My Relationship with Makeup

For as long as I can remember, I have had a weird relationship with makeup. This is a post that I’ve written many times, and a subject that I talk on and off about, but I wanted to revisit it now. As someone who now wears light makeup everyday to work and has now come to view my face as looking messy and unattractive without it, I needed to revisit it – more for myself, rather than anyone else. The mindset that is starting to develop around my use of makeup today worries me, because after years of rarely using makeup as I a) couldn’t be bothered to spend so much time and money on it and b) not thinking it necessary, I’m now struggling to figure out how I feel about it all.

When I was a teenager, I had incredibly bad acne which in turn made me extremely self-conscious. Part of me thinks that a lot of my problems might have been solved if someone had shown me how to use makeup to cover up all the flaws and insecurities that branded my face. If I had known that it would only take a few dabs of concealer to cover up the worst of it, I like to think that I would have been far more confident in my day-to-day life.

The other part of me is grateful that I didn’t wear makeup, as I’m certain the reason my skin is good most days now is because I didn’t clog up my pores with foundation every day during puberty. I’m very much of the belief that makeup is yet another commodity sold by the media to women in a society where still women are made to feel that their best asset is their beauty. Businesses manipulate women into buying makeup by playing off those insecurities that are practically bred into every little girl to think that to be beautiful is what is most important.

I suppose that’s one reason that has been in the background of my thoughts toward makeup. Not wearing makeup was as much as a declaration as wearing makeup was, and by deciding for myself that I wasn’t going to wear any made me feel stronger and confident in a way that makeup didn’t. Makeup was a crutch, in my mind, and a crutch that society was telling me that I needed.

But just because I had made my mind up about this by no means meant that others had the same approach. Whilst in my head I was telling myself that makeup was a means of expression and should be optional, not mandatory, others may well have been looking at me thinking that I didn’t look polished or pretty. Or, better yet, thinking that I could be pretty if only I put some effort into it. And how damaging is that? Beauty is a standard set, one that we can never truly obtain – once you use makeup, you’re encouraged to use more and more until you leave the house wearing a different layer of skin.

Family members would tell me before interviews, all meaning well, that I should definitely wear some makeup to look more ‘professional’. They were essentially telling me that if I didn’t wear makeup, I would look like a slob. As if makeup was no longer a choice, but an expectation that I was meant to fulfil in order to get a job. And once I got the job? I felt so much pressure to keep up a good appearance that I started wearing makeup everyday, which brings me to now. Whilst I don’t wear a lot of makeup, everyday I make time to put on concealer and powder, to wear some mascara and blush to make myself look better. Whereas in my last job I rarely used makeup, not at all concerned about not wearing it, I now look at my skin and think that it doesn’t look nice without it.

This was the mindset and outlook that I was scared shitless of obtaining, like it was some sort of plague sweeping across the nation which I had somehow managed to avoid. Is it not outdated, believing that women have to wear makeup in formal situations? If you saw a man and a woman with pimples on their chins, would you only think that the woman looked bad as she wasn’t even trying to cover them in makeup? Would she look sloppy, whereas he maintained a professional appearance? Would a man be judged for having bags under his eyes?

I stand by my belief that makeup should be something for the individual, something you choose to wear to express yourself, to show off your creativity and flair. It shouldn’t be a requirement, and nobody should make you feel like it is. I shouldn’t be viewed as seeming sickly, lazy, or untidy simply because I didn’t want to spend time that morning caking my face in products for other people’s benefit.

So now I feel stuck between a rock and a hard place. Stop wearing makeup and feel insecure again, or continue wearing it saying that I personally prefer having it? It’s a statement either way, and I’m so terrified of making the wrong one. After years of feeling like not wearing makeup was part of my identity, am I now betraying my past self by caving to its appeal? Am I caving to the societal pressure and belief that makeup will make me look far better? That my own skin is just not enough?

It’s a maze I have been unable to navigate thus far. My feelings and emotions are conflicted, feeling attacked when people tell me I should wear makeup, as if they are saying I’m ugly instead. As if they’re saying that nobody would want me, be it to hire me in a job or to date me romantically, if I didn’t wear makeup. It’s a conversation and discussion that seems to have been going on for so long, that there can’t possibly be any sort of end in sight. It’s a conversation I’m sure I’ll be participating in for many more years, one where I wish I knew what the conclusion will be.

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Room for Improvement

It’s unsurprising that there a very few people who feel 100% happy with themselves – be that of their physical appearance, mental state, achievements, wealth, and more. With unfair media representations, everyone has expectations which are often unattainable. Personally, I’ve struggled with feeling happy in my own skin, as mentioned in several posts(see here and here and here), but over the past few years I’ve been able to feel more confident about my work achievements and, every now and then, I feel better about my looks.

However, there is always room for improvement – or, at least, that’s what my mind tells me. It just doesn’t matter where I get to, I’m still making comparisons with everyone I see. Why can’t I be as effortless as her why do I have acne why I am I podgy in really inconvenient places why why why. 

