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Meaning in Work: The Spirit of Esthetics

By: Anne Martin
Posted: February 28, 2011, from the March 2011 issue of Skin Inc. magazine.
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For some, maybe there wasn’t anything else you could figure out. You had to do something, and you liked applying masks and creams. For others, the journey to esthetics may have started after your first facial. I used to say I fell into esthetics because I didn’t know what the universe wanted me to be or do. While on a leave of absence from graduate school, working in a bakery and at loose ends, a friend suggested esthetics. Not having a better idea, I applied to esthetics school, was accepted, and then thought that, by golly, I’d better get a facial, because I’d never had one. Luck held: The spa professional who gave me my first facial, Jane Aransky, was, and is, a marvel; only I didn’t fully realize that until years later. What I did think was that this facial stuff was wonderful and good and I could do it.

Why does your work matter?

Think about your day; how clients are eased by your labors, refreshed and calmed. Think of clients who arrive saying that they’ve been looking forward to this for days, as they sink gratefully into the peace you create for them. Why does it matter? Because what you accomplish in service to others steadies the heartbeat of their world. However you became a spa professional, the choice to do the work well is one that you make every day, with each client, although you may like one more than the other, although one is sweet and the other short-tempered. Integrity shines in this choice.

It’s more usual that the physical environment influences the directions you head. For example, there are more air conditioner specialists in Florida than Siberia, more fishermen in Louisiana than Arizona, more skiing instructors in Switzerland than England. Were you encouraged to seek until you find, and told you can do anything to which you set your intention? Do you have people who applaud your imagination, as it dreams its way into reality, substance and purpose? Then your environment supported your distinct choice of becoming a spa professional. Or perhaps you, like me, fell into it. Or maybe the choice was made in the quiet environment of your own thoughts: This I want to do, this I will do. And so you have.

What about what you do as a spa professional makes your work meaningful? Meaning is whatever we say it is ... whatever each of us determines it is for ourselves, according to American writer Joseph Campbell. There is such kindness disguised in the gift of bits of time, and seemingly toss-away conversations. There is poignant meaning to be derived from small moments of piercing normalcy; they are balm to tired spirits; they are the cool harbingers of the changes to come.

The character of a spa professional

Character distinguishes one from the other. It declares, like Popeye, “I yam what I yam!” and refers to what is intrinsic in people’s natures. It also reveals this: The way you do things when no one is looking tells more about you than any degree or impressive bank account or national prominence. Yes, character manifests itself in choice of profession, but it surfaces again in how well you work each day, although that is not so often realized. Giving a facial at 6 pm is different than one at 10 am if you’ve been working all day; doing your best each time reflects a personal standard of excellence and shows character. And it is true that things you perhaps didn’t know existed in yourself can be realized during facials, such as when you silently listen to the grief of the client whose partner has died. To quietly stand next to this sorrow is to bear witness to it, and that in itself is a courageous thing, a selfless thing, for her pain may remind you of your own. Loss speaks every language. Loss is timeless. You may have no words, but in their stead is something strong and fully human: compassion.

Your gifts