES-ING your entire experience. You are such a full deep yes to your body. Otherwise, it wouldn’t feel good and it wouldn’t be sensual. It would be more of a performance. So, sensual dance is one of the most radical modalities for finding and experiencing profound self love – embodied self love.
That is like liquid gold for every cell in your body.
I’m a happier woman, mother, friend, partner, speechwriter, daughter, team member: everyone in my orbit enjoys being around me more when I am consistently doing erotic dance in my life.
It’s my ultimate beauty elixir.
Erotic dance: Dive below any embarrassment or judgment and check it out. I swear by it.
When you make a decision, are you making it from love, or are you making it from fear?
When you make a choice, are you making it in alignment with what is healthy for you, or not?
This inquiry plagued me for a long time. Especially when I was freaking out about what things would have my skin break out or not. I had a hard time discerning what to choose to eat, to do, etc. I became a bit paranoid about making the wrong decision and scared I’d choose something that would result in my skin breaking out. The same was going on with making any kind of important decision in my life.
This all naturally began to resolve itself as I placed more and more attention on the source of well being and beauty within myself, which opened up as I did inquiry on what stressed me out and spent more time connecting to the flow of life within through dance.
Eventually, I developed a reliable method for making decisions. I use it nearly every day.
I imagine a spot on the floor that represents one choice I could make (perhaps a big goblet of red wine) and another choice (perhaps this one is the option of NOT making that choice, or an alternate choice, like a sparkling water with lime). I then stand on each choice and see what happens in my body. If I have any contraction, I’m a no. If I feel that flow of life and beauty through my body, then it’s a yes. I do not get into processing about it or thinking about it. I just go with it.
This can be done with every day decisions around food or requests for your time and energy (like whether to go on that lunch date or speak on that telesummit), or major life decisions about whether to write that book or have that baby or stay in that relationship or whatever.
That does not mean that you’re always going to feel hunky-dory about every piece of YES guidance you receive. While the truth always feels good, it can absolutely lead you into feeling grief about whatever you are leaving behind, or terror about what you are stepping into. But… I find I rest more easily in knowing some benevolent force is supporting me and guiding me.
The more I trust my information and then follow it up by making a choice aligned with that flow of openness and wellbeing… well, all kinds of amazing things happen. I trust myself more. My intuition gets stronger. Doors open. My life becomes more aligned with the truth of who I am.
It’s an awesome practice and I highly recommend it.
Personally, I have a TON more energy, better moods, and healthier, more beautiful skin when I stay away from inflammatory stuff.
For me, that means no gluten, dairy, caffeine (I have had maybe 2 green teas in the last year. Coffee I haven’t touched in about 5…), hot spices, alcohol, and the big one: sugar.
I guess you could call how I eat Paleo. Lots of super high quality meats, veggies, fish, good fats and a bit of goat cheese here and there (but too much and I see it on my chin in the form of a little pimple). I also eat rice and occasionally other grains.
Sometimes I have wine, because it’s fun and I love it. But wow it sets me up for sweet cravings, and unfortunately, it reliably makes my skin inflamed. Not too awesome for my health OR my beauty. So, I have to be conscious to make wine a very once in a while treat.
Lately, for a dash of sweet, I’m into Whole Foods brand French Vanilla Stevia in my morning drink or smoothies. And if I do eat sweet treats, like raw chocolate (Lulu’s is my raw chocolate of choice, by far) or this amazing new concoction I found off of Thrive Market called Jem’s Hazelnut Cacao Spread (uuuugh so good), I go for stuff with coconut sugar, lacanto, or maple syrup.
After years of trying skin creams and potions, I’ve come to see that when it comes to having clear skin: less is more.
I wash with lukewarm water once, maybe twice per day.
I put on the same crème I put on my baby, Weleda Baby White Mallow Lotion. It’s fragrance free. So gentle.
And I gently exfoliate 2-3 times per week. I use something right now called Replenish by Om Cali (an Ayurvedic line from Earthbody Spa in San Francisco). Sometimes I mix it with avocado and create a hydrating mask out of it.
