Two years ago, I gave up makeup, shaving, and all forms of feminine primping for 60 days. The project – which was called The Naked Face Project – was a personal exploration dreamed up by Molly Barker (the founder of Girls on the Run) and myself when we started to ask each other WHY we exchanged in these habits.
When I started TNFP, I was volunteering with little girls on a weekly basis, knee-deep in the second Operation Beautiful book (which is for tween girls), and really questioning the reasoning behind my near-daily full face of makeup, constant shaving, and overall time and monetary investment in my appearance. I walked into the project feeling like none of these habits were “wrong” but really curious to explore WHY I did those things and WHAT the ramifications would be if I stopped. So for 60 days, I gave it all up – no makeup, no eyebrow waxing, no leg or armpit shaving (that was kind of intense!), no dressing up, and no jewelry save for my wedding bands.
Naked Face two years ago:
One of the things that we worked really hard on during TNFP was making sure the project was clearly defined because we never wanted other people to feel attacked for their choices. If you want, you can go through some of the old posts to get a deeper understanding of the project: Here’s the project’s introduction, here are the weekly updates, and here are my final conclusions about the project. It was especially interesting to do the project with Molly because I came at it as a late 20-something year old, soon-to-be mom, and she approached it as a women in her 50s with two teenage children.
So – it’s been over two years since I wrapped up The Naked Face Project, and lately, I’ve been thinking about it a lot. It’s probably because I’m pregnant again, which of course dredges up all sorts of introspection.
Naked Face today:
Two years have passed, and that’s two more years of time on my face. Two years of some of the most physically grueling, exhausting years of my life. I grew, delivered, and fed a baby and am working on growing my second. I survived many, many months of sleepless nights and still rarely feel like I get enough sleep. I trained for triathlons and road races, and the sun + hormonal changes + my natural olive skin tone triggered noticeable melasma on my forehead, cheeks, and upper lip (despite being religious about sunscreen!). I suddenly developed crow’s feet around my eyes. I’m getting a permanent thought crease in between my eyebrows. I don’t look like I did when I was 19, but I’m not who I was when I was 19 – I’m 30 year old me. And I like it.
One of the topics that we ‘debated’ during the Project was whether women look ‘better’ with makeup on. Do I look ‘better’ with a full face of makeup on? If we’re going by society’s standards, sure. I looked ‘better’ with makeup on before the Project and I guess I look ‘better’ now, too, when I paint my face with artificially rosy cheeks and perfect eyes and pink lips. But two years later, I still choose to be mostly naked face. I wear makeup for special occasions, but on a day-to-day basis, I embrace my wrinkles and sun spots and tired eyes – I guess I don’t feel like I need to always look ‘better.’ I don’t try to hide my natural face and all of its imperfections.
Why? Because The Naked Face Project really changed me. Again, as I wrote frequently during the Project, I don’t feel like there’s anything wrong with makeup or shaving or primping. A lot of it can be fun and empowering. But there was something wrong with the reasons that I constantly engaged in these habits. I did it because – despite all the work that I was doing professionally to boost other women’s self-esteem – I still felt a tiny bit uncomfortable just being me. Thanks to 27 years of society’s brainwashing, I got completely trapped into thinking that I needed to always look artificially ‘better.’ I needed to look ‘better’ to go out to dinner. I needed to look ‘better’ to stand up in front of 200 people and give a presentation. I needed to look ‘better’ just to take a selfie!
60 days with the Project freed me from this type of thinking. It truly deepened my understanding and appreciation for JUST BEING MYSELF – beyond even just looking like my natural self. My post-Project reaction went well beyond when I’d use mascara and concealer. I still occasionally wear makeup and I like to dress up, but I don’t feel tied down by these habits anymore. Giving it all up for 60 days – and discovering that life goes on without these things! – really helped me be more okay with me on the outside AND on the inside. When I wrapped up the Project, I wasn’t sure if that feeling would last, but it has – for over two years! Which is pretty cool. Other side benefits: I can get ready in 5 minutes flat, I spend way less money on beauty products, and when I do dress up or get my nails done, I actually feel like it’s a fun, special occasion.
One thing that Operation Beautiful has taught me is that everyone’s self-confidence and body acceptance journey is different. For many people, there’s no relationship between the use of beauty products and confidence. But for some – there is! The process of improving your outlook is also not necessarily linear – there are lots of ups and downs. As I get older, I notice that I have to constantly ‘work’ on my positive self-image. That’s probably because there are so many crappy messages in our society about what women should look like and act like and feel like.
Although it doesn’t directly relate to the topic of Naked Faces, I constantly go back to this powerful quote by Iyanla Vanzant whenever I am feeling like I need an extra boost:
“Everything that happens to you is a reflection of what you believe about yourself. We cannot outperform our level of self-esteem. We cannot draw to ourselves more than we think we are worth.”
I think so much of being content with life is creating your own definition of what happiness should look like. I want to draw good things into my life. And to do that, I need to be really and truly okay with myself, including how I treat loved ones, interact with strangers, and parent – and what I look like. That quote always reminds me that it’s important to take the steps to be okay with myself… every day and in every way.
For more thoughts on self confidence, check out this post.
Have you ever given something up for a period of time and had your opinion about it changed forever? Makeup? Cell phones? TV?