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.
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.