I started wearing makeup on my 13th birthday. My parents were hesitant, I was insistent. I've written before about my body image issues as a pre-teen and young adult, and so have a million other people written about theirs. It's still important though. Until I was 16 I described wearing makeup as wearing a mask, or a disguise. A few years ago I flippantly told my mom that I wore makeup so that people I didn't know could not know the real me at first sight. See, I couldn't get past my face reflecting everything that made me.
I wore makeup because I never felt beautiful. I wore makeup because I didn't fit in with a standard of beauty that wasn't me. I wore makeup because I was the fat kid who's grandparents made sure I knew I should be dieting. I wore makeup because everyone else did and that's what growing looked like, I thought.
Oh yeah, I was also the kid with social anxiety and what I recognize now as depression and self destructive thoughts.
Growing up is a really hard thing. You spend time with people while you're a little kid and you think "these are my best friends." But the thing about childhood friends is no one knows how to keep them and everyone has different priorities. Add that to leaving your home church, moving a town away and having family sickness in your home and you get a mess. My childhood was a mix of two extremes internally, and just thinking myself ugly. I struggled with early development as a young girl, being bigger than every kid my age and a way crooked smile that was just the icing on the cake. I didn't like being me at all. I wanted to be everyone else but me.
I look at the pictures of me at 10-13 years old and I just see a gorgeous little girl with bright eyes and a bright future who wants to be everything at once. Even though I was her, I can't see the nights I spent crying into my pillow, or the times I cried in the dressing room at department stores because nothing fit right hidden behind that smile.
My mom held me and kissed me and told me I was beautiful and I was loved. She knew the struggles of growing up. Here's the thing though: even if your parents and family are loving and kind and affirm in you the beauty they see, it only takes a few words to bring you down. I wrote about some of those words in
last year. Children are so vulnerable to the strangers words. I remember thinking "mom, you HAVE to tell me that you love me. You HAVE to tell me that I'm beautiful. It's part of your job."
When someone who doesn't know you echoes the thoughts already stirring in your head, it's devastating. No amount of affirmation from others can help, you only listen to what you already believe. So I started wearing makeup at 13. I wore it too much, I wore it too often, and I wore it wrong.
But that's okay. Makeup isn't evil. Makeup is weird and bizarre if you start to think about it. But it's not the cause of problems. I wore makeup because I felt beautiful wearing it. Without it, I saw a chubby faced, rosy cheeked, crooked-toothed teen with pimples. With it I saw a chubby faced, rosy cheeked, crooked-toothed teen with pimples
with the addition of sparkly lip gloss, too much mascara and constant smoky eyes.
though, and that was a big thing for me. My parents told me I looked beautiful without or with the makeup on. My mom encouraged me to experiment and try new things, but remember that God made me in a beautiful way and I don't need to cover that up.
And I think this is the important factor here, they gave me room to figure things out for myself. So I did. I experimented with lots of different styles and looks until one day I looked in the mirror and realized that I was trying to perfect a 'natural' look which didn't look anything like me. In 2013 I took a
(well, I missed a few because I was also
sick at the time.) and I started to realize how difficult it was for me to just take the portrait without changing how I looked. I'd set my camera to capture some small part of my day or the end of it, and I'd want to touch up how I looked. It was a struggle to just take it truthfully. And by the end, I realized.... I just like myself. It didn't matter if I had terrible acne that day, or if I had spent a few minutes in front of the mirror applying paint to make me look like someone else. I just liked who I was.
These days, it's actually the rare moment when I do wear makeup. I realized that most of the attention we spend covering up our "imperfections" is just drawing the attention of others. Heck, I don't even wear makeup on dates anymore. Yeah, dates with a boy. But isn't makeup all for boys so they don't know we're not flawless? Turns out, he likes it when I don't wear makeup, and when I do, and when I've been working all day and I'm covered in dirt and sweat. Makeup isn't such a big deal as I once thought it was.
Self-expression is one thing and I can totally get behind its usage. If my little girls someday ask me to let them wear makeup when they turn 13, I'll give them a big hug, and kiss them on both cheeks and say "Baby, you're so beautiful. Just look at yourself. You have a perfect nose for kissing-" and I'll kiss the tip of it, "-You have lovely eyelashes, and warm cheeks. You don't need anything to make you look prettier. But if you really want to try it, let's do it together so we can be pretty and silly at the same time."
What about you? What's your experience with makeup or the lack thereof? I want to hear your stories.
Also, thinking about moving this blog over to
but I can't decide. What's your vote, stay here or go there?
xoxo Johanna Grace
ps. Forgot to add this earlier, Meg at shake, rattle, and ramble wrote an excellent post about this a few weeks ago.