Today’s post is a contribution to August McLaughlin’s Beauty of a Woman BlogFest 2013.
When I was growing up, I saw wearing makeup as a rite of passage. My mother didn’t use many cosmetics – just lipstick and face powder – so I wasn’t exposed to the finer points of its use.
When I was in 9th grade, I took my makeup compact to school. I knew that Mom wouldn’t let me pass by with full makeup on without comment. So I snuck it out, ducked into the girl’s bathroom as soon as I got to school and applied green eye shadow, red blush and lipstick. This was the first time I really applied makeup.
If a little is good, then a lot must be better, I thought.
I was heavy handed. I wasn’t sure if I was applying it correctly.
“Does this look all right?” I asked my friend.
She assured me it was fine. I believed her. I was happy. I succeeded in my rite. I was a teenager wearing makeup. I was beautiful.
I went through the whole day. When I got home, my mother looked at me.
“A little much, isn’t it?” she asked.
I shrugged. When I went to my room, I stood in front of my mirror. I was horrified. I looked like a clown. I washed off the makeup. The washcloth looked like my face had sloughed off in its folds – green eyes and red cheeks left behind on the white cloth.
The next day I went to school sans makeup, praying no one made comment. No one did.
Later I learned how to subtlety apply foundation, eye shadow and blush — blending colors to enhance my features instead of overpower them.
Sixteen years ago, after the birth of my first child, I all but stopped wearing makeup. I figured I look how I look. People who liked me would like me without makeup; people who chose to shun me because I didn’t wear makeup would never like me any way.
Don’t get me wrong – I don’t always like every aspect of my appearance. Some days I am my own worst critic, magnifying the slightest flaw. It’s hard to compare yourself to the media’s version of beauty without feeling that you fall short. But I have to remind myself that those images aren’t real. Most have been digitally altered past anything nature ever created or that is remotely healthy.
Looking back, I learned a lesson that day in 9th grade that has taken me years to internalize: Feeling beautiful is more about your perception of yourself than your actual appearance.
Look around. See the woman who has the radiant smile. The one who lights up a room. The woman who people just want to be around to share in the warmth of her spirit. I bet she learned the same lesson.
What about you?