We spend most of our lives worried about what others think of us. Letting go of that is true liberation.

At 14, I thought tony Worth Avenue in Palm Beach, like Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills, the ultimate goal. To shop there, to live in the pastel colored, stucco architecture with a kind, devoted, rich and of course terribly hot man would mean that I had made it.

But the woman that I am now no longer cares about that dream. I no longer define myself by what other people think of me. And that is when you finally learn to be happy with yourself.

Here’s my story. On a warm October day this fall lacking the requisite 100 percent Floridian humidity, sludge and imminent downpour, I took a stroll down Worth Avenue. I went into a store and tried on a $5,000 dress and politely gave it back to the saleswoman with a tsk, tsk smile. I searched for designer shoes in a flash sale that could never fit a normal foot. Then I headed to lunch at Taboo, my grandmother’s favorite restaurant, where she took us for her decade birthdays and to pamper me because she wanted me to understand what the good life is.

My grandmother was a woman born to find a rich man and hang onto him. She said tomatow instead of tomatoe and retired to Palm Beach with wealthy cousins who took care of her after her husband died. She had perfectly rounded blood red fingernails and hair styled in a bouffant that the strongest wind could not budge.

She divorced her second husband when she learned he was not as rich as he claimed. She taught me the difference between wool and cashmere, to love lobster and to stop furrowing my brow because wrinkles would come. When I miss her the most I walk on the street of dreams.

The man with the soap

He was no more than 30, tall, dark and handsome and emerged from the open front of the cosmetics store holding multi-colored snippets of soap.  His gaze was attentive, banter charming as he lured me into coming inside to try the eye cream that would change my life. I told him I would not buy anything and he didn’t believe me. Game on.

The shop mingled mahogany and glass throughout. Bedazzled perfume bottles shone under spotlights like objects of art. He gently spread cream under the first of my brown eyes. We waited for the cream to dry and made small talk about the weather, the day, where we came from, why Palm Beach. When I looked in the  mirror the sun damage, puffiness and shadows settled into a smooth glow of newborn flesh.

Before he performed magic on the other eye, he opened the bidding by reducing the $600 price tag to $499 just for me. I smiled and told him I was not going to buy it but would appreciate it if he would not leave me Cyclops uneven with a perfect eye and the one that was actually mine.  The cream that he spread under the second eye smelled slightly of honey before settling into something that basically just glued my skin together. He gave me the use sparingly speech and less even as my skin transformed.

He brought the mirror back with a flourish and I I looked better, younger even, the flaws had vanished. His next offer was a free nighttime face cream and a price of $350 just for me. I thanked him and got up to leave.

“But you take care of yourself,” he insisted genuinely perplexed. “You have put together a look, you did your nails. Don’t you care about your eyes?”

“I don’t define myself by the lines underneath my eyes,” I said as kindly as I could.  I asked for and was given his card with the assurance that he could offer a deal if I came back.

He asked me again why not and I told him, “I just don’t care.”

Stepping back into the sunlight dappled by palm trees, headed towards the restaurant I thought about what had just happened. I realized that so many of the images we see of beautiful women are judged by how close they look to 25. “You won’t believe what she looks like now!!!!!” is click bait that I fall for much of the time. And the magazine articles, “Amazing at Forty, Fabulous at Fifty, and then retouched photos of Helen Mirren and Jane Fonda, the only women they could find who looked amazing at sixty plus, told the same story with different words.

Women are taught from a very young age to define themselves by how they appear to men. We dress for him, we apply makeup for him, we scrutinize our arms, thighs, tummy wishing it was firmer, thinner, less just there for him. Letting go of that is so liberating.  And contrary to what the cosmetic store guy thinks It does not mean that I don’t want to feel beautiful, but that the reflection in the mirror and I love her back flaws and all.

That’s when we really start to thrive.


  • Aimee Stern

    Aimee Stern

    Aimee Stern is Chief Bravery Officer of Brave Now PR, a firm that works with senior executives to defy conventional wisdom and change the game in their industries. She is a marketer at heart, an expertise developed as a former journalist who covered marketing, advertising and communications for the New York Times, Money, Fortune's Small Business, the Harvard Business School and Business Week, among others. She is passionate about the work, and helps her clients become the leaders they always wanted to be.