I had been blogging for almost a year—fashion blogging, lifestyle blogging, whatever you want to call it—and I was tired. Tired of creating content and especially tired of encouraging women, myself included, to be perfect at all times.
I wanted more. I asked more questions, sought more clarity, and looked for more rawness. I wanted more me.
I analyzed everything: Why do I do what I do? Why do I think what I think? I tackled the big stuff—childhood trauma, limiting beliefs—and it came fairly easily. I could map A to B to C to D, shift the narrative, and make changes.
But as these bigger epiphanies crystallized I saw my day-to-day behaviors more clearly, and that’s where the work got harder.
One day I looked in my makeup drawer—correction: my two, full-on, giant makeup drawers—and felt disgusted.
Eight concealers. 13 highlighters. Nine foundations. Several contour kits. Endless eye-shadow palettes. The list went on and on and on.
Why the fuck did I have all this makeup?
My husband had been telling me for years that he preferred me sans makeup. He appreciated when I’d get dolled up for a night out, but he always complimented me the most when I was au natural. It frustrated me. I convinced myself he was lying; often, I would find myself annoyed that he thought I’d believe such nonsense.
Applying makeup used to be fun. I loved learning and watching YouTube makeup tutorials; something about it felt exciting, and expressive. But as I looked at my drawers filled to the brim with products and tools I realized it had stopped being fun a long time ago. It had become a necessity.
Makeup was a mask I wouldn’t leave the house without.
Rifling through my mountain of compacts and tubes, I recounted the amount of times I’d been embarrassed by someone seeing me without makeup. I’m embarrassed to say that the real embarrassment was that the list was endless.
While shedding the emotional baggage I had been lugging around for years, I realized I’d been carrying around a heavy idea about my self-worth: I was not worthy or beautiful without makeup.
I’d thought I was strong and empowered, but I’d been defined by little brushes that applied layer after layer of a facade on top of the real, raw me, the one I hadn’t yet accepted.
I needed a huge change. Products I’d once been excited to use were suddenly totems of my worthlessness. I tossed them in the trash, but I knew emptying out my makeup drawers wouldn’t get me any closer to real acceptance. My next move needed to be bold.
I wouldn’t wear makeup for 30 days. (For someone genetically prone to dark circles, 30 days without concealer couldn’t be bolder. Ask any girl with dark circles.)
It was hard.
The first week I cancelled plans, skipped meetings, and missed events. I had been operating with a mask on for my whole adult life and it felt excruciating to walk out the door without my usual layer of protection.
I became obsessed with skin care. I stumbled across a video of a French facialist who discussed her routine; I don’t know if it was her accent or the way she meticulously massaged her skin, but I was hooked. I’d never known anyone with this type of relationship with her skin.
Morning and night you are in front of your mirror, and you are pleased to take care of yourself, to caress and give love to your skin. -Isabelle Bellis
This is what I started to do. I’d lock myself in the bathroom and go through her five step routine—a lot of dabbing and caressing. Cleansing my skin felt like removing limiting beliefs around my beauty and my worth. Moisturizing felt like self-love.
I started communicating with my skin and sending it love. Lots of love. It was needed.
A few times I looked in the mirror and felt such shame for ever thinking I wasn’t worthy or beautiful that all I could do was cry. I cried a lot in the beginning.
I realized that all the years I’d hid under foundation and eyeliner I was projecting perfection to the outside world. But, really, I wasn’t okay with myself: I hadn’t accepted all of those parts of me, the vulnerable, painful, dark circle ones.
The mask I wore masked the real problem: In my deepest depths, I didn’t like me.
Sure, societal pressures didn’t help, and lifestyle blogging sure as hell didn’t encourage me to promote a healthier, rawer version of myself either. It never went unnoticed that I was overly complimented with my mask on; without it I’d get told I looked “so tired.”
But no one forced me to put on this mask. That choice came from within.
By sending my skin love, I was really sending myself love. The simple act of doing this felt vulnerable, and it allowed me to be more in touch with those other, darker parts of me. Staring in the mirror I could be with myself and acknowledge them.
When I accepted my bare face I finally accepted myself. I had listened to my own story and uncovered all the reasons I felt the need to hide in the first place. In getting to know all of me I was able to define my worth and my value. For myself.
Once I figured that out the real click happened: I felt beautiful on the inside, and I knew my place in the world. That made it a lot easier to accept the exterior. I could have gotten the advice from a book—self-acceptance comes from within—but I had to live it.
Something as simple as shedding the mask helped me get to this: I know my worth, and therefore I am a beautiful.
Since my 30-day cleanse the amount of times people have seen me without makeup tops the old list. I still wear makeup occasionally, but the difference is that I wear it when I want to and when it feels fun. Most importantly I wear it out of love for myself, not out of shame or embarrassment.
And I now always remember to compliment a woman without a mask on. It might help her accept the vulnerable parts within her, too.