We women can do a lot of crapping on other women. Of course that is a generalization, not every woman does but it happens. Admittedly, I have been guilty of judging other women myself. I want to start off by saying that this post is not that. If you wear makeup and it makes you feel awesome, then keep on rocking it! This post is about my experience with cosmetics and body image. I am not preaching a certain way of life, just sharing what helped me.
Ugh is that what I look like?
Eight years ago this is what most days looked like: wake up, go to the bathroom, look in the mirror, and feel an in internal cringe at my reflection. I would brush my teeth, wash my face, and start the 10 – 30 minute process of putting on my makeup. My Aunt Annie calls it “putting on her face”. That is exactly how it felt. I had to put on my face before I even walked outside my bedroom. (Side note Aunt Annie also says “the higher the hair the closer to Jesus”, which isn’t totally relevant but I think it’s funny).
One summer when I was about 14 years old I went home to my friends house after a day at the beach. When we sat down to watch TV I felt like my hands were on fire. The searing pain seemed like I had left my hands in the oven all day and I had no idea what was going on. Her mom thought maybe I was having an allergic reaction so she gave me some medication and when nothing seemed to stop the burning we went to the hospital.
It took the doctors a little while to figure out what had happened and I felt stupid when they told me what it was. My hands were sunburned because of the strong antibiotic medication I took to reduce my acne. I didn’t read the label closely enough to know that it makes you severely sensitive to the sun. I sat on the hospital bed with burn cream on my hands and a sinking feeling in my stomach. I did this to myself just because I didn’t like that I had a couple of pimples. What’s worse, I kept taking that same medication for six more years.
It wasn’t just my face that I thought needed changing. Difficulties with my body and food started when I was around 12 years old. Throughout most of my teenage years I went through periods where I ate so little it made my stomach feel like it was eating itself. Or I would hide in the bathroom after meals and throw up my feelings.
I remember turning on MTV as a young teenager and wishing I looked like the stick figure girls on the Next bus (like, what?!). When my issues of Teen Vogue or Glamour came I flipped through the pages lusting after the smooth skin and trendy clothes. It isn’t like this stopped quickly for me either. Into my early 20’s I was still consuming airbrushed models and hoping that if I could just get skinny enough with the right brand of concealer I would finally not go “ugh” when I looked in the mirror.
You look beautiful without all of that stuff on your face
In 2012 I stepped on the scale at my then boyfriend, now husband’s, apartment and was shocked to see how little I weighed. My first thought was that the scale was calibrated incorrectly because I couldn’t possibly have lost that much weight. Next came a strange feeling of satisfaction or pride in myself for having “so much self control” (code for restricting my food). Then, a feeling of fear. I had a moment of knowing that if I kept going like this I would be in trouble. At the time I was already in recovery from addiction and I knew what the end of the road looked like.
When I started to move away from cosmetics, hair dye, and “dieting” I wasn’t just motivated by fear. I saw that I wasn’t happy with myself and I desperately wanted to embrace myself the way other people seemed to be able to. My boyfriend told me all the time that I looked beautiful exactly as I was and I really wanted to believe him. The short version: I got sick of disliking myself.
It took time to adjust, but eventually I began to love my natural body and face. I saw myself as beautiful without needing someone else to tell me I was. I also didn’t mind the extra four hours of time and money in my pocket from skipping the salon highlights every month.
Around this time I worked at a clothing store in Beverly Hills. Each week I showed up to work with a little less makeup on than the one before. At first it was less eye makeup, then a little less foundation. Until I started coming in with nothing on my face at all. One day my boss looked at me and she said “you do not have on one stitch of makeup, do you?”. I had a brief moment where I felt naked again then touched my cheek, smiled, and said “no.” I didn’t have to convince myself of why I was doing this and I didn’t have to justify my lack of cosmetics to her. I loved my naked face.
The more I loved myself the less I wanted to consume the toxic media that made me feel bad about myself to begin with. To be clear, it isn’t like I woke up one day after seeing the Dove reverse airbrushing commercial, had an epiphany, and decided to stop buying into self-improvement industry. Nope, I went through a lot of trial and error and pain before I made the choice to stay off online shopping websites and completely give up fashion and women’s health magazines.
There are still days now when I open Instagram in the morning to post to @OneMindTherapy and somehow watch a solid five minutes of makeup tutorial videos. Most of the time I notice what I am doing, think “woah” and put my phone down. Sometimes it still sucks me in. There are days where I feel like my arms are kind of chubby or wish that my hair wasn’t so fizzy. The difference now is that those days are the exception not the norm. My baseline hovers somewhere around “yeah you rock that tie dye t-shirt.”
The Inadequacy Society
So what if there is nothing wrong with me? What if there is nothing wrong with most women or girls with eating disorders and low self-esteem? There probably isn’t. Most of the time these issues are not pathological. Instead, we get sold a load of crap from what one of my grad school professors dubbed “the inadequacy society”. When I look around now, it seems like that is what we live in. We get force fed unmeetable standards not because corporations are out to get us, but because they have a vested interest in our inadequacy. The more flaws we see, the more stuff we buy to fix them.
We don’t have to take part in the inadequacy society! If you feel like reading fashion blogs and watching makeup tutorials makes you feel like s**t about yourself, you can stop. I used to feel like I was stuck. Like I had to consume all of it because it was everywhere anyway. That isn’t true. I have the choice everytime I buy a product or engage with media to lead myself toward more suffering or more happiness.
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