Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Not Shaving, No Makeup, and Throwing Traditional Beauty Out the Window

What would you do if you spent a year without the support of any beauty products?

I don't read the news. I stopped reading it when I realized that it was the primary source of incoming negativity in my life. Now I catch headlines at Yahoo when I log out of my email and through my Facebook newsfeed.

A couple of weeks ago when I signed out of my email, Yahoo came up with a post about a woman who had gone a whole year without any kind of beauty product. I clicked on the link, intrigued to learn more. The article was about a book, The Beauty Experiment, which chronicled a woman's year-long journey into abstinence from beauty products in an attempt to salvage her self-esteem. As a new mother, she took on a self-imposed challenge to ditch makeup, long hair, fancy products, new clothes, haircuts, and jewelry.

The book, due out December 23rd, inspired me to take a look at my own beauty routine. How often have I catalogued the "trouble spots" on my body? Obsessively plucked my eyebrows to keep stray hairs at bay? Worn makeup to cover up a breakout? The truth is: I was doing it pretty often. Despite teaching positive body image techniques, I discovered that I spent a good deal of time - more than I was comfortable with - focusing on my outer appearance.

So, I took on the challenge.

Now, I'm not going full-throttle like the author Phoebe Baker Hyde did, but I want to include a number of the principles. So far I've gone a week without makeup. Why did I pick makeup first? Because I realized that I wasn't using makeup to enhance my face - I was using cosmetics to hide it. I was using eyeliner, mascara, blush, light bronzer, and concealer to make my face the face that I thought I should have, to hide my imperfections.

This is very similar to how a lot of women function: Never leaving the house without looking entirely put together. I admit that my outfits usually tend to match and that I feel a tad embarrassed if people catch me wearing a mismatched sweater to stay warm or with a visible panty line. That's why I started to question: Am I doing these things because I enjoy doing them, or am I paying so much attention to my appearance because I want others to like the way that I look? Turns out, I cared a lot more about what other people thought than I originally believed I did.

The first day that I was makeup-free, I still had the remnants of makeup from the day before. I felt confident in my ability to go at least a month without makeup. My intention was to prove to myself that I didn't need makeup to feel beautiful or confident about the way I look. As the days progressed and any semblance of makeup was cleaned off my face, I started to panic. I worried about how small my eyes are or about the dark circles beginning to form underneath them from not getting enough sleep. I was anxious that other people would notice how pale my skin is in the winter. And, horror of all horrors, my skin broke out within the first week.

This past week has been a series of emotional ups and downs. Every time I start to feel uneasy or insecure, I remind myself of my intention. I remind myself that I'm awesome, that my personality shines through, that no one cares if I'm wearing makeup (and, if they do, their opinion isn't as important as my own). I remind myself that I am the only one who has to like how I naturally look, because my opinion is the one that matters most. I also think about all of the beautiful women I know who I never see wearing makeup. I do not see their faces as ugly, hideous, or in need of covering up. Why should I see my own that way?

I swear, there are times when I am about near to tears because I am so afraid to hear people tell me that I'm not pretty or that I should really consider looking into a decent foundation. These are the times when I force a smile and create some time to myself to ask why I'm thinking this. Why is it so important to me to look a certain way? Why do I care what other people think? What does it matter? By asking the right questions, I'm able to find answers, to find peace and clarity in the midst of emotional chaos. I'm able to re-center myself and remember that the outer me is only a small, small part of what makes me beautiful.

What do you think? Is your beauty routine the result of fitting in or is it about pampering yourself? Would you ever consider doing something like this?

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