On letting go so I can make room for something else.


New to this series?  Please check out The Naked Face Project website, my introduction to TNFP, and Week 1 to get a complete understanding of the intention behind the Project.  Other bloggers and readers are joining the project, too.  Check out our Gallery of Naked Faces


Before we get into the ‘heavy’ part of the post, let me sum up my superficial reactions to eight days without makeup, shaving, or primping:


  • Going from regularly wearing a full face of makeup to nothing is strange.  For the first few days, I would look at myself in the mirror and think something was off – like I was wearing my shirt inside-out.  But the strangeness wore off, and now I realize that my naked face is just… me.
  • My naked face feels fantastic. The skin is ridiculously soft and smooth. 
  • I never realized how nice it would be to be able to always wipe my eyes and not have to worry about smearing mascara.
  • I’ve gotten several “you look tired!” remarks but a few “your skin is glowing!” comments, too. 
  • Fun fact:  Your body hair grows much, much faster during pregnancy.  I have learned this the hard way.  Smile


This week, I wanted to discuss the concept of something that I’ve observed in my own life and am going to call the Self-Esteem Evolution.


A few people have commented, “Aren’t you the editor of Operation Beautiful?  Haven’t you written several books on self-esteem and happiness? Shouldn’t you have already figured out how and why you engage in certain beauty habits?  You shouldn’t be using these things as a crutch to feel more confident.”  These comments really gave me pause.  At first, I thought, “These people are right! I should’ve already figured this all out.  I should already know my intention behind my beauty habits.” Other women have remarked that they do certain beauty habits because they are ‘fun,’ but I’ve never felt like this.  I primp because I subconsciously feel like I’m required to as a woman (more on that in Week 1).


I suspect that, in general, women put a lot of pressure on themselves to be perfect (I’m sure many men do this, too).  It’s the classic Superwoman Syndrome – we must be awesome workers, lovers, moms, friends, daughters, sisters, volunteers, cooks, and have a slammin’ body to boot.  I have a strong memory of telling my best friend in middle school that my greatest fear in life was being mediocre.  Seriously – what 12 year old says that?  I’ll tell you what kind of 12 year old says that – a girl that’s been led to believe from a variety of sources that perfection is the ultimate goal and everything else is just a wash. 


My knee-jerk reaction to feeling like I should have ‘figured this all out’ was to feel, well, less than perfect.  Like I had somehow failed as a strong woman.  Like it wasn’t okay to admit that I didn’t have it all figured out and that it was bad or wrong for me to publicly say, “You know what? My self-esteem isn’t perfect.”


I’ve been thinking a lot this week about how, for me, self-esteem is not static.  To a great extent, it is dynamic.  True self-esteem, of course, shouldn’t fluctuate wildly from day-to-day and doesn’t require constant external validation.  What I mean is that self-esteem evolves throughout your life because you aren’t the same person year-to-year.  Life changes so quickly.  For me, I’ve been on quite a rollercoaster for the last three years.  I got married, I quit my job, we started a business, I moved to another state, and I got pregnant.  Before I knew it, my old definition of self-esteem didn’t fit me anymore.  It still worked, but it wasn’t quite right.  I am a different person today than I was in 2009.  I have questions about life that I didn’t even care to ask back then.


It’s especially interesting for me because so much of my current sense of identity currently revolves around my body.  I am pregnant.  I am responsible for birthing my son or daughter.  On a larger scale, I realize that this fact is totally mundane – I was born, you were born, many of us will become parents one way or another – but for me, this period in my life is mind-blowing.  There is so much going on in my head and my heart.  Going through The Naked Face Project while pregnant with my first child really forces me to think about my body is a new way.  On the surface, it may seem like pregnancy, child birth, and parenting have little to do with the intention behind my beauty choices, but for me, it does.  It’s like I have to temporarily give something up to let something else in.  I have to give my mind space to breathe. I have to push back against what I found comfortable in order to redefine myself.


I’m currently reading Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth, and one passage in particular really stuck out to me.  There’s a chapter about how a woman’s emotional state can stall or accelerate labor.  Ina May writes, “Remember this, for it is as true as true gets:  Your body is not a lemon.  You are not a machine.  The Creator is not a careless mechanic.  Human female bodies have the same potential to give birth as well as aardvarks, lions, rhinoceros, elephants, moose, and water buffalo.  Even if it has not been your habit throughout your life, I recommend that you learn to think positively about your body.”  I stared at those sentences for a good fifteen minutes, trying to figure out exactly what she meant.  I’ve felt pretty positive about my body physically for a long time.  It’s not perfect, but it lets me do awesome things like run, hug, swim, and dance.  But I believe that Ina May is talking about the spirit-body connection, and on some level, I think I was missing that from my life before.


I am not even sure I’m effectively putting the way I feel into words, but I can sum it up like this:  It’s okay to admit that I need to work on myself.  My self-esteem is evolving; I’m at a different stage in my life.  It’s silly for me to think that I’ll ever be done working on myself.  And maybe I could’ve ‘let something else in’ by doing other things – volunteering, yoga, meditation, writing in a journal, backpacking through Europe. But right here, right now, with The Naked Face Project, I feel like I’m on the right path.  And it may not be perfect, but to me, it’s perfectly satisfying.


Have you ever gone through a Self-Esteem Evolution?  What triggered it?  Did you have to add something to your life or remove something to reach that deeper understanding?


For more The Naked Face Project, be sure to check out Molly Barker’s musings.



  • Li February 9, 2012, 3:34 pm

    You’re inspiring 🙂

  • Bethany B February 9, 2012, 3:37 pm

    Absolutely stunning!

  • Angela @ Eat Spin Run Repeat February 9, 2012, 3:37 pm

    Wow Caitlin, what a beautiful post. I know this is going to sound like I’m someone who thinks I have to wear makeup on a regular basis, but I absolutely LOVE the feeling of coming home at the end of the day and washing it all off, or being at home on weekends and having makeup-free (or I suppose I should call them Naked Face) days. I went through a bit of a self esteem revolution back when I was getting myself back to my healthy weight, which was 70lbs lighter than where I used to be. I went from feeling insecure and self-conscious to confident, positive, and wanting to share my success with others. I guess that’s why I’m so excited about the health coaching course that I’m doing now. Ideally, I plan to help other women struggling with weight and/or self confidence issues because I am so thankful to those that helped me. 🙂

    • CaitlinHTP February 9, 2012, 3:38 pm

      health coaching sounds like an awesome career path. what do you exactly envision doing? meeting with people face to face?

      thank you!

