If you had asked me ten years ago how I would describe my makeup look, the answer would have been “understated.” Like every other aspect of my life, the only goal I had with makeup was to blend in. Even now, I loathe being the center of attention — but that doesn’t stop me from rocking a bold lip or exaggerated winged liner.
So what changed?
I owe the shift in my makeup game to my job — or rather, the stress inherent to my job. You see, I am one of the 73% of American workers who regularly experiences psychological symptoms caused by stress at work. I have generalized anxiety disorder, and stress only exacerbates the condition. Though I am taking medication, seeing a therapist, and working with my managers to alleviate some of the pressure, it’s still there, and it requires me to find creative ways to relax.
One thing my therapist recommended was practicing mindfulness. Mindfulness is the process of focusing your awareness on the present moment and allowing thoughts to come and go without judging or dwelling upon them. My favorite time to be mindful is when I’m applying my makeup — I focus on the feel of the brush on my face, the smell of the powder, the sound of the spring on my eyelash curler, the taste of the hairspray that I inevitably get in my mouth (lol).
I spend roughly two hours putting on my makeup and doing my hair, and I make sure that time is spent turning my attention inward and relaxing. Thanks to this strict practice, even on the days I’m agitated, I instantly feel a sense of peace once I park myself in front of my vanity.
Anyone starting their love affair with makeup today is blessed with the wealth of informative tutorials that exist on YouTube. As a child of the 90s, I was essentially left to my own devices. From the ages of 14 to 20, my makeup was an absolute nightmare. My foundation never matched, I wore more eyeliner than Alice Cooper, and the lip gloss — dear god, there was so much lip gloss.
Once I hit my 20s, I started toning it down. I wore (mismatched) foundation, some mascara, and if I was feeling fancy, nude lipstick. Gradually, as I neared my 30s, I started branching out. I decided to experiment a bit with eyeshadow and eyeliner. I added blush to my routine. But that lipstick never varied — always nude.
It was a single Ulta catalog that spurred the colorization of my cosmetics collection. Casually flipping through one day, I came across a page that announced berry hues were the new “it look” for lips. I stared at the array of berry colored lipsticks they offered and was completely dazzled. But of course, that lovely little inner voice piped up, “You could never pull that off. You’re too pale. You’d look ridiculous.”
A few weeks later I found myself in an Ulta store, staring once again at those gorgeous berry lipsticks. I decided to take the plunge, and bought NYX High Voltage Lipstick in “Wine & Dine.” It took me longer than I’d like to admit to actually wear it outside of the house — and once I did, I felt like everyone was staring at me. I was certain I’d made a huge mistake.
But then the compliments started rolling in. Every time I donned that damn berry-colored lipstick, someone, somewhere, would tell me how much they loved it.
It finally clicked — I could wear anything I wanted, and as long as I liked it and wore it with confidence, I could “pull it off.” My lipstick collection rapidly grew from one nude shade to 40 bold and bright hues. Once I realized I had nothing to fear, I amplified my eyeshadow game as well, and then my eyeliner, and then my eyebrows. And once highlighter hit the scene, well, there’s not a day that passes that I’m not glowing like a freaking Christmas tree.
Makeup brought about confidence I never knew I had. When I hear naysayers complaining that people wear “too much” makeup, I simply shrug my shoulders. Makeup isn’t for anyone but the person wearing it — everyone else can keep their opinions to themselves.
One thing I’ve always struggled with is how pale I am. I was once in a bridal party where a fellow (and freshly tanned) bridesmaid remarked that she couldn’t stand next to me at the ceremony because I was practically clear. The fact that we were wearing black dresses didn’t help me out any.
That’s me on the right — as you can see, I’m very pale.
As a teenager, I caved under the pressure to tan — something I desperately wish I could go back and undo, because…you know, skin cancer. However, now that I’m older, my love of makeup has encouraged me to embrace my Casper-esque skin tone. Though it’s incredibly difficult to find foundation that matches, my skin works as a fantastic palette for brightly colored lipsticks and eyeshadows.
While I still joke about my lack of pigment, I now accept my skin for what it is — it doesn’t need to be tan to be beautiful. I also love my hooded eyes that I used to hate. And my freckles. And my thick eyebrows. I love my face for all of its imperfections, because that’s what makes me…me.
More than anything, I want all people to feel this way. I want them to see their skin tone, eye shape, noses, lips, freckles, and moles as uniquely beautiful. I want them to stop trying to cram themselves into the narrow, media based ideal of what constitutes beauty. Variety truly is the spice of life — and a world where everyone looked the same would be boring as hell.
Makeup has done so much for me. It brings me much needed calm in the chaos of life. It gives me confidence to walk with my head held high. It encourages me to love myself, flaws and all. It even strengthens my friendships! In my spare time, I run a blog with two friends where we discuss our love for makeup and toss out a few reviews for good measure. There are few things in life that bring me joy like makeup, and I can’t wait to see where it takes me in the future!
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Photo: Pixabay, Liz Greene