by Julie Goodhart, Vermont US
Wearing – or not wearing – makeup seems like a basic part of a daily routine that doesn’t require much contemplation. At least, this was certainly true for me until recently. When I first became interested in makeup, I was about 11 years old. My family and I had moved to a new and unfamiliar place. I started at a new school and much to my surprise (and very different from the place I had grown up in), all of the girls were wearing bras padded with tissues, carrying purses, and wearing lots of makeup. At that age I still felt like a kid and didn’t understand why other girls my age were in a hurry to grow up, to be like a woman.
I didn’t initially like the thought of wearing makeup as a young girl, and may have resisted for a while. But I wanted to fit in, so I finally gave in, even though it felt false. Knowing how to apply all the different kinds of powders and creams and pencils, and what each one was for, was a mystery to me, but somehow I learned the basics and did what every other young girl was doing. At some point as a teen I came to understand that wearing makeup was a way to hide something one didn’t like about oneself. The term often used was “putting on your face”. When I first heard this, I thought it strange. Don’t I already have a face? What other face am I putting on? The answer: the face you wish you had. One that is flawless, glowing, bright, beautiful etc. etc.
As a teenager and young adult, my skin was not flawless or glowing, so I used makeup to hide blemishes and uneven skin tone, and to feel pretty. To be seen in public by anyone without makeup would have been completely mortifying, and would just not do! Every single morning, no matter what, I completed the same routine of concealer, foundation, eye shadow, eye liner, blush, and lip gloss (or lipstick when I was older). I had a huge array of powders, blushes, creams, eye shadows, etc., and would always be on the lookout for the next latest and greatest.
When I was in my late 20’s, my partner and I moved to another new place, and here it was ‘normal’ to wear no or very little makeup at all. Over time I could feel how I had been using makeup to cover up my natural beauty, and felt somehow that makeup itself was a problem; that this was possibly harming, a sign of ‘vanity’, and that I could only be a ‘true woman’ when I was comfortable being seen with no decoration. It felt very liberating to clean out my makeup bin and throw most of it away. I stopped wearing much of anything on my face except a little powder and some blush in the winter and lip balm to keep my lips from getting dry. And this has been true for many years… until recently.
I still do not have flawless skin, and it was bothering me that here I am, a woman in my 40s – with blemishes. When I would look in the mirror without any makeup, I could hear negative self-talk running through my head about looking ‘unattractive’ and ‘tired’. But as I’ve recently started to feel more love and appreciation for myself, I’ve been able to look in the mirror and today see a lovely face looking back at me! And I see brightness in my eyes, smoothness in my skin. I see how beautiful the arches of my brows are and how long and dark my eyelashes are too. I see smooth, pink lips and a cute upturned nose…
And then I felt how delightful it would be to add some colour to my eyelids to enhance my pretty brown eyes. How lovely it would be to experiment again with blush, lip color, eye liner. So, recently I went to the makeup aisle of the store and took my time looking at each item and feeling what would be right for me. I chose things that would be appreciative or honouring of the beauty that I can feel I am on the inside that’s now being reflected in my face on the outside. I looked at colours, ingredients / formulas and makeup styles. I asked myself things like – would an eye liner pencil feel gentle and loving on my lids or would that feel too harsh against my skin? And would a cream or powder feel better, etc.
When I came home with my new purchases, I gently washed my skin, and started applying my new makeup, slowly, tenderly, lovingly. It was the middle of the afternoon and I had nowhere to go, no-one who I wanted to impress. I was doing it just for me. Not to put on ‘my face’, or a ‘new face’. Not to hide any flaws… It felt so amazing to use makeup simply as a celebration of the beautiful woman that I am. And it felt like a huge weight was lifted from me – this ‘program’ of hiding and covering my previously thought ‘flawed’ self that had been running in the background, and for so many years, finally stopped playing out.
I know that, and as with everything else I do, that I have a choice here – I can wear makeup to hide my flaws. I can wear it to impress someone or attract attention. I can wear it to feel more confident. Or… I can put on makeup to be with me in full appreciation and love, thereby honouring the real ME – flaws and all…
I’m choosing the latter – and it feels awesome!