Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, minimalist beauty was a foreign concept to me. Like many other women in my life, I regularly did whatever it took to “upkeep” my appearance. I would get manicures and pedicures, go to the salon to color my hair, and purchase every product imaginable to tame my curls. I bought new clothes to keep up with trends and hoarded expensive makeup and skincare products. I thought I needed to partake in these rituals to feel beautiful and to fit into our image-obsessed society.
All of this was in an effort to appear a certain way to others, as though having the right clothes or hairstyle would give off the impression that I had my life together. I thought I would be better liked and respected with the trendiest clothes, manicured nails, carefully applied makeup, and perfectly tame hair. In my mind, my natural beauty wasn’t enough—I felt that I needed to enhance my appearance and hide my imperfections, and that consumerism was the only way to do so.
Then, in March of 2020, we got news of a stay-at-home order in my state in response to the rapidly spreading virus. With nowhere to go and no one to impress, my normal routine became obsolete. At the time, it felt like a temporary opportunity to save time and money by not going to the salon or buying new beauty products. But over time, living without these things showed me that none of them were ever really as important as I had built them up to be. I realized that putting so much focus on how others perceived me was not adding any value to my life. In fact, it had left me feeling unworthy, uncomfortable in my own skin, and tired from trying so hard to turn myself into something I was not. I put so much energy into trying to appear how I thought others wanted me to appear that my energy for the things that really mattered to me was depleted.
One of the biggest challenges in embracing minimalist beauty is ignoring all of the ads and influencers on social media telling us that we must try this life-changing new beauty tool or trend. It has become nearly impossible to escape the marketing message that we need to buy something in order to be beautiful. In quarantine, this messaging started to lose its hold on me. I thought to myself, I don’t need to buy a $40 foundation now because I’m at home and no one can see me, so what was motivating me to buy products like this before? I felt perfectly comfortable looking in the mirror at a makeup-free face each day as long as I knew no one would see me that way. I had to face the fact that my habits had centered entirely around a fear of what others might think. I did not want to live that way anymore.
Months of staying home and seeing very few people helped to shift my priorities. Being unable to go out and have new experiences taught me just how much the freedom to explore and try new things meant to me, and how little surface-level details like whether I had a few grays in my hair meant. By not feeling the nagging impulse to buy something new to boost my appearance on a daily basis, I saw how quickly I was able to save the money I would have otherwise spent on superficial items. The savings could then be used toward experiences that would enhance my life on a deeper, more meaningful level.
Most businesses around me have reopened, but I refuse to fall back into my old ways. I no longer frequent salons or shops lined with brightly colored cosmetics. My nails go bare, I am wearing the same clothes I wore last summer, and I’ve learned to leave the house makeup-free. If I do wear makeup, I wear products that highlight, not hide, my natural appearance.
It’s not that I’ll never treat myself to a new outfit or a day of pampering ever again, but I’m more focused now on consuming and partaking in only what makes me feel good for my own benefit. I now gravitate toward products and services that are affordable, practical, and that fit into a minimalist routine. My concept of what it means to feel beautiful has changed: I feel good about myself when I know I am being physically active, eating well, and nurturing my mental health.
We have been told many times that beauty shines from the inside out, but internalizing that truth can be difficult when the opposite message is pushed on us day in and day out by people trying to sell us a manufactured concept of beauty. It took extraordinary circumstances to open my eyes—even though life is returning to “normal” as we are now able to leave our houses, see people, and resume our old routines, my sense of normal has been forever changed. It should not be the norm for us to feel that we must live up to other people’s beauty standards. Our feelings of worth and acceptance should come from within, and the only standards we should aspire to live up to are the standards we set for ourselves, for what brings us peace, joy, and fulfillment.
Also by Anna: How Reiki Healed My Physical And Emotional Pain
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Photos: The Creative Exchange via Unsplash, Omid Armin via Unsplash, Fuu J via Unsplash