Body Image

Noncompetive Beauty: Why I Quit Makeup


A woman began to look at herself in a new way one day, and wrote about it, not unlike what I am about to do. She describes a realization she had about herself – specifically about her face – while looking in a mirror late one night.

 What I loved most about this face, and the beauty that I found in this face, was that this beauty said absolutely nothing about other peoples’ beauty. It didn’t scream out, “I am more attractive than her!” It didn’t croon, “this is one bang-able badass face.” It didn’t murmur, “hot damn, shackalacka bing-bong-boom, genetic lottery: success!”…In that moment, it became so abundantly clear to me that beauty has nothing to do with the components of one’s face. Rather, it has everything to do with how one wears their face—and that if you wear your face with love, you are the most scintillating, magical creature the earth has ever seen.

I didn’t leave the house without makeup for eight years. Then I quit.

Why? Well, it wasn’t because I decide wearing makeup was “whorish,” or because I got lazy. It wasn’t that I decided I was upholding the patriarchy by playing my gender role, and somehow conforming to the notion beauty is a woman’s most valuable asset, either.

I just did it because I realized that I liked my face (see Exhibit 1 at right).maddy

Now, you might think such a mentality is super cliché, like that “Loving yourself is true beauty!” BS you read in Cosmo next to an ad for Super-Mega-Plush-Rocketship-Flamed-Out Mascara by Maybelline. But I made the decision to take that basic idea to heart.

I quit makeup for four months, to be specific. I didn’t stop taking care of myself – I still kept up my personal hygiene routine. I just ditched the foundation, powder, blush, eyeliner, mascara, brow pencil, and lipstick.

When I realized that I liked my face, it just meant I should stop meddling with it so much.

That is what I did, and things went pretty well. Hardly anything changed, except for the fact that I got an extra hour of my life back per day.

Before, I wore makeup because I defined myself according to a certain standard of beauty, which I attempted to embody even though I wasn’t particularly attached to it. I kept trying to be that person because that is what every other girl did and that’s what I thought we were all supposed to do.

How silly is that idea? The world would be so homogenous, so drab and boring if we all embodied that image of “ideal woman” or “ideal man,” whatever we defined that as.

Did I really want to spend my so-called “best years” in college striving to get to that 8 out of 10 on the Hotness Scale, all the time believing I was a 4 or whatever, and hating myself for it? Definitely not. I refuse to be defined by a number, whether it is on a scale, a BMI ratio, a dress size, or a calculation of how symmetrical my features are.

Now I’ll wear makeup, dress up, and put special effort into my appearance when I feel like it, but I don’t feel like it all the time, and that is OK. There are times when in order to “look appropriate” for some event, I feel the need to dress up. But this doesn’t change the fact that I can see that standards, numbers, measurements, and comparisons are not really a thing. By this, I mean that they only have as much power over me as I allow.

Ask yourself, if scales didn’t exist, how would you define yourself differently? Yes, numbers have repercussions, but you are not required to base your internal, personal sense of self-worth on an external, quantitative evaluation.

It isn’t easy to opt out of the destructive mental process of judging based on numbers and comparisons. It’s difficult because that is the narrative we hear over and over again, whether it’s from the media, our friends, or even our family. But in the end, it is all about what makes your life better. I like myself a lot better since I started to stop reducing myself to a number or convincing myself that I was this, because someone else was that.

If you want to change things up a bit in your own life, try using the method of evaluation which is kindest to yourself. You are the person who has to live with you forever, so why not treat yourself with the love, respect, and forgiveness you would afford to your closest friend? For me, this perspective is much healthier and more satisfying than the alternative.

What are your thoughts on the matter? How have you struggled with your own self image over the years? Are there any changes in perspective which really helped you appreciate your own you-ness?

For further reading on the subject:

Lindy West article on Jezebel


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