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It can be a pretty nasty cycle to get stuck in, looking at everyone else and wondering why they are all so much better than you in completely different ways. But I came across some inspiring quotes – probably discovered through late-night scrolling on the internet – that gave me a bit of a kick up the arse. Instead of just wallowing in self-pity, why not actually try to do something about it?

Some things have quick remedies. For example, I hated the fact that my heels were so rough with dry skin. One trip to lush to buy a foot scrub and some lotion, I had one less problem to obsess over. Earlier on in the year, I was panicking about my future, but after sending several emails and spending a couple months in sheer panic, I secured an internship.

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Now I’m onto physical appearance, and that’s a bit more tricky to deal with. I decided that I wanted to be leaner and fitter, rather than thinking about weighing less because focussing on my weight just depresses me more than anything else. For some people looking at weight helps them focus and gets them motivated, whereas for me I see that number, crawl into bed, and eat some crappy food to try and cheer myself up – which really doesn’t help the initial problem.

At the beginning of this year, I started doing yoga in an effort to do some exercise during the week and although I don’t always manage to fit it in (sometimes due to being busy, other times due to sheer laziness), it has helped me a lot. Now entering the new year, I’m debating between starting up running or joining a different sports society, so we’ll see how that goes. To try and help the rest of the ‘podgy in inconvenient places’, I’m trying to eat slightly healthier from here on out. Normally I’m not bad with what I eat, but I could probably do with eating some better, nutritious meals to help my body out.

So, yes, ‘room for improvement’ can be a bit of a risky mantra, especially as it implies that you are never perfect, but who the hell is perfect? Striving for better is hopefully going to do more good than harm, so we’ll see if this new regime manages to stick. Though I’m sure that serving of chips and mayonnaise I had yesterday doesn’t really help (it’s ok, I had a really healthy breakfast to balance it out – I mean, that’s how healthy eating works, right?).

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Pretty

I wish I was pretty. 

That was something that I used to think every day – when I looked in the mirror in the morning, if I caught my reflection in a window, when I looked at other people, and pretty much any second in between. I wish I was pretty. I wish, I wish, I wish.

Every teenager feels insecure, but a lot of them don’t have much reason to be. I was one of the unlucky ones. Puberty hit, and whilst it seemed like every other girl was moving on from training bras to ‘proper’ bras, I got acne. I wrote about this in another post, but to catch you up: I’ve had acne since I was ten, and although now my skin is a lot better, it used to be awful. I would get really big spots on my chin and my nose, thousands of tiny spots across my forehead and big globs of spots over my cheekbones. It sucked. Big time. I still remember the first time some spot treatment actually worked and my Mum ran her hand over my forehead and said ‘Oooh, smooooth’. I tried every skin cream and pill that the doctor would prescribe, but nothing really worked. My skin only really improved in my last year or so of school and now, after a year of university, I only ever get blackheads and a couple spots every now and then. Still, I can’t help but think about how I used to feel completely insecure every day, hating how I looked.

I wish I was pretty. I wish I had different skin. I wish I wasn’t ugly. 

I suppose there’s a lot that can be said about the media at this point and how it wrongly portrays teenagers – I mean, come on, the amount of films and TV shows I used to watch where everyone had model looks didn’t help. But it isn’t just the media that’s to blame.

I remember going to the cinema with a couple of friends and we were chatting before the film started. One of them had a spot on her chin – just one single spot on an otherwise unblemished face – and she was almost in tears. She went on and on about how awful she looked, and kept saying ‘Just look at it! It’s so disgusting!’. In my head I was rolling my eyes, so I finally plucked up the courage and in a completely self-deprecating/joking manner said ‘Hey, at least you don’t look like me!’. They both looked to me, and singly-spot-on-her-chin girl said ‘yeah, I guess you’re right’ and then they went on to standard girl chatter.

That was probably one of the first times that I realised that other people looked at me to reassure themselves. I mean, sure, I’d always think that I looked awful and thought everyone was judging my appearance, but it hadn’t really ever been confirmed before then. I was pretty miserable for the rest of the outing and more than likely for the rest of the month – again, I was a hormonal teenager. It really doesn’t matter when people tell you that it’s what’s on the inside that counts, because all you can think about it what’s on the outside. I wanted someone to tell me that there was a new treatment where I could get new skin or a different face or something, just anything to make me feel even just a little bit prettier. I’m also pretty sure that I believed with every inch of my being that if I was prettier, it would solve all my problems. People might like me more, I’d probably do better in school, maybe I’d get a job – all the important things for a teenager, clearly.

I’m not entirely sure where I planned to go with this blog – I suppose in typical blog fashion, I didn’t have a plan other than to vent about my problems and hope that maybe someone can relate. It would be nice, though, if looks weren’t as important as they are – although we all pretend they’re not.