I, like millions of women, struggle with self-image and acceptance. I am not an exception to the rule, but at times, it can be my Achilles heel—insecurity, uncertainty, self-criticism—continually worried about what others see in or think about me.
“What other people think about me is none of my business.” — Eleanor Roosevelt
12-Step groups have borrowed the late First Lady’s quote, applying it to members’ recoveries from addiction and co-dependency. Like addiction to a substance (food, alcohol, drugs) or behaviour (gambling, sex, Internet use), insecurity and poor self-image can be devastating to a person’s emotional, psychological, professional, and physical well-being.
I suppose that this is what led me to become interested skincare and makeup during my teens (back when spiral perms, teased bangs, and acid wash were de rigueur, and people rode around on the backs of dinosaurs … who also had teased bangs, and a penchant for wearing makeup!) My insecurities, and wanting to be “better”. Accepted and admired by others.
I fell in-love with the way makeup and skincare could make me feel and look as what I thought was “better”. Frankly, I’d now like to go back to high school, and tell that awkward young woman that … it is never wise to apply red lipstick without a mirror before annual school pictures are taken. Otherwise, one ends-up forever captured in the yearbook, looking like The Joker from Batman (who’s got too much Dippity-Do and Joice I.C.E. Mist in his hair!)
“Why so serious?!?”
The insecurity stemmed from bullying within the halls and classrooms of my small town high school. I won’t launch into all of the awful details here, as this is not my personal soapbox, nor a public therapy session. Just know that at one point, it was bad. Really, really bad, and over twenty years later, I still bear the scars of the awful words of those whom made me their target for criticism, ridicule, and shame. I can’t imagine what it must be like for those who are bullied now, in a more technological age—social media, iPhones, Instagram, text messaging, and Photoshop. My heart goes out to those who are presently enduring such cruelty, and hope that as they mature, they too will see the cruel behaviour of others for what it is/was: insecurity, and usually a reflection of a bully’s own internal, emotional, circumstantial, or familial strife.
People who are in pain, cause others pain.
Unfortunately, bullying will always exist. It doesn’t end with high school. There are cliques, social scenes, work environments/corporations, and dysfunctional relationships in which people are shamed, criticized, harassed, ostracized, rejected, and wounded. It happens all the time, and sometimes, even adults buckle under the pressure, kneecapped by pain and stress. I needn’t elaborate on how this affects marriages, emotional/psychological health, influences and/or contributes to abuse/addiction, the social and economic ripple effects, and … sometimes, there are tragic consequences.
A good example of this would be the recently late country singer, Mindy McCready, who passed away last Sunday. McCready was 37 years-old, and had struggled publicly for many years. She was a beautiful, talented woman, whose personal demons, illness, and otherwise were mocked by the media, exploited by the entertainment industry, and subsequently shamed by thousands in the TV-watching, tabloid-reading public. They judged an ill woman, whose illness was likely and probably fueled by the shame, insecurity, and self-loathing she felt. The pain became too great last weekend, and she chose to end it herself. McCready left behind two little boys—including an infant son.
She was bullied. She felt ashamed. She felt unlovable, unaccepted, and though we can’t point the finger of blame at anyone in particular, as a society, it appears that we contribute to such awfulness, tuning into “reality” TV shows, allowing warped standards of what is “the norm”, “acceptable”, “cool”, and otherwise—glorifying many people whom contribute very little to society other than more fluff, passive-aggressive forms of bullying (i.e. Twitter), setting trends, stereotypes, and keeping the vicious cycle of … painful stupidity going!
Accountability. Where does it lie, and who becomes the scapegoat?
In many an instance, we become our own worst bullies, by buying-into clever marketing, stereotypes, and that which has been fed to us by other insecure or opportunistic people (with dollar signs in their eyes). I am guilty of looking in the mirror, and beating the you-know-what out of myself at times, or compare myself to other women (who are likely comparing themselves to me!). At 38, I don’t want to be a young, naive, 20-something again, yet as a single woman, I feel like I’m almost forced to compete with them. They, or the Photoshopped images pumped-out by the media, advertising agencies, and Hollywood. The lunacy of this: as someone who knows a thing or two about makeup, and just how distorted digital editing can be … I already know that I’m looking at manipulated, well-lit images, on nubile young women (who can be genetic freaks, or some have eating disorders to go along with their other unhealthy habits!). I am not a micro-waif. I will never be 5’11″ tall, wearing a couture size “0″ (yes, “ZERO”!) or 2. And neither will most of you.
If only there were a switch that we could turn off in our heads when the critical, worrisome, hurtful voices of self-doubt and unacceptance start to reverberate in our heads (like a really, really bad, flash in the pan, one-hit-wonder song like “Who Let The Dogs Out?” … over & over …).
Perhaps positive change begins with encouragement and caring about others. I can’t tell you how many magical moments I’ve had over the years, with clients of all ages sitting in my makeup chair, and watching the transformation before my eyes. Not in an aesthetic sense, but with confidence, and a sense of self-worth, simply because I’d listened, encouraged, shared, and showed them a few reasonable makeup tricks (I don’t have a heavy hand). A couple of years ago, a teenage girl was in my chair, and after applying some age appropriate makeup, she turned to her mother, and said excitedly, “Mommy, look: she made me pretty!”
Her mother and I both had to wipe tears off of our faces, because it was such a “eureka!” moment; she’d always been a pretty girl. I’d drawn-out that young girl’s beauty and confidence with kindness, care, and a few makeup tricks shared. About a month later, her mother came back to me to thank me for what I’d done for her daughter; her skin had cleared-up with the regime which I’d recommended, tasteful makeup was being applied correctly, and the SMILES on her daughter’s face illustrated her unique beauty, lit from within.
That kind of moment sticks with a person, and I am grateful to have had more than a few of those moments in my professional experiences. It kind of lessens the hurtful blows suffered at the hands (and mouths) of others, so many years ago, and serve as a reminder of what is really and truly beautiful: confidence, kindness, compassion, and caring.
You can’t Photoshop that kind of stuff, people, and no skincare or cosmetic product in the world can magically deliver such internal beauty.
The makeup industry is filled with a lot of empty promises, piranha, shallow people, and “fakeup artists” (as I call them). I strive to be otherwise, in my words, actions, and that which I produce professionally. Such defines me.
The ugly words, distorted images, and superficial nonsense of others do not. Neither you nor I, nor anyone is a number on a scale, clothing size, “trending”, or otherwise. We are not others’ opinions (again: these are none of our business!), our careers, wealth, or social scene.
We are all unique, beautiful in our own way, and should make more of an effort to remind others of this every day—a kind compliment paid to a stranger, words of encouragement uttered to someone who’s feeling defeated, or an act of compassion which validates to another person that they matter—that it’s okay to be different, have humility, and be their own person. It will make another person feel good, and you feel good as well. It’s contagious.
And that is, indeed, a beautiful thing.