I use Dr. Haushka’s eye crème.
If I get a pimple, I put a tiny dot of glycolic acid gel on it before I go to sleep. That makes it go right away.
Less is more.
I’m a big fan of Alisa Vitti’s work. I’m also blessed to call her one of my closest girlfriends. She wrote Woman Code, and I highly recommend it. Basically, through her, I learned about the power of living in accordance with my hormonal cycles. So when you get your period – lay low. Get in nature. Go easy. Don’t go crazy working out. Use the time for visioning and planting seeds.
When I do this, I have good energy throughout the rest of the month. When I don’t, I end up feeling tired, out of whack, and down more often throughout the rest of the month, and that can show up on my skin. So it’s pretty crucial to honor your body’s needs and give yourself a little red tent action when you need it.
After I exercise in the mornings, I alternate between a silent sit grounding into the earth and feeling my breath, or doing a beautiful feminine Chi Gong practice my dear friend and teacher Saida Désilets taught me.
Some days it’s 20 minutes, some days it’s only 5 (life can get pretty wild in the mornings with a toddler sometimes), but I take whatever I can get because the difference in the quality of my day, my life and my mind when I do meditation versus when I don’t is like night and day.
I’m more patient, I have better energy and I’m a better, more centered mother – and that means a LOT. But most of all, I’ve touched in with the river of love and well-being inside, even for a moment before the busyness of the day unfolds, and that makes me feel beautiful.
When I feel beautiful, I feel happy. And when I’m happy, so is my skin.
Becoming a mother has taught me the value of sleep.
As any mother of a baby can attest, sleep is pretty much the most important human need, right after breath and water, and honestly maybe tied with food.
With too little, I’m a mess. And I’m pretty sure I can never have too much.
After experiencing sleep deprivation with my baby, I became obsessed about toddler and adult sleep. I started to educate myself more about it. Turns out sleep is crucial to reducing stress (duh) and inflammation (that was big to learn).
And you know what that means for our skin and our beauty…
One of the biggest things that have helped me get good sleep is my night time ritual.
Here’s what I do:
Every night before sleep, I give myself a foot rub. A relaxed foot ensures a relaxed mind. It’s the number one thing I’ve found to help slow down a racing mind (the ultimate destroyer of sleep) before bed and in the middle of the night if you have a night awakening.
So, get some lavender lotion and give those girls a rub down.
I also use Badger Sleep Balm, which has lavender and bergamot in it.
I dab a little under my nose, on my temples and third eye, and on my lips. It really works and helps me succumb to sleep quickly.
I’m a lucky girl. I have a gorgeous vanity set.
I truly believe that having this beautiful place to sometimes put on my makeup and do my hair has me feel more beautiful, and when you feel beautiful, you are beautiful.
In my life, I feel like so many of the things that have me feel super womanly and sexy have been put on hold since becoming a mother. When I brought my vanity back out of the spare room a few months ago (where it hid out to make space for my baby’s crib and changing table in my room) and gave it some proper lovin’ with candles, my grandmother’s silver mirror and brush set, and some foliage, I felt like a big part of me came back online.
I’ve since come to remember the deep value of spending focused time beautifying myself. Adornment is a spiritual practice for women in some cultures. I believe in its power and feel every woman needs a special place to put loving attention on her body. When it’s coming from love and approval of ourselves, rather than the fear of doing things to look good so we can get love and approval, it has magical powers.
When we put loving attention on our bodies, our bodies respond. The flow of love and life pulses through us stronger, and that always leads to greater health and radiance.
The most important thing – and the common thread in all of these – is that no matter what: touch in as often as you can with what FEELS beautiful within.
Beauty is a powerful, alive force of wisdom in our universe, and it lives in all of us.
The more we bring our attention to it, the more fully we reap its gifts of self love, health and radiance.
I would love to hear of your own experiences in healing and the wisdom you have gleaned.
And to any woman out there currently struggling with acne and who is feeling ashamed and afraid, know that you’re not alone. I’m here. I feel you. And I love you.
Beauty is who you truly are, and nothing can ever take that away from you.