December 13, 2016
This essay was written as part of an empowerment campaign, “Wear Yourself In,” led by eco-luxe skin care company Kari Gran. In response to the beauty industry pushing an impossible idea of flawless youth for years, the campaign encourages women to be kind to themselves, and their skin, as they reflect on beauty, aging, wisdom and self-acceptance.
Cyndi Prince is the environmentally conscious proprietress behind LooHoo Wool Dryer Balls. She started making the domestic wool balls in 2010 as an alternative to toxic dryer sheets. In 2014, Prince was recipient of the Eileen Fisher Woman-Owned Business Grant, recognizing her commitment to positive social and environment impact. www.loo-hoo.com
Before becoming a wife, mother and entrepreneur, I travelled. A lot.
In northern Canada I worked in gold and diamond exploration camps in the tundra. I taught English on one of the small Marshall Islands that had no running water or electricity. For four years I roamed international waters on a scientific research vessel.
I’ve hiked the mountains of Tasmania, crossed through the Panama Canal and conquered Machu Picchu.
On each excursion, whether for work or adventure, I encountered beauty in many forms. The picturesque backdrops of my travels were stunning. But it’s the many faces I remember most—from a toothless family in the Himalayas to children playing in the streets in Thailand to a young girl with a sack of potatoes in Bolivia waiting to catch the bus.
During this time, there were long stretches I spent alone. This gave me an opportunity to reflect on who I was. I explored these thoughts through photography and writing.
In this period of self-discovery, I learned about introverts: they feel drained when in large crowds and prefer smaller, more intimate groups; they need quiet time to recharge and enjoy solitude; and they focus deeply on things.
I also discovered that I was a hopeless introvert myself. It was a wondrous trait to peel back the layers of.
At the age of 30, with my travelling days behind me, I moved to Maine to study photography. I found a new home and welcoming community after being a transient for many years. I had discovered how to communicate to the world from behind a lens.
This wonderful art form has allowed me to observe connections, the common threads that exist among all living things. One of my favorite projects, “Being,” explores the primal undercurrents that tie us all together.
I used to get nervous and feel insecure when people told me that I was beautiful. A shift happened after all my travelling; I had finally learned to accept myself. I think it was from being immersed in so many different cultures and realizing our commonality. I came to accept myself for who I was. Somehow seeing the confidence in others and reading that confidence on their faces had emboldened me to do the same.
I remember the first time I confidently accepted the compliment, “You’re beautiful.” I think it took the person by surprise to have someone graciously and confidently respond with a “thank you” rather than an embarrassed downturn of the eyes.
This confidence has led to great things.
For example, a few years ago a self-portrait project allowed me to be vulnerable. I wasn’t self conscious about doing it since I was comfortable with who I am and where I was in life. I know that a lot of the images are of me but I see them as a woman, any woman, being vulnerable yet comfortable with being exposed.
Today, as I celebrate four decades of life, my face reveals the joys and challenges of being a wife, mother, business owner and matriarch. My face also shows strength, grace, acceptance, confidence, the miles that I travelled, the vast experiences I’ve had, the hours at sea, the mountains I’ve climbed, the people I’ve learned from, and the disappointments, challenges and fears I’ve faced.
Best of all, my face is a reflection of the love I have for my family, my friends and myself.
With everyone I meet, I try and smile. I accept the goodness that lies within. I believe we are all essentially the same in heart and spirit and share an inherent ability to smile as we live happily in our skin.