Being Kind to Your Body: Part 3
This is part three of a three-part monthly series on body image. (In case you missed them, you can get part one from January or part two from February.) It's easy to start the new year thinking that this will be the year when you'll lose the weight and stop eating junk food and start working out more. But if we don't first learn how to love and accept our bodies, no amount of fitness or dieting is going to change the shame and pressure we feel inside. It might provide temporary relief, but the insecure matters of the heart will still exist. So, let's talk about it.
I had terrible cystic acne in high school that covered my face and my back. It was so bad that children, in their sweet and innocent bluntness, would point it out with comments like, “Angie, what’s wrong with your face?”
I was so embarrassed and ashamed of my face that I tried anything. But the money spent and countless trips to doctors, dermatologists, chiropractors, etc. all came up empty. My face was still just as angry red, scarred, and bumpy. I wanted to hide, but I couldn't quite find a safe enough place.
Soon the shame I felt and comments that people meant in humor drove me to the makeup aisle. There, with a bit of babysitting money, I stocked up on foundation, eyeshadow, mascara, blush and more. Every morning, I put on two kinds of foundation—liquid followed by powder (just to make sure)—and slowly the comments subsided. I felt a bit safer and a bit more protected from the stares and taunts.
Without makeup, I truly felt ugly; I could barely look at myself in the mirror. With makeup, I didn’t feel any kind of beautiful, just a little less ugly. I quickly became dependent on it and refused to leave the house without it.
When I started college, that bag of cheap, drugstore makeup followed me there and everywhere throughout that tiny little campus. Even if I only had to leave my little dorm room to get dinner or walk across the street to work out, makeup had to be applied first.
The thought of someone catching me without it scared me half to death.
Much to my terror, there was a day each year where girls on campus committed to going without makeup for the day as a part of a month-long empowerment series. During that month of attending talks, being affirmed in my value and beauty as a woman, and given space to share my fears, I realized for the first time how much my perception of beauty was not only built around but dependent upon makeup. And for the first time, I also realized that it might be unhealthy.
During that time, I read a powerful article that outlined ways to know when a dependence on makeup has become unhealthy. One of the key indicators is if you're unable to leave the house without it, even if only to run a small errand. My heart stopped. That’s me.
So at the end of freshman year, as I was packing up my boxes to move back home for the summer, I decided the makeup wasn’t coming along. Terrified and unsure, I stood over a trash can, dumped it all in, and committed to not wearing any makeup for the entire summer.
That small action changed my entire worldview on beauty.
That summer was one of the times I feel most free, most like myself. And along the way, I began educating myself on healthy ways of taking care of my skin rather than plugging its pores with cheap foundation. I committed myself to patience as I gave my skin and heart time to heal and refresh itself.
Since that summer over five years ago, my makeup bag, if you can call it that, has consisted of a single bottle of mascara and the occasional lipsticks—items that are rarely touched unless I remember them for a date night, a wedding, or a night out with girlfriends.
For the sake of clarity, I want you to know that I don’t think makeup is bad or that no one should use makeup. For me, it was an unhealthy dependence upon it that made it evil for me. It kept me from truly loving myself and celebrating my individuality because I was disguising myself in an attempt to be normal and fit in.
But these changes of mine mean that I now often stand out like a sore thumb next to people who are all “did” up, and in some circles, it’s considered unprofessional not to wear makeup. I’ve even had that said to me before. In moments like these, I can feel the pressure building, pressure that says I need makeup and a fully made-up face in order to fit in, to measure up. But a deep breath later, I remind myself that I know enough now to know those are just cheap lies that society tells women and that women tell each other. Oftentimes we whisper it to ourselves more than anyone else does.
This journey toward reconciling with my natural face and recognizing beauty in its nakedness hasn't always been easy. But I know if I give in to that pressure, it’ll land me right back in that insecure teenage skin where, after a few days, I won’t even be able to walk my dog without a full face of makeup.
And I never want to live with that frightening hold of perfection addiction again. The truth is, makeup won't make me any more secure in my beauty if I can't first be secure without it.
So now I simply want to be comfortable in my own skin. I want to believe that I am enough without painting over my flaws. In fact, I want to celebrate my flaws and scars and imperfections because they are a part of who I am.
And I want the same for you too. Without realizing it, we often depend upon crutches when it comes to our body image and our self-perception of beauty. We think that if we can just be _____ enough, then we’ll be accepted, we’ll be loved, we’ll be satisfied with ourselves. Whether those crutches be designer labels, rigorous exercise programs, beauty treatments, hairstyles, botox, diet trends, makeup, etc., they keep us from believing the wonderful truth that we’re beautiful without the shimmer, tucks, and tags.
And friend, no one will believe that truth about you until you believe it first.
Summer is just around the corner. What do you think about taking a three-month break from that crutch that’s holding you back from a healthy body image?
In your corner,