4 Beauty (And Life) Lessons I Learned From 'Girlosophy'

The classic self-help book is as relevant today as it was 14 years ago.

When it comes to books that put me on my path to becoming the Fabulous Beauty Editor I am today, you'll find the usual suspects: Diana Vreeland's memoir, Kevin Aucoin's indispensable oeuvre, and every single Babysitter's Club book where Staci or Claudia wore makeup.

But there was another book that helped me on my way, and I think most girls in their mid-twenties through early thirties will remember it: Girlosophy, by Anthea Paul.

I got this book for Christmas from my mum and dad, and it immediately became a source of comfort and strength for me. Paul’s self-help bible was a combination of everything I loved at the time: colorful pictures, vaguely Eastern philosophy and advice that was caring without being patronizing. The women and girls featured in the photos weren’t intimidating supermodels--they were each gorgeous, different, and totally awesome. They looked like my friends and me.

At the time, Girlosophy felt like the closest thing I had to an actual guidebook for growing up. At 16, I really needed that--and at 30, in a period of intense change, I’ve found that I need that again.

So as an adult, I turned back to the book that guided me through so much teenage shit. Even though some of the "you go, girl" language is a bit dated, I realized that this book influenced A LOT of my ideas about beauty, self-expression, and life.

Let’s look at some of the best, most formative beauty (and life) Girlosophy advice.

On creative hobbies (and a glimpse into the future):

"Develop a hobby that allows you to create beauty."

If 16 year old me could see what 30-year old me does for a living, she’d be stoked. Not just consuming beauty and writing about it, but creating it, too…I feel so lucky. We're ALL lucky to have this interest in makeup and hair, because it allows us to always, always be creative and expressive. Beauty isn't frivolous; it's powerful. Through it we make ourselves.

On the pursuit of beauty:

"We are all fascinated by beauty and most of us devote much of our lives to its pursuit. But physical beauty can only ever be held fleetingly. Real beauty is far greater--it’s a life force, and energy which radiates from within and transcends the physical. It’s a vibe--you feel it in those who truly have it.

Real beauty is not beauty generated purely for others’ consumption. Real beauty is beauty in action, not beauty that sits on the sidelines of life, worried it will run or get messed up.

Real beauty may not be visible at first glance, but it lasts forever."

First of all, this book features a lot of photos of girls DOING things--hiking, reading, running, swimming, playing, and yes, surfing. How awesome that women aren't just portrayed as existing beautifully! Can we get more of this please?

Now, to the topic at hand: Like many of you, I am a bit sick of the “real beauty” catchphrase--but then again, it’s come to mean something quite different in 2014 than it did in 2000. Nowadays it has a smug, self-satisfied ring to it: “Natural is best--so long as you’re already gorgeous, young, white, and rich, with good hair and flawless skin."

But back in the day, I think that what Anthea was talking about was reality versus fantasy. “Real beauty,” as it’s used here, means beauty that is in our lives and our hearts--and that we should appreciate, but not rely, on the things that are external. And I love that she says that beauty is not strictly for other people’s consumption. It’s for creating ourselves, not for presenting a “perfect” front that has been created FOR us by others.

That was such a powerful message for me growing up, and it's still important today. Being reminded that a lot of beauty is actually confidence and kindness was (and is) the foundation of the love that I began to develop for myself. Liking who you are and KNOWING that you are a superbabe through to your core is essential. I truly believe that confidence radiates through your face like magic, and that is SO MUCH MORE important than having perfectly symmetrical facial features or perfect eyebrows.

And that DOES last forever.

On depression:

This was the first time I’d ever heard depression talked about in a way that didn’t make it sound like a moral failing or a bad mood gone on too long. Knowing this from a young age was crucial in helping me keep myself mentally healthy, as well as recognizing when other people in my life were struggling.

As an adult with teenagers (!) in her life, I realize now how hard it can be to talk to them about this stuff in a way that isn't preachy or makes them shut off. Anthea's advice is simple and effective, while also being age-appropriate.

There’s a lot more talk (and less stigma) around mental health issues these days, which is amazing. But reminders to seek help, and to believe people when they TELL you they need help, are so very important. I really don't think we can get enough of it.

On being yourself:

"Don’t follow anything or anyone slavishly. SET YOUR OWN TRENDS. Develop your own style. What do you like? What suits you? Don’t just follow fashion; take the elements that work for you. be true to what suits you and uniquely represents who you are in the world."

If this isn’t the battle cry of xoVain, I don’t know what is. I absorbed this advice as a younger Alle, not realizing how important it would become later in my life. By 16 I was, on the outside, pretty cool with going my own way, aesthetically. But on the inside, I still wanted to fit in and be loved. I wanted all the girls at school who bullied me to like me. And I thought there was something wrong with ME that this didn’t happen.

But now I know--and we all know--that there was NOTHING WRONG WITH ME. It was THEIR problem, and the problem of the world that that taught girls to bully other girls and that taught us all that we were only as valuable as attention from boys made us.

Beauty trends are great, but the most important thing in the entire world is what YOU LIKE. We are all gorgeous Queens (and Kings!) of this world. We have ONE life, and living it trying to be or look like someone else is a waste of time and energy. Be brave, be bold, and express your fabulous and amazing selves with every swipe of eyeliner and every lipstick you own!

  • How many of you had this book when you were younger?
  • What was your favorite Girlosophy advice, as a teenager and today? (Mine is now about the times it's OK to say never)
  • Who was your favorite girl in the book? WERE you one of the girls in the book? If so, tell us everything!