“Oh, honey, are you feeling okay?!” she asked, with a touch of panic in her eyes. She seemed certain that there was something gravely wrong. Perhaps I was on the edge of a nervous breakdown. Maybe I was dying?
I was unsure. I was a little tired, yes. We were moving that week, and life was a bit nutty. But her reaction seemed rife with an undercurrent of alarm.
“Nope, I’m fine,” I answered casually, “things are just a bit nuts with the move. I’m a bit tired, you know how it is…”
I don’t think she quite bought it.
I hid my confusion as I accepted her extra-long hug, her back pats, and her pitying eyes, as she gave my shoulder a sympathetic squeeze, and told me it would be alright.
At home I looked in the mirror and saw a pale-complexioned, freckled woman with imperfect skin, slightly puffy eyes, and some dark circles that seem to have been my constant companion since jumping on this motherhood gig.
And, not a stitch of make up.
Tired and stressed out mama – au natural. (Gasp!)
What I now realize is that there were just two “how I’ll look today” options in my mind:
1) Use all necessary makeup interventions to hide my flaws and feel acceptable for public consumption.
2) Say screw you to cultural beauty standards, and go out in public looking like I’m ill or having a nervous breakdown.
I must confess – until my thirties, I never felt secure enough to choose option #2. There were many times when we’d be en route somewhere and *horror of horrors*, I had misplaced my makeup bag. I would actually make my husband make a stop so that I could run in to the drugstore and grab the cheapest mascara, foundation, and brow pencil.
Even if it made us late for an event. It was that, or I wouldn’t go.
For the last few years, however, I’ve felt so very done with caring about what others thought of me. I stopped caring what my face looked like. I stopped caring about the “are you feeling okay?” comments (yep, they happen regularly). For the last few years, 80% of the time, I’ve embraced option #2.
I suppose it was a healthy shift – the idea that my face doesn’t owe the world anything.
Yes, I finally championed the fact that my face doesn’t owe our culturally-defined beauty standards one single red cent.
I can slap some yoga pants on, ignore my makeup bag, and throw my hair in a ponytail if I want to. My self-worth will be intact, and my value to the world at large will not be diminished. My marriage will probably not implode, and society will crumble for a myriad of other reasons long before it does so because of my face and yoga-pants-booty.
That being said, I have since discovered an astonishingly simple third option, nestled in among the half-truths.
3) Affirm the fact that while my face doesn’t owe the world a thing, I owe a lot to my face.
At the forefront of this simple revelation is the truth in Kahlil Gibran’s words, “beauty is not in the face, beauty is a light in the heart.”
I never felt lovely because my light was being snuffed out by options I saw before me: either stop caring about what I put on my skin, the products I used to nourish it, the style I felt good about, and the time I took to care for it… or care for what seemed to be the wrong reasons.
During the time I was a slave to my cheap mascara, I never once treated my skin to the benevolence it deserved. Instead I treated it like a liability to my social life, and a burden.
My (mostly subconscious) modus operandi for skincare was from a burdensome place of shame, instead of light.
In truth, the light comes from tenderly caring for your skin, face, and appearance because you want to, not because you have to. With kindness and not a hint of shame. In gratitude to your body for being the vessel that allows you to live your one life.
Doing so ignites that light in my heart that Kahlil Gibran spoke of.
These days that truth looks much differently than I ever conceived in my twenties. I’ve found a company that makes products that nourish and treat my skin with the luxury it very much deserves. Natural, non-toxic ingredients are carefully crafted with an array of herbs and pure ingredients, and the results are clear: my skin has never felt more loved and cherished than it does now.
And it only took me thirty-two years to figure out.