    • Jo Anna Leuck February 9, 2012, 9:29 pm

      This really spoke to me. I am also going through an evolution of losing 100 pounds. All of the sudden I care about my appearance and clothes when I didn’t before, but then I feel shallow, as outward things don’t usually hold value for me.

      • JenATX February 19, 2012, 12:08 am

        Jo Anna, that is an interesting way to put things. I bet it feels awesome to lose 100 pounds, but I bet it means you have to reevaluate how you feel about everything else.

        I just love this post. It sums about how I’ve been feeling for a long time. I’m not perfect and I don’t have to be. I know that but its still hard to remember it every day you know?

  • LizW February 9, 2012, 3:41 pm

    I love your freckles 🙂
    I’m so proud of you and the others participating – what a great experience!

  • Julie February 9, 2012, 3:42 pm

    Wow, that quote is deep by Ina May. Love this line the most: The Creator is not a careless mechanic… So interesting to think about. Great post 🙂

  • Dana @ the Big Fat Skinny February 9, 2012, 3:42 pm

    Wow, Caitlin, I am more and more inspired by TNFP each time I read something new. Kudos to all those participating along side you. I think its a wonderful thing, I really do.

    I agree 100% — we as a people are constantly evolving – learning, succeeding, failing, winning, losing, etc. All of that affects our self-esteem – our current take on our self worth. I think major life changes like moving, giving birth, becomming a parent, changing careers – can all affect our self esteem, and cause us to reevaluate. I think it says a lot about a person to take notes on what we’re feeling day to day, week to week, or month to month about ourselves. It’s enlightening, and I think that it will cause us to become more in touch with ourselves, our needs, and therefore the needs of those around us. Building stronger, smarter, BETTER people.

  • Danielle February 9, 2012, 3:46 pm

    Um, can I just tell you how much I LOVE this post! You are amazing!

    I completely agree that our self esteem is dynamic and largely depends on “where we are” at any given time. In fact, just last week I was telling my husband that I was confused and didn’t even know how to live my life anymore after giving birth to our daughter eight weeks ago. I was really struggling. I had this new body (which had new stretch marks, some loose skin, and a c-section scar), this new life as a mommy, this new occupation as a temporary stay-at-home-mommy, and this new sleeping pattern and I just felt lost. Especially when I looked at him and saw how his life seemed to have remained relatively unchanged, which is totally not the case and he’s an amazing father and husband!

    After that mini-break down I feel much better and have made some changes in my daily routine to feel more like myself again. Will I ever be the person that I was before motherhood? No. I don’t want to be. I love my daughter and she is truly the most amazing thing to ever happen to me – she makes me want to be the best person that I can. But is that change hard? Yes! And that’s okay. Bring on the growth! 🙂

    Anyways, sorry to ramble on in this comment but it felt good to get that out!

    • Caitlin February 9, 2012, 6:48 pm

      I really appreciated reading this comment, as a soon to be mommy!

  • Wani February 9, 2012, 3:48 pm

    What a great post! We’re all a work in progress! Thanks for sharing!

  • Bethany O February 9, 2012, 3:49 pm

    I think you look gorgeous without makeup! I rarely wear anything on my face besides lotion and occasionally eye liner and mascara. I think you just look fab the way you are! No need for any of that other stuff 🙂

  • Jen February 9, 2012, 3:52 pm

    Your are beautiful, anyway you look at it.

    (I rarely wear makeup. Even though I am nowhere near perfect, I am who I am.)

  • Jana @ Newly Wife Healthy Life February 9, 2012, 3:58 pm

    This is such an awesome project! I would love to have the courage and confidence to participate. It definitely is hard to stop once you start wearing make up because you see yourself in one way with it and one way without it. Almost a dual personality do to speak!

  • Anna February 9, 2012, 3:58 pm

    I attended a lecture last night with Christina Sell about Making Peace with Your Body and it really got me thinking about how I treat my body both physically and emotionally. Being comfortable in my own skin is such a process but one that is so important to continually strive for. Your comment “I’m afraid to be mediocre” really resonates with me on what fuels me self-consciousness.
    I think the biggest ‘self-esteem evolution’ I’ve had was senior year in high school when I decided to stop caring what others thought and just ‘be myself’ and got a huge positive response from it. Like I said though, its still a work in process 🙂 I appreciate posts like this that remind me to love myself.

    • Sneakers2Sandals February 9, 2012, 4:42 pm

      I totally agree – I used to wear makeup to high school everyday, when I got to college it was less, and now i hardly ever wear makeup (and when I do I can’t wait to scrub it off!). I sort of like it because when I do, it’s a way to make myself more dressed up and fancier than usual.

  • Maura February 9, 2012, 3:59 pm

    This is beautiful.

    Something that turned around my self-esteem was listening to my Mom. She has always believed I am amazing and capable of anything. One day, I woke up and finally chose to believe she was right. Moms know best, after all 🙂

  • Erin @ Bishella February 9, 2012, 3:59 pm

    Thank You Caitlin. I hope one day I can be like you. A “me” version of course, but you are such a big inspiration to me. 🙂

    • Caitlin February 9, 2012, 6:47 pm

      Thank you so much Erin for such a nice comment.

  • Renee February 9, 2012, 4:03 pm

    I love the idea of evolving self-esteem, and, of course, admitting that you don’t know everything (and that you’re not going to figure it out overnight)!

    I don’t want to become ridiculously esoteric, but I hope that you and Molly will visit this from beyond a personal experiment perspective and see where it fits into a simplified schematic of gender performativity (Judith Butler, Gender Trouble, 1990) and ask yourselves if you’re intentionally or unintentionally performing your gender differently in other ways now that you’ve given up these rituals that we/you/society so associate with femininity. (Gender is an iterative act and you’re purposefully removing the grammar and syntax that you’ve previously been beholden to.) And much more than comments people are making or how you feel, are people actively treating you differently now that you’ve stepped out of your previously established performance?

