Stop. What is one thing you can do right now to increase your elegance? Often I write about lifestyle, habits, and underlying character in such a way that it might seem a person has to be…to be. A teacher once told me that your beliefs shape your actions, but if you act contrary to your beliefs long enough, your beliefs will change to endorse your actions. So how to jump into the cycle of thought-action-thought-action-ad infinitum? Here is a list for starters. By the way, these are areas I struggle with daily because they are everyday actions, so doing them requires constant application of myself. But everyday situations have the uncanny habit of recurring, graciously affording the well bred woman in progress the chance to practice elegance, poise, and good breeding again and again.
1. Think before you speak. I suspect that the moments of time spent contemplating one’s words before speaking are directly related to the effectiveness and goodness of the final result. Keep up with the conversation, though.
2. Breathe deeply. Do not worry if you find yourself breathing too shallow; just begin breathing deeply again whenever you remember to. The more you do it, the more naturally it will come.
3. Stand up for yourself without arguing. According to an article I recently read, femininity “means knowing how to have an opinion without appearing to be opinionated.”
4. Cultivate a pleasing facial expression. A lady does not need a plastered on smile through either a contrived expression or excessive makeup. Rather, her face should reflect her elegant thoughts and could range from a gentle moodiness, to contemplation, to joyful memory, to desire, to love, to ecstasy.
5. Carve out a few minutes each day to pamper yourself. You need it. I warn against the phrase “You deserve it” being used in conjunction with women’s pampering routines. Taking care of one’s physical, spiritual, mental, and emotional health is vital to wholeness. It has nothing to do with merit or self-worth and is not something that can be deserved or undeserved, i.e. “You didn’t get all the laundry folded today so you don’t deserve a bath.”
6. Eat your slowly and thoughtfully, enjoying each bite. If you are not enjoying it, stop eating. Science has proven that such actions will lead to greater satisfaction, affording one the ability to eat less, as well as better digestion and absorption, curbing cravings and reducing bloating and weight gain. Banish the terms splurging, cutting back, treating yourself, and / or dieting from your vocabulary; focus purely on the sensual, enjoyable act of eating.
7. Practice elegant posture. There is a right and wrong way to posture oneself in every single position, from standing to walking to sitting to lying down, so take the time to learn to do it properly for your health and image’s sake. A helpful tip from Anne Oliver’s Finishing Touches reminds one to imagine a helium balloon is attached to the top of her head, always pulling it straight up and lifting the whole body away from slouching. As with the breathing, do not despair for falling back into bad posture; simply straighten it out when you become aware of it and it will gradually become second nature.
8. Develop and stick to a daily beauty routine. Mine goes like this: In the morning, wash face with soap and warm water, cold rinse, and moisturize with olive oil. Brush teeth after each meal. In the evening, shower, wash face again, cold rinse, and moisturize with shea butter / argan oil. Moisturize eye area with castor oil. I have a separate routine for my hair. Beauty routines do not have to be complicated or expensive but the key is to be consistent.
9. Sincerely thank at least one person per day, and go out of your way to help at least one person daily out of kindness.
10. Accept compliments with a simple, sincere “Thank you” and accept thanks with a “You are welcome.”