I am not the ideal customer for the cosmetics industry.
I rarely wear make up. I pretty much limit it to formal events and sometimes Easter or Christmas mass. My make up bag is super tiny with eyeshadow I’ve probably had for 6 years (probably unsanitary actually).
I love not wearing make up!!
But this wasn’t always the case. In high school, I wore it everyday and was terrified to walk in without it on! One morning at home, I realized I had left my make up bag in my locker. 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 me bare faced!
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 cheek. 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! I wanted to be like her. I wanted to be that girl that everyone agreed was so naturally beautiful that she didn’t need make up.
So that became my goal.
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, giving me some pretty dramatic bloody noses and leaving my face flaky. My acne actually got worse before it got better.
By the end of the 5 months, my skin was really clear. 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. So I decided to try this “makeup free” thing.
Let me tell you, the immediate benefit is that it saves you time (and money in the long run). I was NOT a morning person in the least so I embraced anything to cut back on the time it took to get ready.
When I started doing this, some people would ask if I was really tired (because those dark circles under my eyes were no longer concealed)! But I knew it was because they weren’t used to seeing me without make up.
About a year later, 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 I didn’t wear make up. 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 about Accutane. Up to that point, I’d kept as a secret to anyone outside my family.
I felt embarrassed that I had been on it for a couple reasons. For one, I felt vain for putting such a premium on my looks. Secondly, I felt like a fraud, as if this skin wasn’t really mine and was just a result of some magical pill.
But the thing is, everyone can relate to feeling embarassed – whether its because of acne or something else.
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 (which I didn’t like about myself) and my own insecurity, I was losing out on the opportunity to let others accept those very things in themselves!
I don’t think we should intentionally hide our wounds from those who are close to us or those we want to grow close 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, why not sure with your friends, “Look, I’m feeling really insecure about my weight right now. I see other girls and compare myself.”
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, I almost felt guilty for thinking, “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!
But 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!
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! Next week — the double edged sword of beauty.