I am not the ideal customer for the cosmetics industry because I rarely wear make up. I pretty much limit it to formal events and sometimes Easter or Christmas mass, and my make-up bag is super tiny with eyeshadow I’ve probably owned for 6 years (probably unsanitary actually).First of all, there is nothing wrong with wearing make-up, and my goal isn’t to convince you to stop doing it (OK maybe it’s my goal a little bit). I want to share my journey of getting to a point where it doesn’t even cross my mind to put on mascara or foundation — yet I feel more beautiful and free most days (let’s be real – we all have our days of feeling ugly).
I love not wearing make up (perk #1: it saves a lot of time)! But this wasn’t always the case. In high school, I was terrified to be seen without my face being all done-up! One morning at home, I realized I had left my make up bag at school. When I got to school, I darted to my locker to grab the make up and then to the bathroom, hoping no one would see my true face.
The main reason I wore make-up was to hide my acne. When I talked to people, I assumed they noticed the pimples sprouting on my forehead or cheeks. Could they even listen to what I was saying? Or was my acne too distracting and disturbing?
During sophomore year, one of my friends mentioned a freshman girl who wore no make-up but looked really pretty! So that became my goal: I wanted to be that girl that everyone agreed was so naturally beautiful that she didn’t need make up.
By junior year, I had convinced my parents to let me try Accutane. It’s a prescription pill you take for 5 months, and it’s supposed to be a miracle worker for acne. (It also has some very serious side effects, and while I’m grateful I had hardly any, many others had damaging experiences. Taking Accutane is not a decision to make lightly.)
I told myself that if my skin got clear, I would stop wearing make-up.
The first few months on the medication was rough because it dried me out; I got some pretty dramatic bloody noses and my face was flakier than head full of a dandruff. My acne got worse before it got better, but I refused to tell anyone outside my family that I was taking this pill. I didn’t want people to know how vain I truly was.By the end of the 5 months, my skin was really clear and people were commenting on how beautiful it was! For the first time in a long time, I felt like I could show my true, bare face to the world. As I promised myself, I would stop wearing make-up on a daily basis.
The immediate benefit was that it saved me time and money. I was NOT a morning person in the least so I embraced anything that allowed me to sleep in a few more minutes.
People whom I saw on a regular basis initially asked if I was tired because of the dark circles under my eyes, which were no longer concealed. In a short time, though, people got used to seeing me that way and it wasn’t a big deal.
About a year after starting this “au naturel” thing, I moved 700 miles away for college and met all new people who had never seen me with make up in the first place. Naturally, my new friends noticed that I never wore eyeliner or mascara. Some of them told me they would do the same if they had clear skin like mine.
I felt their pain of wanting to conceal all their ‘blemishes’ & eventually I told them (somewhat shamefully) about how I had taken Accutane. I was embarrassed by my own vanity and for putting such a premium on my looks. If there’s a way to say, “I really value my physical appearance!”, it was by admitting I had gone on a pill to fix my acne. I also felt like a fraud, as if this skin wasn’t really mine and was just a result of some magical pill.
But my experience with acne actually became a bridge to others who were suffering.
In my weakness and in my vulnerability, I found a connection to others. By hiding my own vanity and insecurity, I was losing out on the opportunity to let others accept those very things in themselves!
We can all be vain and insecure at times. I don’t think we help each other by intentionally hiding our wounds from those who are close to us or from those we want to grow closer to. There is comfort in sharing our struggles. I never liked falling into the habit of sitting around a table with friends and lamenting, “I’m so fat” or “Ugh, I need to shape my eyebrows!” Instead, back then I wanted to say (but didn’t), “Look, I’m feeling really insecure about my weight right now. I see other girls and compare myself and I’m tired of it.”
That is vulnerability and that’s beautiful!
By the same token, I think we should also share our joy. If we’re grateful for a gift from God, why not recognize it and thank Him? If all my friends were sitting around complaining about their bodies, a part of me wants to say, “I love my body! I love that I can walk, talk, and do so much with what God has given me!”
It’s as if we think we’re doing a disservice to our friends if we don’t commiserate! There’s beauty in seeing ourselves for who we are and loving it, as we’re all made in the image and likeness of God. When I look in the mirror, I’m happy with what I see. I think I’m beautiful – and I want every woman to feel the same!
But I can still fall victim to comparing myself to other women. If I’m at an event or at the gym or work, I can be guilty of sometimes thinking, “Is she prettier than I am?” Or “I should’ve spent more time doing my hair.” Or “Ugh, she’s skinnier than I am!” I don’t know a woman who hasn’t struggled with this at some point (except the Virgin Mary and some of the saints). Nonetheless this quote encapsulates my goal:
Confidence isn’t walking into a room with your nose in the air, and thinking you are better than everyone else, it’s walking into a room and not having to compare yourself with anyone in the first place.
Part 2: Double-edged sword
This post was getting so long that I decided to split it into two – read Part 2 now!