    (It’s of special interest, I’d think, because you’re both quite literally performing the removal for an audience.)

    • CaitlinHTP February 9, 2012, 7:16 pm

      This is really interesting! Have you read the book?

  • Fan! February 9, 2012, 4:06 pm

    I’m a huge fan of your blog AND this project but your accompanying images seemed a little contradictory to the message.

    Why the black and white shot? Why only show a portion of your face?

    Why not just show your full face in colour as it looks day to day (sans make-up and primping)?

    • Caitlin February 9, 2012, 6:47 pm

      Thanks for reading!!

      I was just being artistic with the shots 🙂 No subtle messaging!

      • Fan! February 10, 2012, 8:45 am

        Cool! Thanks for the reply!

  • Army Amy* February 9, 2012, 4:06 pm

    My husband’s deployment has triggered a self esteem evolution for me. It’s amazing how different I feel going from having my husband around to give me daily compliments and keep me company to attending events solo, heading off to work without someone telling me I look nice. I’ve thrown myself into running and gained a different kind of confidence from those achivements.*

  • Nicole M. February 9, 2012, 4:08 pm

    I’ve read your blog since 2009 and it’s actually one of the few I read anymore. The fact that you are so open and honest with your readers is what I love. Some women sadly never step back and look at themselves the way you or I do but I believe it’s an important way to grow emotionally and spiritually. And there’s no better time to really step back and re-focus your mindset than when you are about to become a mother. Even if you have washboard abs after carrying a child, if you don’t know yourself on the inside and understand how and why you do the things you do, you’ll never be secure in your new role. And every woman deserves to love herself! It’s the best thing we can do for those around us but especially our children!

    • Caitlin February 9, 2012, 6:46 pm

      Thank you for reading all this time!

  • Lori Lynn February 9, 2012, 4:17 pm

    I have had life-long acne and rosacea, so I seem to rely pretty heavily on make-up. I’ve always been extremely self-conscious about my skin and my face.

  • Madison @ Espresso and Cream February 9, 2012, 4:18 pm

    At the beginning of this year, I took a really good, hard look at the way I was talking about and treating my body. Sure, I spent a lot of time exercising and eating healthy, but I wasn’t able to enjoy the fruits of those labors because I was so entrenched in the horrible habit of ‘fat talk’ that women so often do. I really felt that it was important to spread the ‘no fat talk’ message and commit to it myself. Each Tuesday on my blog I’ve declared it ‘No Fat Talk Tuesday’ and women of all walks have signed up to share their story of body acceptance. It’s been so cool to read their stories and connect with other women as we all try to give ourselves a little more love.

  • Erin February 9, 2012, 4:20 pm

    I used to be extremely self conscious and had horrible self esteem. To the point where I was always worried my boyfriend would leave me and actually checked his phone and email to see if he was cheating on me. I was a mess. I was a jealous, insecure and un-trusting woman. I didn’t think I was valuable and loveable and special. I didn’t love the way I looked, or the way I felt, or the way I thought. My mind, body and spirit felt foreign and I was in a constant battle with myself, which I must say is exhausting.

    At some point I realized that I was tired of trying to be perfect, of trying to change myself. I realized I wanted to embrace myself and love myself for who I was, not who I wanted to be.

    So I went to therapy and talked out my feelings and then I worked on changing the way I thought and the way I felt. I started working out to FEEL GOOD not to look good. I began eating better so that I would feel healthy and strong not to see a certain number on the scale. And I began to value my true self and let that person come out.

    Over the last few years I have gradually peeled off the layers and let myself shine and I’ve never felt better.

    Thank you Caitlin for always being such an inspiration, which doesn’t mean you have to be perfect or strong all the time. We love and admire YOU for who you are.

    • Caitlin February 9, 2012, 6:46 pm

      Yay therapy 😉 It’s the best. I love it when people talk about how helpful therapy is for them.

      Thank you for reading!

      • JenATX February 19, 2012, 12:10 am

        yeah therapy is the bomb. I’ve learned so much about myself!

  • Nikki T February 9, 2012, 4:21 pm

    Love the last pic of you, you look beautiful!

  • Moni'sMeals February 9, 2012, 4:31 pm

    LOVE your RAWness and you are SUUUUUUCH a BEAUTY! 🙂 I think this is so great.

  • Andrea of Care to Breed February 9, 2012, 4:32 pm

    Wait until you have the baby and the shit storm of changes that happen! I have always had a healthy dose of self esteem and never felt any pressure to be anything other than who I was at that moment. Then I had a baby. Suddenly, I doubted everything I was doing and felt enormous (self-inflicted) pressure to be the best mom, wife, and woman. It was/is scary, but at the same time has been an amazing journey and so interesting to rediscover who I am and who I want to be as a mother and example to my daughter. It’s so true that children teach you more than you teach them.

    • Caitlin February 9, 2012, 6:46 pm

      OH man, it’s going to be a roller coaster, I am sure!!!

  • Rebecca February 9, 2012, 4:34 pm

    Beautiful face & words.

  • Liz @ Tip Top Shape February 9, 2012, 4:40 pm

    I know what you mean about not needing to worry about eyeliner spreading everywhere when you rub your eyes. As someone who has itchy eye–best part of not wearing makeup!

  • Sneakers2Sandals February 9, 2012, 4:40 pm

    I feel like my life is an experiment in self esteem issues. I waver between days when I feel great and days when a little comment someone says to me pushes me into low self esteem. Isn’t that what life is like as a woman? Our hormones rage until we’re like 35 and then at some point we have menopause and it all starts again. These are the reasons why my husband says ‘it’s good to be a guy’ but I actually value those times when I feel less than stellar. It’s those times that give me COMPASSION and understanding for others. It makes me want go out of my way to compliment someone or write a post-it note on the bathroom wall 🙂

  • Sarah February 9, 2012, 4:55 pm

    I love this. You are all kinds of beautiful.

    • Caitlin February 9, 2012, 6:45 pm

      So are you!!!

