What I Learned When I Stopped Wearing Makeup

"You Don't Have to Be Pretty. You don't owe prettiness to anyone. Not to your boyfriend/spouse/partner, not to your co-workers, especially not to random men on the street. You don't owe it to your mother, you don't owe it to your children, you don't owe it to civilization in general. Prettiness is not a rent you pay for occupying a space marked 'female.'"- Erin McKean (wrongly attributed to Diana Vreeland)

It happens to most women who become mothers. We forge a new relationship with our physicality. We don't apply makeup or style our hair or accessorize for at least for a few months, maybe a year, maybe longer, maybe forever.

I still wear makeup now and again. I still like how it makes my features pop. Makeup is art. But do we need makeup as much as we are conditioned to believe we need it?

The less I wear makeup, the less I wear makeup. The less I wear it, the more comfortable I feel without it. And most notably, the less I wear it, the less beautiful I feel when I do wear it.

I used to think I needed makeup to fix parts of me. In middle school, my best friend and I were quite concerned with being beautiful. We loved spending hours together getting ready for special events, from Bar Mitzvahs to birthday parties, doing and redoing our hair, doing and redoing our eyeliner until it was "perfect." When we had nothing left to do, we would ask one another, "what can I fix?"

We grew up watching movies like Clueless and Beauty and the Beast and television programs like Saved By The Bell and 90210, and reading books like the Sweet Valley High series. Stories in which the heroines were valued for their beauty and agreeable disposition. For many years, I believed I had to be pretty to be valuable and valued. Sometimes, I believed I could be pretty if I tried hard enough. Sometimes, I didn't.

Implicit in the application of make up is the belief that a woman's face is flawed and/or needs to be "flawless." When we wear makeup daily, we learn to see our made up face as the "right" face. We stop seeing the beauty in our natural features. We invest time, money and thought into fixing ourselves under the erroneous belief that beauty can be achieved by the right product and method.

I did not notice the shape of my eyes until I stopped masking them with eyeliner. I did not see clarity in my skin until I let it breathe. I did not know the perfection of my God-given colors until I stopped dying my hair blonde (it's true) and saturating every inch of my skin with self-tanner. And when I stopped wearing makeup, I started believing that I could be beautiful. Not conditionally beautiful, but unconditionally beautiful. 

I would like to encourage my fellow women to take a step back from the allure of cosmetics. I challenge you to run around a few blocks or pump some iron or take a dance class, and look in the mirror at your naked face. I would like you to see the real color in your cheeks, the unmasked sparkle in your eyes. I would like you to see all that goodness you stir up just by using your body. It's inside of you. It has been there all along.

We already know where real beauty comes from. Sometimes we have to turn inside out to find it, sometimes we have to become vulnerable to show it, but it's always in there. Because it cannot be bought, it cannot be stolen. And because it is limitless, it will not run out. Your beauty is real, and it is power, and it has nothing to do with being pretty.

This is day 15 of 30 consecutive days of blogging. I’m glad you’re along for the ride. If you liked this post, please share using the buttons below. If you have something to add, feel free to comment openly or anonymously.

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I Am Not My Body

Women are trained to see their bodies with a critical eye. They see their friends and their mothers and their friends' mothers and even their grandmothers do it. They see it in the magazine headlines that promise "quick fixes" and a "better bootie" and "flatter abs" and "toned thighs." They see it in the reality television shows that push people to exercise until they vomit or the beauty pageants that parade women around in a bikini for a prize. In these instances, the body ceases to be a vehicle for living and experiencing and loving, but rather something that requires a full-time job to maintain. I have succumbed to the pressures. I have weighed and dieted and binged and ran and pinched and obsessed and hated my body. I have shed tears over stubborn flesh. Finally, I have come to realize that these nonsensical beauty standards do not serve me. The less I focus on my body's appearance, the more I love it.

In my twenties, I slowly learned how to take good care of my body. I was not always kind to it, but for the most part, I exercised in healthy amounts and I ate fresh vegetables and fruits and I allowed my body time to repair. I rooted into the earth in a profound way as I experienced the miracle of feeling a child grow inside of me. I released residual guilt for consuming animal products. Instead, I gave gratitude to the animals for their lives and their sacrifice so that I may be nourished with adequate levels of protein and iron, both of which I was deficient in while avoiding animal products.

And of course, I finally eschewed my old friend, the scale.

Now, at age 30, I have reached a new frontier with my body. Recently I saw a photo of myself, and my ego self, who would have once criticized the beautiful curve of my hip, fell into the shadow of my true self who saw a happy healthy woman, well-fed and strong, using her body to hike with her family and carry her children and commune with the California redwoods.

When I saw the picture and I heard the angel and the devil juxtaposed on my shoulders, I received a third distinct message: you are not your body. It was not a passing experimental thought, but a truth I knew in the center of my belly. Peace overcame me. For a brief moment, my own image became unfamiliar. If I am not my body, then what am I?

I am a being of light. I am vibrating matter. I am an expression of source. I am that which beats my heart and opens my eyes, but I am not my heart nor my eyes. I am not my body. I am the spirit that encompasses my body.

I will not attach my worth to its shape. I will not feel entitled to disparage it. I will not deprive it from what it wants. I will not stuff it nor poison it nor neglect it.

I am not my body, but my body is me. My body is here for me to live in and because I love to live, I love my body. So I will treat my body like I treat anything I love. With care, devotion and gratitude.

This is day 8 of 30 consecutive days of blogging. I’m glad you’re along for the ride. If you liked this post, please share using the buttons below. If you have something to add, feel free to comment openly or anonymously.

To read more of my thoughts on motherhood, mindfulness and the creative life, please follow the blog or subscribe via feedburner.

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