Natural Beauty: A September Reflection

For some reason, I often feel that I am the best version of myself during the summer. I feel less stressed, I get outside more, and I become more carefree and accepting of my appearance. So when September arrives, I begin to experience mixed emotions. While I feel hopeful and optimistic for the new season ahead, I also feel sad to see the end of warm, happy summer days. However, all of this is somewhat of a new experience for me. For many years, my love for the lazy days of summer was punctuated with the stress of trying to accept my “natural self.” I cringed at the thought of wearing a bikini. I stressed about what my skin would look like if my concealer melted away. While I loved being outside, I often worried about how much I would sweat, or how frizzy my hair would get. Sadly, these fears occasionally prevented me from engaging in activities that I loved, such as swimming in the lake, or going on a hike with friends. For years, it was only in front of my family members and closest friends that I felt like I could freely indulge in summertime activities and let my natural self shine through. Thus in many ways, I relished the return of the fall season, where I could cover myself back up, and wouldn’t have to worry about looking natural and loving it.

For many of us, our perception of what “natural” looks like is distorted. Just open up a magazine, and you will see countless advertisements and articles instructing women on how to achieve a “natural look.” In the magazines, looking natural is a five-step process involving (at the bare minimum) bronzer, lip gloss, spot corrector, mascara, and the perfect beach waves. Thus, when we try to be truly natural, and embrace our make-up free faces and untamed hair, we’re faced with an abundance of images and articles suggesting that we need to try harder. It’s no wonder that it is so hard for many of us to embrace ourselves as we are.

Learning to embrace our natural selves is an ambitious task, and I am by no means completely there yet. I still have days where I stress over my appearance, and feel the need to put on some make-up to give myself a “natural summer glow.” However, I have reached the point where I no longer let appearance-related concerns dictate which activities I participate in. To me, nothing beats the feeling of jumping in a lake on a hot summer day, or walking through the park in the sunshine. I’ve sat out enough times to know that smooth hair or perfect looking skin does not feel as good as dancing to your favourite song on a patio, or going on a bike ride with friends. Thus, as the summer season comes to an end, and thick fall edition magazines hit the stores with the tips and trends for the season, I’m trying my best to hold onto the carefree spirit and feelings of self-acceptance that I experienced over the summer.

Sera De Rubeis is a former NEDIC volunteer, and received her master's degree in School and Clinical Child Psychology from OISE at the University of Toronto. She currently works in the field of school psychology.