  • Alex @ Alex Eats Green February 9, 2012, 5:17 pm

    So blown away by you Caitlin. I never realized how hard I was being on myself to be that “Superwoman” figure. I aim for it, because I feel like that’s what’s been engrained in me as a woman – but that’s not reality. Thank you for showing me that not only do I not have to be perfect, but that I can look beautiful while simply being myself.

  • Annette @ EnjoyYourHealthyLife February 9, 2012, 5:17 pm

    GREAT post! I love being a work in progress-in all areas. This is very eye-opening. Thank you!

  • Jennifer February 9, 2012, 5:22 pm

    This was a great post, Caitlin.

    As a 43 year old, I can absolutely say that my self esteem has fluctuated. I definitely have more self confidence in myself, in general, than I did even 5 years ago. But compared to 20 years ago – man, it’s hard to even believe how much it’s changed for the better. Sometimes I feel sad for the woman I used to be. Like how could I have placed so much emphasis on what some guy thought of me? I guess that’s where the personal growth comes in. For me, and many other people, the older I get the more accepting I am of who I am.

    Anyway, so I have much higher self confidence in general, but honestly my self confidence about my looks continues to goes up and down. I am getting older, the little lines are creeping in, how many gray hairs do I have today, what is happening down there, all those things can affect my self confidence. Some days I look in the mirror and think “I am rocking my 40’s” and other days, all I can do is look away and think “ugh”. LOL That’s part of what intrigued me so much about this project you’re doing.

    It’s not something I give a lot of thought to on a regular basis, but posts like this, comments by friends (“how do you feel about botox?”), etc. all give me pause to think about it.

    Interesting discussion. I look forward to reading all the other comments.

    • Caitlin February 9, 2012, 6:45 pm

      Sometimes I feel sad about the person I used to be too, especially when I was struggling with self-harming and depression. But I always remind myself that if I wasn’t there, I wouldn’t be here. You know?

      • Jennifer February 10, 2012, 9:24 am

        Exactly right!

  • Laura Ann February 9, 2012, 5:22 pm

    LOVE this! Beautifully written. I love the way you bring to light the things that are so socially ingrained in us. Unless I’ve missed it, you tend not to use the word feminism. My guess is b/c it can be so upsetting to people (unfortunately) and people may write you off immediately. But I’m interested in your take on the word and if you see yourself as a feminist. I do – and it’s what keeps me coming back to this blog. That, and the food. 🙂

    • Caitlin February 9, 2012, 5:26 pm

      So this comment really got me thinking. I think I hesitate to call myself a feminist on the blog because I’ve had so many people jump down my throat for doing/saying things that they believe make me a bad feminist (like using the word tit in a joke). I feel like it’s similar to the vegetarian/vegan label. If you say you are, people attack you for doing things outside of what they consider okay for a veg/vegan. I’m not sure why I feel so uncomfortable with saying I’m a feminist even though I don’t fit everyone’s definition because I certainly engaged in non-veg habits (like I’ll eat gelatin) and don’t care if people think I’m a ‘bad vegetarian.’ So, in conclusion, I guess I think of myself as feminist but I hesitate to call myself one because then I often get attacked for not being a GOOD enough one!

      I love reading about feminist issues though! If you have any good book recs, I would love to hear them. And Jezebel is my favorite website ever.

      • Jess February 9, 2012, 10:31 pm

        Caitlin, I recommend the book “The Beauty Myth” by Naomi Wolf. I read it in my formative years, and I think it definitely influenced my feminist beliefs. And it fits in well with what you’re doing with the Naked Face Project.

        • CaitlinHTP February 10, 2012, 9:28 am

          Buying today! Thanks!!!

      • Lacy February 10, 2012, 1:25 pm

        I agree that the word feminist is a loaded word, but one day while reading for one of my gender studies classes (one that really had me thinking)i said to my boyfriend ‘wow i guess i really am feminist’and his response was ‘i don’t get how you can female and not a feminist?’That really made me think, as long as are women who believe we deserve equal rights and opportunities aren’t we all feminists? I feel that many of us have shy away from calling ourselves a feminist because we are afraid of what people think of us. I grew up in an extended family of mostly girls and went to and went all girl high school so being a ‘feminist’ was just how i was raised but never really saw myself as a feminist until my boyfriend made that comment. Of course i’m a feminist, i just don’t fit the caricature the media presents of a feminist.

  • Christin February 9, 2012, 5:40 pm

    Caitlin… Wow. You’re so introspective, so honest, and such a fantastic writer. Thoughts and emotions are so complicated – especially because we often don’t articulate them to ourselves – we just experience them. You do such an amazing job at articulating that inward part of your journey and sharing that with all of us.

    • Caitlin February 9, 2012, 6:44 pm

      Thank you Christin!

  • Laura February 9, 2012, 5:57 pm

    This is interesting because as I was writing last night, I came to a somewhat ugly conclusion about myself. It’s along the same lines as your fear of being mediocre… I have an intense desire to be exceptional at something and that is why I push myself like I do. I think its because I need to prove to myself that I am exceptional – basically, I need personal bragging rights to prove my self-worth.

    I ended up not hit publish, mostly because seeing those words on the screen scared me. Is that really where I get my value?

    • Caitlin February 9, 2012, 6:44 pm

      Well, I think it’s where a lot of us get our value! I don’t think there’s anything WRONG with it intrinsically to want external validation – I guess the problem is if that is your ONLY source of validation. Does that make sense?

  • Emily February 9, 2012, 5:57 pm

    I love hearing how this project is making you feel and impacting your thoughts. I think it is amazing. I admire your honesty and bravery.

  • Sara February 9, 2012, 6:05 pm

    You know before I started running in August I had what some called perfect skin. I rarely had a blemish and I was complimented on it a lot. I also did not bother with make-up as much as most of the women around me. Mostly, because I was too lazy to be bothered by it, and because I have always put my energy into my hair.

    Within weeks of consistent running I noticed I was breaking out, which at first I chalked up to stress. Months later however, the acne is still there. It is so bad (to me) that I now feel a need to wear make-up more. At 33 adult acne was not what I wanted to deal with, especially after all the hard work I put in the past three years to change my eating habits t lose 140 lbs.

