The first thing I do in the morning is to look in the mirror. I’m curious to see how much prep work I’ll have to do today before I can leave the house. Ugh! It feels like these bags under my eyes have a personal vendetta against me. They literally will not let me be great. And that’s not to mention all these dark spots I have all over my face from acne. No matter how much I moisturize and exfoliate, they’re right there every morning like “We ain’t... go-ing no-where! “(P. Diddy voice). But I guess the most frustrating thing about my face in the morning is the peach fuzz I notice above my lip. I mean, a girl can only pluck so much until it’s just time to buy a lawnmower ... So basically, these are things I simply HAVE to attend to. I don’t want people to get so distracted by my scars that instead of focusing on what I’m saying, they stare blankly at my forehead and then ask me to repeat myself. So instead, I spend at least two hours every morning doing ritual after ritual to make myself feel more presentable to the outside world. I feel the need to remain palatable in order to avoid rejection or people talking about me behind my back. Sure I wish I could spend time in the morning doing yoga, or cooking a nice breakfast, but those things won’t make me feel immediately more confident when I go outside. Those things also can’t help me at that time of the day when I begin to wonder if anyone else is noticing my flaws, or if my disguise is actually working. So every morning, I look in the mirror and begin to physically alter what I see, until I realize that I’m running late for work again. But all in the name of beauty... so...it’s fine.
It has long been understood and accepted that the first thing people notice about a person upon meeting them is their physical appearance. We also know that first impressions are everything and that people often make snap judgments about others based on those initial observations. For this reason, we find it important to be conscientious about how we look, and how we are perceived by others. We strive to present ourselves in a way that makes us feel confident yet palatable. In addition, taking care of one's physical appearance may even be classified as an act of self-love. At the same time, internal conflict may arise when the concern for our physical appearance is derived from the desire to meet the perceived expectations of others. This type of concern can often lead to neglect in other areas of our lives such as our mental, spiritual and emotional wellbeing.
Photographer: Jenny Desrosiers
As a society, we care a lot about what other people think of us. We buy cars we can't afford to impress people we don't like. We buy memberships to the gym just to say we have one, and we buy all types of products from companies that promise to make us more beautiful and attractive. On the surface, it's easy to view our eagerness to blend in as being a byproduct of socialization. However, when taking a closer look at this matter, one could argue that our ultimate motivation, when it comes to our appearance, is not to "fit in" but rather to avoid the rejection that may come from standing out.
When I first moved to Los Angeles in 2017, I remember becoming extremely self-conscious about my skin. Every day, I would be the only woman in my office without makeup on, and over time I began to notice more and more imperfections when I looked in the mirror. Although these "flaws" had been there my whole life and had never bothered me before, I became hypersensitive to them as I began to compare myself to the women who came to work with a fully beat face Monday through Friday. Furthermore, I began to wonder if this whole time people were noticing my imperfections as well and if they were making judgments about me based on them. In order to alleviate these feelings, I decided to start wearing makeup. The first day I wore it, I remember a few people complimenting me on how I looked by asking me where I was going after work and inquiring about "who I was trying to look cute for". This positive reinforcement encouraged me to wear makeup even more often. I felt free. I had finally found a way to camouflage my flaws, and could now focus on other things. And then it happened... I woke up late one day and didn't have time to put on makeup. I remember people coming up to me asking if I was okay, and telling me that I should get some rest because I looked "super tired". I was heartbroken. I hadn't done anything differently that day besides not putting on makeup. To me, this had just confirmed my worst fears. They COULD notice my flaws, and it DID affect the way people interacted with me. At that point, I felt like I would have to wear makeup every single day in order to avoid these unpleasant interactions.
After work, I returned home to cry and reflect on what had happened. That night, I came to some conclusions that would stay with me forever. First, I realized that I wasn't wearing makeup for the "right reasons". I had to accept that I was not in fact "wearing it for myself" like I often told people, because on the days I didn't leave the house, I also didn't apply makeup. I wasn't wearing it because I enjoyed doing it, or because it was an outlet for me to be creative. I was wearing it solely to disguise what I considered to be my flaws. I felt that if I wore makeup, it would make me overall more approachable, and more likely to attract the right people. Second, I realized that the real issue was never about makeup, but more so about my own lack of self-esteem. I was disappointed in myself for getting to a place where I would even consider comparing myself to the people around me. I let my assumptions about what other people wanted me to look like cloud my judgment. Who told me I needed to wear makeup to be beautiful? Who told me that that's what the people around me expected of me? I did. I told myself all of these things, and I paid for these lies with my sanity. What disappointed me the most was realizing that I had begun to neglect the activities that kept me feeling beautiful internally, in exchange for activities centered around my physical appearance. I exchanged prayer time for youtube tutorials on contour, meal prep time for practicing my cat-eye, and journaling time for redoing my eyeshadow over and over again. I knew that the intense sadness I felt, caused by this lack of balance, could only be remedied if I approached things in a different way moving forward. It was time to make some decisions.
From that night on, I decided to prioritize my perception of myself over what I assumed others were thinking about me. I also decided that things in my life didn't have to be one way or the other. It was possible to put effort into my outward appearance without compromising my internal wellbeing. I also decided that, moving forward, I would only wear makeup on special occasions, or for creative projects because that's what made me personally feel most confident. To this day, I feel most fierce when I can walk into a room eyebags saggin', mustache flourishing, pimples gleaming, and STILL captivate the entire space with my beauty, personality, and intellect. And to be clear, this does not mean that people who wear makeup regularly cannot do the same, but instead, it points to the fact that each individual should do whatever makes them feel most confident, safe, and fulfilled. Instead of being preoccupied with hiding my imperfections, I decided to focus on identifying what I found most beautiful about myself. In doing so, I was able to attract an amazing tribe of people who also recognized that beauty, regardless of my perceived flaws.
When we strive to improve ourselves internally as well as externally, we become one step closer to operating as our highest-selves To do this, it is necessary to engage in regular activities geared towards development and balance in each specific area of our lives. It may also prove helpful to conduct frequent self-check-ins in order to ensure that we are experiencing our desired equilibrium within. If we are not, it is important that we have an idea of which thoughts and activities can bring us back to our center when our insecurities arise. If nothing else, remember that you are beautiful. You are capable, and you are loved.
Hasta La Victoria Siempre,