6/18/17: An Obsession With Appearances

Last week, I wore yoga pants for three consecutive days. I went to bed in yoga pants and woke up to change into different yoga pants, then proceeded to go about my normal activities.

Yes, this is coming from the same girl who puts on lipstick to go hiking and styles her hair to go swimming.

I once told my mother and sister that I no longer wanted to wear makeup. I hated the way it felt against my skin, constant layers upon layers of thick foundation that was so powerful you probably couldn’t find a single pore if you were an inch from my face. I hated that I dreaded the nighttime, when I had to inevitably wipe off what remained. I always waited until I couldn’t keep my eyes open for a minute longer to wipe away the smeared mess on my face just so I wouldn’t have to look at what lied underneath for too long.

They told me to be rational. They told me putting on makeup in the morning is the same as brushing your teeth or putting on a fresh pair of socks. It what women do. It’s how we appear presentable.

But I’ll be damned if I have to spend another day avoiding the sun because it might melt the face I spent hours working on, or if I ever have to keep my friend waiting for an hour again because the jeans and tee shirt I wore to work that morning weren’t good enough for a simple lunch date.

If I am not beautiful when my face is untouched, when my outfit is not worthy of a photograph in a magazine, when my nails have no color or when they’re painted black in the summer, then I am not beautiful. That is a reality I would rather face than pretending to be pretty and living in fear that someone will find out the ugly truth.

I don’t want to be crippled by a fear that I am not pretty, because dwelling on that thought is enough to consume anybody.

Today, I put on a dress. I went to church and I dressed accordingly because I wanted to. I put on makeup and made sure my hair looked nice, and I enjoyed it. But that will not stop me from going to the beach tomorrow afternoon with my face exactly as God gave it to me and a bikini I once would have chided myself for wearing because it shows off too much of the stomach I am learning to not be ashamed of.

When I told my family that I no longer wanted to wear makeup, I could have chosen to say nothing. Any other person would have simply done it with no announcement necessary. But I was challenging them, asking them, “Am I okay without all this effort sometimes?”

Their intentions were not malicious, I know. I still hoped that they would hear what I was really asking though. Am I okay? Is it possible that the rest of the world can see this other version of me and not think anything of it? Why do I have to paint and color my face just to be deemed acceptable? 

I did it anyway. It sounds like some sort of heroic effort when I put it that way, but it wasn’t at all. It felt like walking into a fire and realizing no one was trying to burn me. I went to work without makeup and…surprise, I survived. No one treated me differently except myself. I was anxious and hid my face and went into the bathroom a hundred times to see if I could fix myself somehow. I did this solely because I expected others to see me as less of a person because all of my details weren’t perfect for once.

I scoured my purse at one point for lipstick on the first day, or any makeup at all for that matter, but when I came up short I decided I was going to somehow just let it go.

Eventually I did. Eventually I wore less makeup when I wanted to or when it was convenient/necessary. I didn’t obsess over having perfectly lined lips, instead choosing to show off the natural ones I’ve been told are too thin and pale. I didn’t panic if the skirt I planned on wearing turned out to be in the hamper, and I found something else to wear without much trouble. I no longer overdress for every minuscule event, but dress appropriately wherever I go.

And let me tell you, it feels good.

I’ve been going to bed every night without having to first plan at least two potential outfits for the following day. I don’t come home from work to change if I have to run an errand, but I’ll change quickly if I want to go to dinner. If my hair isn’t perfect, I’ll throw it in a bun or put on a hat and move on. I wake up every morning relaxed, whereas I used to wake up in a panic because the outfit I planned on wearing wasn’t good enough. I wasn’t good enough.

But I can’t stand when people have a lot of hang-ups. It’s a hassle for everyone and it’s flat out annoying. This is coming from the former queen of hang-ups, but believe it or not I used to consider myself relaxed, free-spirited, and easy-going. Those things live inside me, they haven’t gone anywhere, and the irony of simultaneously having anxiety isn’t going to push them away.

I want to live and do things without knowing the exact outcome or exactly how to plan for them. So it may seem like a ridiculously small task to wear less makeup or stop obsessing over clothes, but I thought I was nothing without those things. I would have panic attacks over hating every outfit I put on or if I smeared my eyeliner. I still look at other girls and immediately feel insecure because dammit why can’t I just look like them? But I catch myself now. I haven’t gotten to a point where I can say I believe I am just as good-looking because I would be lying, but I catch myself and that is a much better place to be than not even realizing what I was doing.

No one wants to be controlled, and that’s exactly how I was living. Letting go of my obsession with appearances was the first, and possibly the biggest, obstacle I had to face.

Maybe I am seen as less beautiful or even less of a person when I don’t put in a ridiculous amount of effort. Obviously. Maybe I should try harder because I’m not naturally pretty. But truth be told, I don’t care anymore. I’m worn out. I would rather live without fear, anxiety, and so many hang-ups over something as insignificant as beauty. Sure, the attention to and passion for beauty is wonderful, but it can be addictive. It can take over your life. It can change you. And all I want is to not care so much.

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