    I am insecure about my naked face at this moment in time, but not enough to stop running or to put make-up on when I go to the gym (like soooo many women here do). I am now working on accepting that at this stage of my life this is what my body is giving me, and until that changes I need to work harder to acknowledge my all-around beauty.

    I think the fact that I’ve had many years working at always working on my insides really helps me work through whatever life and my body decides to throw at me.

    • Caitlin February 9, 2012, 6:43 pm

      Hmmm I wonder what is it about running that is bringing this on? The sweat? Or the hormones? Flushing out toxins through the sweat? Have you tried drinking lots of water? I got really bad breakouts on my back when I first started to run but it was because my old sports bra was naaaasty and bacterial.

      • Sara February 9, 2012, 8:43 pm

        I’ve discussed it with my husband, and I am a very salty, heavy sweater but I’ve tried every product to control the acne and nothing is working. We discussed that it could be toxins I’m sweating out, and possibly just a hormone thing. I don’t really get acne anywhere else than my face, so I am not sure. Luckily I was fat for so long that I never relied on my looks to get through life, and before I lost the weight I learned that the outside me does not make up me. 🙂

  • Jamie @ Don't Forget the Cinnamon February 9, 2012, 6:15 pm

    What an insightful and honest post–thank you!!!
    I can definitely relate to the idea of self-esteem not being static. Mine certainly varies on a day to day basis…perhaps it has something to with hormones? Who knows…

    But, I think I went through a major self-esteem evolution last year when I started treating myself with respect–eating healthy, hitting the gym, and getting enough sleep. I didn’t have unhealthy habits before then (with the exception of sleep) but my habits weren’t what they are now. For me, it had nothing to do with the physical effects of a healthy lifestyle (fewer illnesses, more muscle definition, etc). It was just knowing that I was treating the only body I’m going to get kindly.

    • Caitlin February 9, 2012, 6:42 pm

      I love the idea of treating yourself with respect… sooooo important.

  • Jen February 9, 2012, 6:36 pm

    Self-esteem is definitely a process of evolution and growth; I think it’s totally a positive thing that you’re continuing to discover your self. The self is a complex thing that’s always changing.

    The biggest change in my self-esteem came through creative writing. I had a difficult transition into college due to my dad getting seriously ill right before I left for my freshman year, but then I took a creative nonfiction class and started to work through a lot of my feelings about that frightening incident of him having a major GI bleed, but also my feelings about mortality and growing up. It struck me that I have a voice and a story and it’s entirely up to me how I want to write it. Writing about my experiences and thinking about my life as a narrative made me more willing to open up to others and branch out and start having fun. I rediscovered humor by writing, and embraced my quirks as I developed a narrative voice. No surprise, I’m writing my Masters thesis on authorship and performance!

    • Caitlin February 9, 2012, 6:41 pm

      Oh man, feelings of mortality are definitely coming up for me. Very complex.

      GL on your masters!

      • Jen February 9, 2012, 9:31 pm


        Mortality is a really difficult, complex issue, for sure, one that I periodically revisit and radically question my approach to, again and again.

  • Cara @ I Don't Believe in Diets February 9, 2012, 6:38 pm

    This was a great post. I love to go “naked faced” on the weekends when I am at home. The husband prefers me without make up, and it really is nice not having to use eye makeup remover every night!

  • Nikki February 9, 2012, 6:38 pm

    Since beginning the naked face project, the only times you’ve posted photos of yourself are you pregnancy recaps (and also old photos and an out-of-focus shot of your shoes). I think it’s a little bit of a mixed message to stop wearing makeup but also start hiding yourself!

    • Caitlin February 9, 2012, 6:40 pm

      I’ve only been naked facing a week 🙂 And I rarely post pictures of myself on my blog unless it’s for an event or something. No one around me can use my SLR no matter how much I try to teach the hubbers. 🙂

  • Steph @ A Life without Ice Cream February 9, 2012, 6:40 pm

    Such an inspiring post!

    I had a self-esteem “ah ha” moment a few months back. I’ve lost a considerable amount of weight. But, like many women, I still tend to focus on the things I still want to change and can be hard on myself.

    A close friend of mine has also dropped a few sizes and I am currently wearing her old size (12). She brought me some clothes she couldn’t wear anymore, they fit and looked great.

    That’s when it hit me. I look in the mirror and think about what I need to lose / change etc. When she was at her biggest I always thought she looked beautiful and never would have thought the things about her that I think about me. It actually really changed my attitude toward myself!

    If I wouldn’t think it about a friend, I don’t think it about me!

  • Natalie @fitjamericangirl February 9, 2012, 7:12 pm

    Those are some great photos you took of yourself there. You’re going to want to frame those later I bet. You look so natural and fresh.

  • Jolene (www.everydayfoodie.ca) February 9, 2012, 7:31 pm

    The older I get the higher my self esteem gets … I assume it is similar for most.

    • faith February 9, 2012, 8:11 pm

      Agreed and it’s awesome. 🙂

      • Jennifer February 10, 2012, 9:44 am

        I agree. I have friends/family in their 50’s & 60’s that say each decade just gets better for them in terms of how they feel about themselves and the quality of their lives. It makes feel not so scared to get older.

  • zoe (and the beatles) February 9, 2012, 8:17 pm

    rubbing my eyes freely is my most favorite part about foregoing make up! it’s why i kept on not wearing anything hah. really lovely last photo there.

    also, yes. i love thinking of the body as “not a lemon”. and not a machine! we carry so much more than cells and bones and organs — women carry LIFE!

  • Lauren February 9, 2012, 8:20 pm

    You’re amazing lady!

  • jenny February 9, 2012, 8:22 pm

    I think what Ina May is trying to say is that our bodies are fully capable of birthing a human baby without intervention. God did create animals with special birthing abilities that we don’t have. Many women go into child birth believing that their bodies can’t do it without the help of interventions, drugs, epidurals, iv’s, heart monitors, etc. It is this thinking that slows the natural birthing process down and makes us require or need interventions. Women need to have confidence in their bodies and realize that it is capable of birthing a baby naturally. As a mother who has given birth 3 times without even a tylenol or one stitch, I can say our bodies are definitely capable. (I realize that there are always exceptions and each mother has to do what is best for their baby…sometimes that means a C-section.)

