I intentionally stopped wearing makeup. It’s been almost 2 months now, and I can say that I feel like a different person. The decision was brought on by a culmination of feelings of inadequacy, addiction to social media, now having a young daughter, and my journey through the book Mothers, Daughters, and Body Image by Hilary McBride. My history with makeup is thick. I was pining to wear it as a pre-teen, and went hot and heavy as soon as I was allowed. My eyeshadow matched my shirt daily. I got a lot of attention for my makeup, for the way I looked. I did makeup for a few brides on their wedding day while I was in high school. I was so dependent on makeup to make me look “normal.” When I moved up north at the age of 18, Georgia began to drain me of the high-maitenence culture that Miami brews. Little by little, I paired it down a few notches… but I still felt like a slave to it. Instead of flashy, colorful eyeshadow, I now wore just enough makeup to make it look like I wasn’t really wearing makeup. I had no confidence if my skin wasn’t even and my eyelashes weren’t dark and curled. Even as a grown adult, I looked into the mirror at myself without makeup and could never say that I felt beautiful. My beauty relied on external items.
After having a baby I’ve gone through (and am in the midst of) all types of identity crises’. My body image is one. I spent nearly 20 years learning to love my body and suddenly I traded it in for a new one. It’s hard to get used to the new rolls and floppiness and view this as beautiful on myself. For some reason it’s a lot easier to view the women around me of all shapes, sizes, and floppiness as beautiful- but it doesn’t apply to me. Because I felt so ugly, I started spending a lot of time in front the mirror trying to figure out how to feel beautiful. I hate that. I wonder how much all of that time that I have spent in front of the mirror for my entire life adds up to. Would it be a significant fraction of my life? A portion of my valuable time on earth has been wasted away in discontent, verbally abusing myself with critical thoughts. It disgusts me. There are so many big (and little) things I want to do with that precious time, and yet I keep wasting it on vanity.
I guess I was so disgusted with myself that I just up and decided to stop giving myself a mask to hide behind. The first weeks of not wearing any makeup was so hard. I was obsessing over it all the time, as I was out with friends or in the grocery store. I was always painfully aware that I didn’t look my “best” and I felt like less of a human. I cringed when I looked in the mirror, so I pretty much just avoided mirrors. Then day by day, the person I saw started looking more familiar. I started forgetting that I wasn’t wearing makeup. I started meeting new people while I wasn’t wearing make-up and realizing they didn’t know any other version of me. It started to get a lot easier. I repeated things like “no one cares that you aren’t wearing makeup” to myself a lot. Or, “you are the same exact person capable of loving and speaking life whether you have makeup on or not!” This past week as I was washing my hands, I looked at myself and smiled. I looked beautiful. Just me, my face. The real version of myself that has been hiding behind makeup. I’m not the same version of beautiful that my face with makeup is, but this one is authentic. Natural and real. This is a different version of beauty. I’m starting to see it. I feel so much more comfortable in this face.
If there is a way for me to look my best, I have always done all I can to achieve it: change that shirt one more time, matte down those unruly hairs sticking up, obsesses over buying a versatile coat that makes keeps me warm but makes me look more trendy than frumpy. If there was a day that I didn’t look the absolute best that I could, I felt it in my confidence and the way I interacted with people. A bad hair day could keep me from making a new friend on the Marta. Now I traipse along, leaving my house and not looking the absolute best that I could. That’s uncomfortable for me, yet freeing at the same time. I feel more invisible and yet more seen for who I really am.
I know how much the media plays a role in my self-talk, and I could sense that as I became more discontent with my appearance I started craving instagram more and my addiction to scrolling through my feed grew. It’s the unhealthy cycle of craving it to boost my ego, but only leaving feeling worse off about myself. I realized I had to starve myself of that addiction along with my makeup ban. Now as high and lofty as it sounds to be in the process of “freeing” myself from instagram, please know that I am finding equally as unhealthy ways to fill my time and head space, such as Facebook, eating too much junk food, ordering lots of crap on Amazon, and watching TV shows. You eliminate one unhealthy habit and suddenly all the others start gaining strength in numbers. This is going to be a long process.
I wanted to document this here, for myself, as this is a momentous thing. I have been wearing makeup daily since I was 13. That is 18 years! A habit if there ever was one. I remember as a kid, wondering with my friends about how married women managed to never let their husbands see them without makeup… did they wake up before them and put on makeup every morning? As insane as that sounds, turns out that is a thing. I watched The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, and I guess women in the 50s made a habit of doing that. And while I have always (thankfully) felt comfortable not wearing makeup in front of Mondo, the layers of conditioning were still piled on thick. Now I’m a mom. I have a daughter literally staring at me all day long, observing my actions and soaking it all in. I want to free her from this prison of self-worth being attributed to how you look. This is a step I am taking for us both.