Makeup & Masks.

The other day I was driving to work, crying.

I normally drive to work, but not usually crying. In fact, the crying is very rare and only certain things set me off; men crying in films, confrontation and cutting onions.

I’m not great at mornings and so often forgo things in order to get more sleep; hair, makeup, breakfast. Over time I realised that I could sleep for a little longer if I did my makeup in the car. I have a reasonably long drive to work, which means I can get away with doing most of my makeup whilst stuck in traffic and at traffic lights.

So this particular morning, I had left for work with my makeup undone and the tears sporadically falling. I figured that once I got these pesky tears under control, I could start my makeup routine. Any girl can tell you there’s no point bothering with mascara if there’s a potential for tears. What a mess.

But just when I thought I had them under control, they’d start back up again. It was a disaster. I was nearly halfway there and I hadn’t started my makeup. Eventually I just decided I needed to get this show on the road and even if it meant I had to touch up my makeup, I should at least start. Weird thing was, as soon as I started to actually apply the makeup – I instantly stopped crying and the tears never came back. BAM, crisis averted.

Immediately I was hit with the incredible symbolism of that moment. That I literally was covering up my face and in doing so, covering up my pain. Hiding it away under a layer of Napoleon & Lancôme.

Does this kind of moment sound at all familiar to anyone?

Perhaps it’s a big but fake smile that you’ve perfected over the years. Perhaps it’s a busy routine that stops you from feeling. Perhaps it’s a critical spirit or an intense sense of humour or a perfectly curated instagram feed. Layers and layers of “makeup” so perfectly applied that you’ve forgotten you were hurting in the first place.

What’s your go to mask? What do you do to hide the pain that you’re experiencing? What’s your routine that prevents you from being real and vulnerable with people?

Masks are deceptive little things.

With my makeup mask firmly in place – it was incredible easy for me to move on with my day. I could pretend it had never happened. It didn’t have any impact. It didn’t hurt. I’m good, over it – ‘look how perfect my face (life) is’.

With my makeup mask firmly in place – it would have been easy to arrive at work and pretend like nothing had happened. How ridiculous to answer ‘how are you this morning?’ with a ‘not great actually’. How crazy to ask for help, for someone to talk to?

The problem with masks is twofold.

You stop yourself from healing, actually forgiving and forgetting. The mask tricks you. You didn’t actually work through it – you covered it up. When you take your “makeup” off at the end of the day, all that grit is still there.

You also prevent anyone from being a part of the healing process. The mask tricks people and says ‘back off – I don’t need you’. You prevent relationship – which when you’re alone, mask-less – is all you really crave. Honest and real relationship.

The whole thing is crazy. No one wants to hide his or her pain all day. No one wants to shun honest relationship. So, how do we stop? How do we get better at being honest with each other, with ourselves?

I don’t really know. But writing this was step 1 for me.

I want to learn how to be real and vulnerable. And not just because it’s trendy to be authentic but because masks are tiring and toxic for me and for you. It prevents me from dealing with the not so perfect parts of life and it prevents you from connecting with me – the real me. Yuck.

When I figure out step 2, maybe I’ll let you know.

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Giving up the need.

At a certain moment in time this year, I made a decision. Although this was a pivotal moment I can’t even pinpoint exactly when it happened. Isn’t that the funniest thing about big decisions, sometimes they aren’t always big moments. I made a decision to care a whole lot less about the way I looked to everyone else. We live in this crazy world where we structure our lives to appear perfect and “together”, when actually, life doesn’t really look like that. Life is messy.

Oh sure, I am no where near as far along in this journey that I would like to be. One cannot simply just stop caring about what others think. That is most definitely a process and probably a long one but it’s a process that starts with a decision.

I made a decision to stop doing my hair.

At least, I decided it wasn’t necessary to do my hair everyday. Maybe this doesn’t seem like anything to you, but it was a big deal for me. I’ve got a very “done” look when it comes to hair and I never used to go anywhere without first washing, blow drying and then straightening my do. I took pride in it, thrived off compliments and was pretty stoked when people would ask for recommendations on which products to buy or where I got my hair done. It was my ‘thing’. If all else was failing that day, makeup, outfit, personality – at least I could count on my hair! It’s funny how quickly my little ‘thing’ turned into a big problem. Somehow, in the crazy part of my brain.. I developed this odd little complex, that if my hair wasn’t “good”.. no one would like me. I felt the pressure to succumb to comments like ‘Steff, your hair never looks bad’.

It was actually really hard to give it up, to just do my fringe and leave the rest to do its thing. My close friends seemed to understand what was going on and always complimented me more when I hadn’t done my hair. I saved time in the morning and tried to convince myself that I just didn’t really care what my hair looked like anymore. Eventually, it sort of worked.

What’s funny is – people like my hair this way. It would sort of curl in weird ways and there were parts that just didn’t look great. It was natural and it wasn’t perfect – yet somehow I still received compliments and I still had friends. Who knew?

Does this sound at all like you? Now more than ever aren’t we so concerned with perfection? Homemade meals now need to resemble Masterchef creations. #summerbody campaigns encouraging a faultless image. Instagrams staged to create an illusion of ‘indie/chic/hipster/coolness’. We’re changing our outfits and buying more clothes than we can afford so we aren’t seen in the same outfit twice. How many likes we think we’ll get determines everything and it’s all getting a little out of control.

I always get caught up on this lyric from Sara Bareilles’s song ‘the light’ in which she sings ‘Such a beautiful mess, intertwined and overrun’. I always wondered how ‘messy’ could be construed as beautiful. That never made much sense to me until now.

There is something beautiful in allowing your vulnerabilities, the things you wish to hide from the world, to be seen. Allowing those perceived faults or even legitimate faults to be visible says that being liked by others isn’t your highest priority. I found I had a crazy love for people who said in spoken or unspoken ways ‘You are safe with me’. ‘I like you just the way you are. My affections are not altered because of trivial superficial things. In fact, my affections are not altered at all because to accept the good in you, I also accept the mistakes’.

By trying to claim perfection am I not actually discrediting all that work that was done on the cross? If I am perfect then I have no need for help, or grace, or a saviour.
I am so, so far from perfect and so I wonder why I always feel the need to project an image of that which I’m not. I must give up the need I have to be perfect.

And so I stop doing my hair. I stop caring what other people think. I stop trying to make my life appear ‘perfect. I start trying to love better instead of trying to be better in order to be loved. I let people see the best side of me but also the worst because in actual fact, being completely yourself means a crazy beautiful mess of both, the best and the worst.

Better a diamond with a flaw than a pebble without. (Confucius)

Disclaimer: Thank you for not judging me when my hair hasn’t been done. Please continue to not judge me whenever my hair IS done. Some days, despite this post, I will still do/care about my hair. This is not an excuse to be a hobo. End of disclaimer.