    • jenny February 9, 2012, 8:24 pm

      God didn’t*

  • Nicole @ Geek Turned Athlete February 9, 2012, 8:34 pm

    It’s funny that some of your readers are so judgmental about the fact that YOU should have figured this whole self-esteem thing out. NO ONE does. If they claim to have figured out, they are lying or delusional. Self esteem fluctuates like you said. The older you get, the higher it should get but there are still peaks and valleys associated with it.

    I experienced this first hand when we moved back to the states. I was so happy in Germany. I had my friends, my school, my triathlon training, my husband. I was really confident in my athletic abilities, social skills, etc. When we got to Washington, I was thrown into a completely different environment. Self-esteem took a dive. I really was having a hard time with all the change for the first 6 months. Plus, it is hard to make friends with people who have had the same friends for 20 years already. After a while, I got more comfortable with my surroundings, making friends, etc. I have recently befriended another military wife in the same position I was in a year and a half ago. It is my job to remind her that she is a confident woman now!

    I know it will be this way with every military move we make, but hopefully with each move, I will gain more confidence with starting over!

    Sorry for the novel, this post just really hit home to me!! I love what you are doing, Caitlin! Keep up the good work. 😉

  • Lissa February 9, 2012, 9:33 pm

    Beautiful, beautiful photos and beautiful post, Caitlin. This post really resonated and I do think self-esteem is a work in progress and something that ebbs and flows. For me, pregnancy was the epitome of my self-esteem journey. I don’t know why, but I’ve never been as at peace with my body as I was when I was pregnant. I want to be a positive role model for my daughter (now 13 mths) and I really hope I can keep this level of self-esteem up. My body is not the thinnest it ever was, or the most toned, but for the first time in my life, my sense of self and self worth is NOT tied to my body. It’s more tied to being a good mom, a good wife, a good daughter, and a good friend.

  • Kristin February 9, 2012, 9:40 pm


    Above is a link to a picture that is very fitting for the Naked Face Project. I think you’ll like it-just copy and paste 🙂

    I think what you are doing is totally awesome. I wish I had the guts to go through with it. The time I would save in the morning!

    Question: Do you sleep later now that you don’t have to groom as much or do you get up at the same time?

  • Katie February 9, 2012, 9:48 pm

    I LOVE this. You go, girl! 🙂

  • Ari @ Ari's Menu February 9, 2012, 9:52 pm

    I feel like if any of us ever think we’re “finished” growing and figuring out our self esteem/image/worth/etc, then we have more work to do than anyone. We are human beings, not pottery or construction. There is no finished products. For you to bravely share your journey to discovering your self esteem in a new way is inspiring. I’ve read your blog for a while, but I have really especially loved it lately!

  • anon February 9, 2012, 9:54 pm

    It seems like this has already been a great project for you, especially with your honest self-reflection. Initially, my reaction was that the project is somewhat superficial; kindof the flip side of trying to cover up insecurities with makeup. Rather, going naked as a superficial way of doing important internal work. It seems to be more than superficial, though. Nice job with the post; I look forward to your ongoing experiences.

  • Elizabeth February 9, 2012, 10:23 pm

    Hi! I hardly ever post comments, but I’m a longtime reader and I’ve always been inspired by you & love reading your blog 😀 I thought about not wearing makeup earlier in the day when you originally posted the Naked Face Project! I mostly considered it because putting all those chemicals daily on my face just seems like a bad idea. However, I am VERY insecure and still in college (and about to study abroad and meet new people!) so I was hesitant to try this. I only wore mascara and eyeliner, but when you posted this project, I realized the reason behind it was because I felt I needed it to look pretty enough to be valued and noticed by other people. Knowing that you are doing it too has helped me to actually stop wearing makeup, and I thank you for it because I think I can finally raise my self-esteem and hopefully truly become comfortable with myself. 🙂

  • Sandy February 9, 2012, 10:33 pm

    It’s God girl. Through creating a new being your self, you are encountering the Creater of all beings. Feels pretty rad, huh?

  • Jen February 9, 2012, 10:59 pm

    Very honest post.

    I can only imagine the changes that you are dealing with (and I don’t mean physically – but also emotionally, mentally and life-wise) in preparing for this new chapter in your life.

    Although, yes, people do give birth everyday (to me it’s still a miracle and amazing how women just DO this regularly!) – regardless, you have every right to be worried, joyous, questioning stuff, etc.

    I would highly encourage you to seek the help of a confidant or even a counselor or therapist during this time. I say this only because my sister felt very similarly and very overwhelmed with her first pregnancy – her whole life was going to change (albeit her life is very different than yours in that you work from home/with family, independently, etc.). For her, it was a huge life change than just doing what she wanted when she wanted. Change is very, very hard. And scary. It’s also part of life though. Funny how even as “grown-ups” we still have so much ‘growing up’ to do at every age.

  • Renee February 9, 2012, 11:01 pm

    You are so beautiful!! Adore that last pic!:)

  • Jen February 10, 2012, 12:01 am

    Two things: 1) You look fantastic! and 2) I don’t think that you EVER have to worry about being mediocre.

  • Rebecca February 10, 2012, 12:59 am

    A friend of mine complained about makeup running one time and my comment was: “So don’t wear it.” Not so easy for some. For someone who’s worn makeup less than half a dozen times in her life (and been uncomfortable every time), it’s relatively easy. I’m not the most confident person, but I’m working on accepting myself as I am, without all the extra stuff. “Joy is the best makeup.”

    Have you seen those commercials that show women on scales and the scales read words instead of numbers? I love that. I can’t remember what the company is right now, but the idea is awesome. Someone should do that kind of thing for natural beauty with mirrors or photographs of naked faces…
    I’d love to be able to get onto the gallery of faces, but my school is blocking the site on suspicion of porn, probably because the word “naked” is included. Lame.

  • Pamela | Girl Gone West February 10, 2012, 1:10 am

    You say such beautiful things, Caitlin. It’s why I come back day after day.

