The recent trend (supposedly in aid of raising money and awareness for cancer research) of the #nomakeup selfie amused me intently, once the activism had worn off and it became a project in fishing for compliments whilst appearing au naturel. A number of people, like Daile, did it right. Many did not.
But appearing sans warpaint shouldn’t be such a big deal, should it?
I suspect the majority of women have worn makeup at some point in their lives. Many habitually. For a small proportion of those women, the idea of appearing in a public forum ‘without their face on’ is a scary prospect. For a smaller proportion, the idea would have been absolutely terrifying.
For a few people, makeup twists from a way to accentuate their looks to a mask, which they must wear in order to appear acceptable to the general populous. Without it they are vulnerable, for whatever reason, and even contemplating the idea would bring mental stress. This is perhaps more understandable where the woman in question has some kind of facial disfigurement, but I would bet my eye-teeth that the majority of women who would experience stress at the idea of appearing in public without makeup on, have no such physical challenge.
It’s all in the mind, isn’t it? But where did that mindset arrive from?
We could blame the advertising industry for perpetuating an unattainable ideal of ‘beauty’.
We could blame the generation before us for not teaching us properly that true beauty has little to do with the packaging, but has everything to do with the spirit; that physical beauty is fleeting, but a great character will always inspire a warm response.
We could blame the fashion industry for pointing out women’s physical flaws and then providing the products to fix them or cover them up.
We could blame ourselves for buying into it, constantly, and obsessing over our looks.
We could blame and blame and point our (newly manicured) fingers at, and cry out against the injustice of a world where looking good is so highly prized that we often forget the things which matter.
Yet even in nature, the creatures with strongest colours and the best symmetry are the ones who win the mate… on the whole, attractive physical characteristics indicate health, vitality and the ability to thrive. At a very basic, instinctive level, these are good things to strive for.
But we’ve gotten skewed and placed altogether too much importance on our faces, ladies.
This was driven home to me very forcefully at work, years ago, when my boss (female, with a long employment history as a stylist in a top hair salon) tried to introduce a mandatory rule for all staff to wear makeup. This would be fine if we were in a salon, or even the fashion industry, where the presentation of staff members is to an extent what helps to sell the product, but we were in daycare. We would end our days wearing paint and glue and snot; rumpled up from having been mobbed by adorable children from morning til night.
I objected, immediately and strongly.
Apart from the imposition and impracticality of it (I rarely wear makeup, except to dress up and go out – and it’s not that I’m confident with my looks – I just can’t be bothered (I’d also rather fail at looking beautiful having not tried, than fail having made my best shot, but that’s another story)) I was horrified by the ideas it would instill into the tiny, developing minds of the boys and girls we were looking after.
What kind of conclusions would they draw from the idea that we all had to look our very most beautiful all the time, to play mud and cars and cooking with them? That we weren’t enough in our own skins? That we had to look better than we naturally would, every day, just ‘because’? That looking good was so very important, it had to be done all the time?
It didn’t sit well with me, and fortunately I had sufficient clout and back-up to quash the idea.
But here’s the challenge which befalls us all – for I fear it is already too late for us – to change the world for the next generation, so that THEY don’t fall into the traps and pitfalls so many of us seem to have discovered.
We need to show our girls and boys that we can choose to accentuate our physical features, and that we can choose not to, and that our choice shouldn’t hugely impact our sense of value. Because you’re worth it, intrinsically.
We need to demonstrate to our children’s generation that we care more about our personality than our looks, and that attractiveness of spirit is to be prized above attractiveness of face or figure. Maybe she’s born with it. Maybe it’s good character.
We have a responsibility to teach them to think critically about the media input they receive, and to understand that commercially, the agenda is always profit-based. No beauty product is really designed to make us happier, so much as it is marketed to make us think we need it. No company cares if we become entrapped by this mindset – it just increases their earnings. All ages, all races, all sexes; all potential customers.
And ultimately, we need to recognise our own hypocrisy, to be open about it and admit that in a world where people still die of hunger or treatable disease; in a world where slavery and human trafficking exist; in a world where people get bullied, sometimes over their looks, to the point where they kill themselves; we have little business closeting ourselves away in front of the mirror, to stare sadly at our reflection and sigh. Take care. Of one another.
We are put together in ways which are beautiful as well as practical. Our minds are attuned to aesthetics and I daresay we are designed to respond to them – to appreciate beauty where we see it, and to revel in its presence. But it is our ability to establish ourselves within warm, mutually responsive relationships with other human beings which allows us to thrive. Our spirits are made for connection; for compassion; for friendship; for love. And in good relationships, our looks will never take precedent over the person we are. Makeup, in and of itself, has no ability to instil value. It doesn’t make us better people, even if we look a bit shinier on the outside for a while. We need to step back from the mirrors and recognise – deep beyond surface level – that the thing which connects us, supports us and allows us to be the best and most beautiful we can be, is how we love, not how we look.
Don’t just wear; care.
Lizzi is a Deep Thinker, Truth Teller and Seeker of Good. She works a normal job and has a secret life as the writer at Considerings. Wife to Husby and Mother to two Neverborns, now dealing with the challenge of primary infertility, she is a frequent instigator of silliness and loves to entertain with words.