About six months ago, I participated in No Makeup Week. So did many of you–you wrote blog posts, you shared nakedfaced photos on Facebook, we talked on Twitter, and it was awesome. I’m writing this today because a lot has changed in those six months, and some of it stems directly from my participation in No Makeup Week. I’d like to share what’s happened for me and I hope that you’ll do the same.
One of the things I mentioned (briefly) in my Pretty is as pretty does post was that in addition to examining my attitudes around makeup, I was also examining my other ornamental crutches. My results were as follows:
- I don’t like my hair in its natural state (wavy).
- I am compelled to have my nails done AT ALL TIMES.
- I feel like I’m missing a limb when I don’t have a certain ring on.
- I feel uncomfortable in clothing that fits because I am uncomfortable in my body.
None of these things are good. I realised this after running through Times Square to get to Sephora, because I could not live ONE MORE DAY without nail polish. Yeah, yikes. So I decided right there that I was going to fix these mind glitches, that I was no longer going to rely on anything external to feel okay.
Challenge 1: Hair.
BEFORE. If my hair was ever worn down, it was straightened within an inch of its life. That, however, was a big “if.” Most of the time I wore my hair pulled back in a messy topknot which, if dudes are to be believed, was basically weaponised boner repellent.
I didn’t like anything about wearing my hair wavy–didn’t like how it felt, didn’t like how it looked, nothing.
AFTER: I wore it down six out of the seven days of NMW and didn’t straighten it once (though I had my straightener with me, just in case). It drove me bazonkers. Maybe you can tell?
And then…I just didn’t start up again. I realised that my problem, aesthetically, with my natural hair was that I wasn’t used to seeing it. Once I had a better haircut and got used to it, I liked it. As for the topknot…well…that’s still in play, but FAR less than before. Usually when I’m out of the house, my hair is down. Major victory. It’s still really annoying sometimes, but my hair and I have finally reached an accord.
Challenge 2: Nails.
BEFORE: My nails were fragile. They split and peel all the time, and because of that I’ve never been able to grow them. I also used to bite them down to the quick, which was why I started to paint them in the first place. It became a habit. Then it became a compulsion. I remember being an hour late to meet a friend because I couldn’t leave my house until I’d painted my nails. During NMW, I tried to go without nailpolish. As you might have guessed from the story at the top of the hour, it was not a success.
AFTER: The major change is that I’ve worked superhard to get my nails strong and healthy, and they’ve gotten really long. Behold!
Now I don’t HAVE to paint them so that they don’t break; I paint them because I love the way they look and I’m proud of them. They’re strong, they’re perfectly shaped, and I do a mean manicure. This week, they’re almost the exact colour as my bedroom walls–Essie, Mint Candy Apple.
Yeah, that was weird. Anyway, although my nails are still rarely undone, I CAN leave the house without nail polish. I still prefer them done, but it’s way less of a compulsion than it was before. I think it’s because my nails are so much stronger now, I don’t have a logical reason to worry about painting them all the time which goes a long way.
Challenge 3: Ring.
BEFORE: I’ve worn this ring since I was eight and it felt like part of my body. I can count the number of times I’ve had it off on one hand, and each time I genuinely felt like I might die. This ring had become an honest-to-goodness security blanket, and it was time to stop.
AFTER: It took three full weeks to feel okay without my signet ring on, and even thinking about it now makes me feel crawly and uncomfortable. I was nervous and irritable, I rubbed the space where it used to be on my finger until it was raw, I had to physically stop myself from running across the room and grabbing it. It was horrible.
But it’s off now, and I keep it on a necklace that my friend made for me. The vague plan is to keep it and, if I have a daughter, give it to her someday. I hope that she loves it as much as I did (maybe not quite as much, actually). I still think about finding another ring to wear on that finger, but I can’t decide between a few family heirlooms. That’s a story for another time, though.
Challenge 3: Clothes.
(Pictures redacted as I don’t like them)
BEFORE: Saggy baggy everything. If I ever wore anything in my size, I felt like a butternut pumpkin squished into a condom. That’s ridiculous, but it’s also totally true, and it’s a gross feeling. The problem wasn’t the clothes, of course, it was the way that I felt about my body. I realised that I hid behind ill-fitting clothing in the same way that I hid behind makeup, and when I got home from New York, I decided the time had come to take drastic measures.
AFTER: Everything that I own fits me. I donated the stuff I didn’t want and altered the things that I couldn’t part with, then refreshed my entire wardrobe with things that flatter my body, not hide it.
I can’t talk about clothes without talking about body image, and I can’t talk about my body image without talking about how I improved it. The short version of the story is that I started running. And I kept running, even though it was hard and I hated it for a long time. Over the last six months I’ve gone from being winded after eight minutes to running for seventy minutes at a time and feeling great. It stopped me from focusing solely on what my body looked like and made me pay attention to what it can do. I’d be lying, though, if I said that all of this didn’t benefit my vanity as well. My body has changed for the better; I have muscle tone, my proportions are different, and I like it. Because this has been the product of so much hard work, I feel really good about showing it off. More short-shorts in 2011!
As for makeup–yes, the original point of No Makeup Week–I hardly wear it anymore. Gone are the days of perfect eyeliner to go to the post office; now I slap some lip gloss on and leave the house. My skin has never looked better, and because of this I like to keep it naked. I feel happier and more relaxed now that the burden of MUST LOOK PERFECT! has been lifted.
Truth be told, this change probably would have happened eventually, even without No Makeup Week. But it would have taken a very long time because I like to do things WHEN I’M READY AND NOT A MOMENT SOONER. What I found most beneficial about NMW was that it gave me the push to do something which kind of scared me: go out and face the world as I really was, not as I wanted to be. Once I saw that I could do that without strangers throwing rotten fruit at me, I did it more and more. And now here I am.
Once upon a time, the thought of posting ONE makeup free photo on Facebook was enough to send me screaming into the night. Now? My last two profile pictures have been barefaced, and I think I look pretty. I look like me.
I like that very much.