    I think your mind is going to continue to be blown throughout the rest of your pregnancy. Having never been pregnant before, I can’t speak to this personally, but I’ve watched women around me develop an otherworldly awe for the raw nature that is gestation. I’m so interested (and grateful) you would include us in this intimate journey.

  • Céline February 10, 2012, 2:09 am

    Thank you for sharing Caitlin 🙂

    I’m in my early thirties and sometimes I get really frustrated that I don’t have my life more “figured out” or “put together” – I feel like I’m an adult and I should have things under control.

    But then I think of my mom… She’s 63 years old and she is still learning, growing and discovering new things (about herself, about the world)and her life is so rich and interesting – She is amazing. I’m very lucky to have her as a role model; she’s much more inspiring than some people who think they have it all figured out.

    It’s so easy to be hard on yourself and beat yourself up about not being perfect… so thanks for reminding me to be kind to myself, Caitlin.

    We are beautiful and perfect just the way we are.

  • Claire February 10, 2012, 4:12 am

    As a mother of 3 and a 33 year old who grew up in a house where I was told if I wanted makeup, go buy it, I give makeup about a 30 second consideration every two days. I buy it, I wear it. Am I defined by my lip color? I hope not. Ask me to name that lip color? I probably would struggle. Am I glad it exists? Sure.

    Honestly, when life is full, kids need you and you consider yourself a pretty buff old lady 😉 you couldn’t care about coloring in your face. when I see people obsessing over looks and grooming (emphasis on obsess, being presentable is a reasonable thing!) it speaks volumes about the need to pursue other interests.
    Humanity baffles me at times. So much beauty in the world and yet people beat themselves up over the most insignificant things. There is room for all of us, face full of makeup all not. You are not your grooming habits, ladies. Your headstone will not read like a roll call of beauty products. Relax

  • Sarah February 10, 2012, 5:01 am

    I absolutely love this post.

    So many things to think about and say.

    Firstly, I absolutely agree with self-esteem being an evolutionary process. I guess like most things in life, nothing stagnant.

    As a child I always used to say that I just wanted to be exceptional at one thing, I just want something to make me stand out.

    Anyway, here are just some of my ideas:

    Maybe there should be a distinction between confidence and self-esteem (if I can just borrow the terminology if I’m not using the terms correctly). Maybe we can have a background confidence that is more innate and get us through our day-to-day lives but self-esteem is something on top that is more vulnerable to changes and, like you said, does evolve. For example, an anorexic may have zero confidence but some self-esteem based in the fact that she’s not eating and is pursuing thinness. (Sorry, that’s probs a bit of a controversial example).

    My self-esteem changed massively when I decided to go back to university to study to be a nurse. When I was younger people used to say to me that I’m great with people, or i’m “a people-person”. But I rebelled against this, and didn’t want it to be where my strengths were. I was more concerned with being a high-achiever academically. When i did decide to pursue becoming a registered nurse it challenged my self-esteem massively. But now that I’m doing something that I love, that suits my strengths and where I get to meet such amazing people my self-esteem has changed and improved. I guess this process was my giving up & letting in in order to evolve. I do think that recognising, accepting and using your strengths is a big factor in improving one’s self-esteem.

    I think I’ll end my comment there!

    PS I don’t understand why people expect you to have everything perfectly figured out just because of the books you’ve written. You’re human after all! Sorry, people can be hard work 😛

    • Caitlin February 10, 2012, 4:01 pm

      I love this comment Sarah!

  • Kathryn February 10, 2012, 5:46 am

    I think that the pictures of your naked face and the other naked faces you have linked to in your post are some of the most genuinely beautiful pictures of women I have seen in a long time.

  • Sharon February 10, 2012, 6:24 am

    I would love to go just one day without make up but i just couldnt!so its great that some women do!I do use as many cosmetics with out harmful chemicals in (vegan) as possible as i do think it is important to look after your skin as much as possible!

  • Angie Bowen February 10, 2012, 6:50 am

    Hey Caitlin, as an avid British reader of your blog, thought let you know that a big morning tv show in the UK is doing a competition called ‘naked’ asking viewers to send in photos of themelves completely naked of make up, focusing on natural beauty. Seems its spreading over the pond too;) x


  • Brittnie (A Joy Renewed) February 10, 2012, 6:50 am

    Inspiring post! I went through a lot of personal reflection on self esteem while recovering from my ED. To me self esteem is a multitude of things wrapped into one – spiritual, physical, personal, inter-relational, etc. I agree with you that self esteem evolves over time depending on life stages! Great post!

  • jassy @ Healthy Egg February 10, 2012, 6:52 am

    there’s always room for improvement for all of us especially now that you’re now a mother 🙂

  • Nena February 10, 2012, 8:20 am

    Love this post! Well said.

  • Carolina John February 10, 2012, 8:52 am

    Do whatever it takes. Love it!

  • Chriseda February 10, 2012, 8:57 am

    Thank you for this. Thank you for sharing your journey. This is good and important stuff.

  • Liz February 10, 2012, 9:40 am

    I enjoyed reading that post. You inspire me 🙂

  • Aylin February 10, 2012, 10:52 am

    I am really excited for these posts. They are so moving and intriguing. It’s not really about how you look, it’s about how your life is evolving into something better and better. It makes beautiful sense that you are doing this project while pregnant. I remember how when I was a kid, I’d think people in their 30s had it all figured out. Now, I look around with my friends and we all agree we know nothing. It’s good but hard. I think life would be pretty boring if it were perfectly automated at this point, but it’s hard too because of how all this can cut both ways. Check out the Advanced Style Documentary trailer on Youtube. Really inspiring. Also, a humble request for a pregnancy reading list at some point? Thanks for everything, Caitlin!!

  • Megan @ Fiterature February 10, 2012, 11:23 am

    Thank you for the inspiring and truthful post. Your little one, growing inside of you, has such a strong mother already – I can only imagine how much you will impact them throughout their life!

    I agree with you when you say “It’s silly for me to think that I’ll ever be done working on myself.” How boring would it be to have it all figured out in our 20’s / 30’s, and then spend the rest of our life as that person? I LOVE that we constantly grow, change, love, lose, gain, and regenerate. We learn so much about ourselves and the people in our lives that way!

