December 5, 2013

Why I May Be Quitting a Job I Just Started. ~ Kara Lhotzky

“Natural beauty takes at least two hours in front of a mirror.”  – Pam Anderson

I’ve spent years of my life in front of mirrors. As a ballet dancer, I willingly submitted myself to practicing in studios with walls covered in them. I grew up harshly critical of myself, following a passion where I was confronted by each tiny flaw, enveloped in a moving art form where physical appearances are unfortunately just as paramount as skill. I was used to caking on stage makeup, slicking my hair back into a glossy bun with gallons of product, and quite literally starving myself for years because a teacher once told me she could see my lunch—a bagel— through my leotard.

By the time I was 18, I felt worn down, reliant on makeup to cover my natural beauty, and suffering from severe anxiety attacks related to the eating disorder and body image I had developed. I can’t recall relaxing once during my teenage years.

After graduating and taking a hiatus from dance, I moved to California and worked in an office. Even though I wasn’t on stage anymore, I still had difficulty letting go of my near-OCD tendencies. I continued to restrict what I ate, straightened my hair until it fried, became even more obsessed with time spent at the gym, and spent my paychecks on rent, highlights, or a new bronzer. If I had to make a choice between paying rent and buying Louboutins I couldn’t afford, I chose the latter.

I wasn’t fulfilled, and I was lightyears away from any semblance of “happy”.

Fast-forward to my present life: I feel vibrant.

I rarely wear makeup—maybe a touch of blush here and there, and some lip gloss if I’m feeling playful. Forget foundation. If I get a blemish, I don’t cover it, since I know it will go away much faster if I simply let it be. I don’t think I’ve owned concealer since I turned twenty. I gave my blowdryer away in March of this year, and now I let my hair air dry with a bit of Argan oil on the ends. I buy coconut oil as a multi-use moisturizer and cleanser. I know that caring for my skin is more important than covering it up. I am dedicated in my yoga practice, but not obsessive.

I feel healthy, and I’m proud of it.

I’m free.

I know how to relax.

Realizing I forgot to put on mascara won’t ruin my confidence during a night out. I’m no longer punishing or restricting myself because of a zit that surfaced overnight, and my thoughts aren’t dominated by envy of a friend’s new ‘do.

“You have been criticizing yourself for years, and it hasn’t worked. Try approving of yourself and see what happens.”  – Louise L. Hay

Just a few years ago, after leaving an unhealthy marriage, I made a commitment to accomplish one thing each day that I was afraid of, whether that was talking to a stranger or trying a new activity.

That commitment slowly but surely morphed into a journey towards harmony with my body (and face) just the way it is. I believe that it is virtually impossible to be beautiful on the outside if we’re ugly on the inside, and that includes the kind of thoughts we think about ourselves and others.

It was a hell of a lot of work, but I am no longer plagued by selfish thoughts of my own looks or consumerism. I have more time to focus on contributing at least a little bit of good to my corner the world, and I finally have the energy to nurture my body and my mind.

I started a new job very recently, which I was planning on sticking with until I began yoga teacher training in March.

Since my first day, I’ve had maybe a few worthwhile conversations with a co-worker or two, but otherwise I am now far too familiar with which nail salon everyone prefers, who went to Nordstrom Rack this weekend, and whose roommate is a hairstylist (if I ever need, you know, “help with that”). Granted, I should have known better since it stresses ”Looking your best!” a bit too often throughout the company handbook and has specific guidelines far beyond that.

Call me naive, but listening to “Barbie babble” for hours every day didn’t prepare me for the rush of anger and indignation when my superior “let me off” with a warning because I hadn’t put on enough makeup to cover my blemishes this morning.

What century are we living in?

I’m still reeling from hearing that the acceptance of myself I have worked my butt off to cultivate over the years isn’t considered a positive asset. I suppose it’s because her version of that acceptance is covered with a M.A.C. foundation two shades too dark for her natural skin tone.

I committed to my own mental freedom a long time ago, and I am hell-bent on keeping that promise. I guess it’s onwards and upwards for this girl, and no cosmetics like my own happiness. ’Cause life is for living.



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Editor: Jane Henderling

{photo via Katie Tegtmeyer on Flickr}

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