Every morning, I wake up looking fresh faced and impeccably coiffed, like I just stepped out of a salon de beauté. I float out of bed in my silk nightgown and do a series of carefully curated yoga poses before draping myself in an armchair to delicately sip green tea from my fine china as the sublime notes of Chopin play in the background.
The truth is, there’s very little dewiness. No coiffure, unless you count la botte de foin, (aka the haystack.) As much as I’d love to stretch out first thing after opening my eyes, I usually just stumble out of bed and grope my way downstairs half asleep, eyes barely open. Instead of sitting in a beautiful chair and letting music wash over me I usually spend at least 3 minutes standing at the half-open door in my robe as my cats decide whether they’re actually going to go outside or not.
Of course, this isn’t the face I typically put out to the world. It’s not one I feel particularly fantastic about sharing because of course, like anyone else, I want to look pulled together, classy … perhaps even impressive.
Whether you call it status, recognition, love, inspiration, gratification – we are putting a lot of time, energy and effort into impressing others.
Our man. Our mother. Our boss. Our client. Our kid’s teacher. Our BFF. The guy-who-might-become-our-man. Our frenemy. Our 4th grade teacher. And yes, our cat (with a fervour we prefer not to analyse).
Not that this is automatically a bad thing. Trying to impress others can transform raucous teenagers into well-behaved, groomed human beings whose company is enjoyable, it can turn kids who seem nothing more than average into Olympians or Nobel prize winners, it can help to transform the guy at the next table into the love of your life, and even sans cat it often is the only thing that gets us out of bed in the morning.
But the problem comes when you try to impress other people first.
Nowadays, when so many people with an overblown ego welded to a reptilian brain make a lot of noise to tell, no, to order women what to wear, what to think, what to like, what to hate, what to choose and what to reject, it’s all too easy to get caught up in that ruckus and to forget the one person you’ll want to impress first and foremost.
The truly elegant woman cares for the impression she makes on others – but only after she impresses herself first, and is able to look back on herself and her past with joy.
It sounds like a tall order, and in some ways it is. (Elegance isn’t always easy, mes chéries.) But it can also happen in the smallest moments.
It might be the moment that you overcome a hurt of the past and use the experience to help others. Or it might be the tiniest little step out of other people’s comfort zone.
It might be that you finally stop apologising for who you are and what you love and start embracing it unapologetically. Or it might be a moment of listening to your inner whisper rather than to the blare from the world. Or it could be the first moment you realise – really realise – that you have to take exquisite care of yourself first, because you know that you can’t do anything impressive when you’re running on empty.
Above all, it’s about infusing everything with love, with enthusiasm, with beauty and generosity.
Because as we all know so well, you can do so much to seem “impressive”. But if you’re not feeling elegant and beautiful on the inside for yourself first and foremost, it’s going to fall flat.
True elegance always emanates from the inside out – trying to “build” it from the outside in by impressing those around you is a recipe for exhaustion.
So while I won’t tell you to forget about being impressive, I will gently encourage you to remember whose opinion matters above all – and invite you to do just one thing today to impress yourself, giving just as much thought and care to the process as if the cameras of the whole world were pointed on you.
For me, that looks like taking time to enjoy my morning tea in my beloved mug (admittedly after I’m done impressing the cats). Chopin might be playing or not, my hair most certainly will be in hairstack mode, yoga will have to wait, and yet it is a truly elegant moment, repeated every morning: a tea in my mug is a ritual that connects me to gratitude and reminds me each morning of the life I am creating for myself. You can read the whole story here.