    That is why I started my blog, Fiterature. Since I started my “self-esteem evolution”, I’ve drastically changed who I am. I’ve become vegetarian, I have learned to love my body (curves and all) instead of loathe it and having good health has become something that makes me HAPPY!! I am forever grateful to the people who’ve helped me along my journey, and love to watch myself (and them) grow through the written word.

    Keep this project up – I am enjoying the journey!

  • Kinley @ Better Off Barefoot February 10, 2012, 11:38 am

    Your “you look tired” comment made me laugh (sarcastically) a little bit! Someone at work always tells me that (with makeup on) and I always think If I am tired, do you think I want you pointing that out to me? Probably not!! But thanks for pointing that out or I might not have noticed I was tired 😉 Hehe!!

    Btw, I think this in an awesome adventure and am looking forward to all your thought provoking posts on it!

  • Rachel February 10, 2012, 2:19 pm

    Great post!
    First on the lighter note, I wear make-up sometimes, but not always. Sometimes when I do, I forget and end up rubbing my eyes. I then go for who knows how long with smudges under my eyes– which I never understand why people don’t tell you about!?! It’s a mistake not a fashion decision!

    Now to a more serious subject–self-esteem. I agree that we are feed this ideal of a ‘super woman’ who has beauty, brains, and body. I’ve struggled with self-esteem and a need to be perfect. My struggle went so far, as to result in an eating disorder because I had this belief that at some point I would look in the mirror and think “I am perfect,” but of course that never happens. I’ve realized that 1. Perfection is on the inside (if you are unhappy inside you won’t be happy on the outside) and 2. My imperfections make me perfect.
    Any time I struggle with self-esteem/body issues I tell myself over and over again that imperfections make perfection. What you admire in other people is often what makes them unique, and the same goes with myself–I need to admire my uniqueness rather than fitting an ‘ideal’ image.

    I also really like the Dr. Seuss quote, “Today you are you/that is truer than true/there’s no one alive who is you-er than you!”

  • Amber K February 10, 2012, 3:00 pm

    I think self esteem comes in waves. Sometimes I’m flying high at the top and feeling just fine with myself. Sometimes I crash and burn and I have to swim back up out of the deep. I can’t remember the quote now but it says something like if we aren’t improving ourselves anymore, we’re dead. Each day we grow and evolve and expand and become better and better.

  • jessica February 10, 2012, 3:01 pm

    this is absolutely beautiful. i’ve been excited to read your reaction to this new project and now i can’t wait for more!

    i understand about having to consistently redefine self-esteem or your idea of your own beauty. i think there’s room for more of this in everyone’s lives! also, i wanted to add that all those SHOULD’s are just plain wrong. just because you’ve published about true beauty and write about it all the time it doesn’t mean you have it figured out. in this life, i doubt any of us will have that completely figured out. that “should” word is a scary thing – a beauty crusher by itself. good for you for moving beyond the “should’s” that society places on you and finding beauty and self acceptance for yourself another time! 🙂

    i’m cheering you on!

  • Anna Crouch February 10, 2012, 3:39 pm

    Life isn’t about reaching a destination, it’s a journey–so, just because you wrote the operation beautiful books, and speak on self esteem and whatnot, doesn’t mean you’ve got it all figured out. Dr. Phil might be a world renown psychologist/counselor and “mediator”, but do you think that means he never makes mistakes, never says something to someone he regrets, or never does something to offend someone else without knowing, etc? Or does that mean he ALWAYS reacts the way he tells others to react? Highly unlikely

  • Kate February 10, 2012, 8:09 pm

    I read this article on the website of my local newspaper about a group of girls who went makeup-free for a day and I thought you would find it interesting… http:://www.syracuse.com/news/index.ssf/2012/02/mexico_high_school_students_st.html

  • Mel Runs February 11, 2012, 7:12 pm

    I have those very fine lines at the inside of my lower eye too <3 amen for you and this feeling of "me too"

    • CaitlinHTP February 11, 2012, 7:13 pm

      It means we laugh a lot!

  • Anastasia February 15, 2012, 11:16 am

    Thank you so much!
    Although I personally have had many periods of time having a naked face, some of which were self imposed, others ‘health’ imposed when I just didn’t have enough energy to care – it is great to see people sharing their beauty-filled wonderful face’s.

    I have been through many self-esteem revolutions. Growing up living with seizures and a body that fell into periods of inactivity, my relationship to body-mind and heart was tenuous at best for my early years. When western medicine did not work – I took my first few steps towards feeling strong in all of my nakedness. I find embarking on new territory, be it a week without make-up, a new eating regime, picking yourself up after a particularly heartbreaking break-up or an attempt at rebuilding your body- mind and heart from what feels like the floor up there is an integral sense of nakedness. Being bare and yet totally present to the changing internal and external experiences within and around you.
    I would love to find out how I can continue to share in what is a beautiful on-line community. My story has taken me into some particularly “bare” moments and I would love to continue to share with others about the journey to feel strong “on your own two feet”.
    Being a self-proclaimed Luddite, I am grateful that you are tech savvy and have been able to create the space that brought me into the conversation to begin with 🙂

    THANK YOU so much for creating this safe space to hold all our ‘naked parts’ with compassion, nourishment and care. Having a respectful environment to share is wonderful!

    If there is any way I can contribute to the growth of this community please let me know.



  • kim @ vegan mama February 16, 2012, 7:37 pm

    I’ve been meaning to comment on this for awhile, but have been caught up in the haze of hanging out with a newborn 24/7!

    I definitely am going through a self-esteem evolution after giving birth to my first child. I fully expected to be grossed out with my postpartum body, but quite the opposite has happened.

    My self-esteem has sky rocketed after realizing how much my body is capable of. It conceived, grew, and birthed my perfect baby – and though I have stretch marks and a saggy belly right now, I am so incredibly in awe of my body. Especially since I was able to labor and deliver her with no pain medications or other interventions.

    Of course, body image is only a piece of self-esteem overall, but giving birth has most definitely changed my overall view of myself, unexpectedly for the better!

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