I still remember the day I was told, “You would look so much better with a bit of makeup.”
I remember my friend at the time sitting me down on the bathroom toilet seat, telling me to shut my eyes as she drew a sleek, black line across both lids.
I remember thinking, Wow. I really can look pretty.
And my life was forever changed.
Okay, so I don’t mean to be so dramatic—but yes, it did affect what I believed about myself. It affected how I thought I had to show up in the world. It affected my self-esteem to the point where I started to notice how much more I got noticed with a little bit of makeup, and I didn’t think people would see and love me the same way without it.
I don’t wear a ton of makeup in general—a little foundation here, some mascara, maybe eyeliner—but since that day all those years ago, I haven’t felt totally comfortable without it.
Lately, I’ve been getting tired of this feeling that I had to wear makeup wherever I went. I’ve been tired of feeling like I wasn’t comfortable in my own skin and I wanted to get to the root of it.
I know that some people wear makeup because they just enjoy it, like an art. And some days, I do wear makeup because I want to, not because of an underlying insecurity—but what I’m referring to is the legitimate fear and discomfort in bearing our own, natural faces.
It took some time, but this is what I did to get comfortable with my face:
1. Treat yourself with compassion. It is not your fault you feel this way. It is the society we live in that places the expectation on women to be beautiful, always. It is because of social media, shoving perfect pictures in our faces every day, that we feel inadequate with a few blemishes. It is because we have been led to believe our worth lies in our looks.
(For more on self-compassion, read: maitri.)
2. Understand the root cause of your insecurity. Therapy is a great way to work through this in a safe space. For a long time, I was scared to go makeup-less because of underlying self-esteem issues that went right alongside with my body image ones. But we can talk through with a professional what we’re feeling to make sense of this and heal from the ground up.
3. Start slow, and test the waters. For a while, I wouldn’t even go to yoga without a bit of foundation, maybe mascara, on. (What? Did I really think my yoga teacher wouldn’t help me in a pose if I didn’t look “pretty?”) So, when I wanted to make this shift happen in my life, that was the first place I started. I showed up to yoga fully, in whatever state I was in that day–greasy hair, no makeup, giant pimple on my face? They didn’t care.
Going there and being greeted the exact same way and doing my practice like I would any other day helped me embrace my face. And honestly, who wants to be wearing makeup when there’s sweat dripping everywhere anyway?
4. Spend time with people who are comfortable with their faces, too. I’m not saying discriminate against friends who wear makeup or who aren’t yet comfortable with their faces either, I’m saying make sure you are spending time with people who have the same priorities and values as you.
My friends are good people. They are the kind of people who I can show up however I am, and they will still love me regardless. And they can show up however they are too. They don’t wear tons of makeup and don’t spend a lot of time obsessing over their appearance, which is healthy for me to be around.
5. Look through old photos of yourself. When I look at pictures of myself as a kid, a time before I discovered makeup, I see me—all of me. I see the goofy Naomi with messy, dark hair, eyebrows that are slightly too bushy, big dimples, and big smile, and I see her being totally and completely herself without a care in the world. It makes me want to get back to that girl. To be that younger version of me—only a little bit wiser, a little bit older, and a little bit more together.
That kid was happy, for the most part. And was comfortable in her skin before the world told her she had to be otherwise.
6. Good skin care. I’ve struggled with acne in the past, which is probably where a lot of these insecurities stemmed from. I know what it’s like to look at yourself in the mirror in disgust at what you see and to have the power to cover it up. I don’t know that I’d be so comfortable going bare-faced if I still had bad skin (and it’s not to say that you can’t, but I know how difficult it can be).
I’m not a skin care expert, but this article is helpful and I also suggest seeing a dermatologist. After my skin cleared up, I started using only natural products on my face and it really has made a big difference in my skin’s appearance. I use a gentle cleanser both day and night, and then Manjishtha oil (which I swear by) in the evening and Jojoba oil in the morning. I also use an exfoliant once a week. And when I have the right products that enhance my skin naturally as best as possible, I don’t feel the need to cover up.
7. Address the worst-case scenario head-on. My biggest fear with going makeup-less was that someone was going to look at me and say the worst thing that I have ever thought about myself. I was terrified that could be a reality and didn’t want to experience that. But when I sat with this fear and faced it, I realized something: so what.
So what if some guy pointed at my face and was like, “You’re hideous, no one is going to love you” (you know, or something to that effect). A) it’s one f*cking person. B) That’s one mean, idiotic, a**hole of a person. C) What then? So someone thinks you’re unattractive—is that going to change who you are? Even if I was the most unattractive person in the world, is sitting there being depressed about it going to do anything?
Or can I instead channel my energy into something more important?
When we learn to get comfortable with our face, we can go out and do bigger and better things. We can spend less time caring about our appearance and more time going out and making an impact on the world.
I know it’s easier said than done. I know we are undoing years and years of false beliefs about ourselves and some people have it easier than others and maybe your skin isn’t perfect or you hate your eyebrows, but I’m telling you—there is more to life than our looks.
The more and more I practiced this way of living and thinking and stopped using makeup as a safety net, the more I realized it’s not so scary.
The more I realized most people probably don’t even notice. No one treated me differently. The grocery store clerk wasn’t mean to me because I didn’t have long lashes. That random dude on the street didn’t turn his face away in disgust. People are too busy living their own lives to notice the details of your face. And if they do? Well, those aren’t the kinds of people you want to be around anyway.
So, give these things a try. I guarantee it will change your life—for the better.