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The End of Natural Beauty Month

(Originally published July 2013)

Well it’s July, and Natural Beauty Month is officially over. I considered posting a celebratory picture of my face, covered with an offensive amount of foundation, bronzer, eye shadow, eyeliner, maybe even some fake eyelashes, with a caption that read, “Soooo excited to wear makeup again!!” Then I realized that some people might not get the joke; that, plus I don’t own half those products. But egregiously applied makeup and sarcastic captioning aside, the end of Natural Beauty Month does present me with some important questions:

Will I go back to wearing makeup? If so, how often, and how much? Now that I am used to looking at my naked face, will I judge my made-up face negatively for being “fake”?

I have never been one for extremes. I don’t believe in strict diets that guilt a person into eating exclusively “healthy” food; setting a strict “no makeup” rule for myself seems similarly restrictive: what if I feel especially dumpy one day and a dash of mascara makes me feel fierce? One could argue that I should not care what I look like in the first place—indeed, this would be ideal. But the reality is, I do care, and some mornings I wake up looking more refreshed than others. I do not want to go back to relying on makeup to "make up" for the fact that I did not get a good sleep, ate too many fries, or didn’t exercise for a few days in a row. I want to be content with what I have and what I look like naturally, and I want to keep doing all that I can to care for myself from the inside out. I want to see makeup as an option, not as an evil entity, and certainly not as a necessity.

When I saw the headshots that my friend, John Schlia, had taken of me and two friends for Natural Beauty Month, I had a brief spell of anxiety. He had posted the pictures to his Facebook page, then tagged me in them—not only would my giant, naked face show up in his friends’ news feeds, but in my friends’ as well. Well shit, I thought, I guess there’s no turning back now… Of course, my two friends looked beautiful in their pictures, but mine was by far the worst. When I told one of these friends how jealous I was that her picture came out so well, she laughed: “Oh my GOD, mine is the WORST!” she said, “I thought you’d love yours!” She proceeded to describe all that was wrong with her face in her picture—“flaws” that I had not noticed, nor did I notice when I went back to search for them. She told me that our third friend had felt the same way: our pictures were good but hers was the WORST. To each of us, the others were prettier, more photogenic, and our own natural faces looked terrible.

It is difficult to stop judging ourselves, and even harder to accept and love ourselves fully. Ironically, it is usually when we feel bad about ourselves that we treat ourselves badly. Unhealthy choices are addicting, but fortunately, so are healthy choices. There is a lot I will take away from this June, the most important being that no one cares what I look like as much as I do. When we stop seeing ourselves as flawed, broken, imperfect people, we start to treat ourselves with the love and respect we deserve. As we move forward into July, let us try to remember that no one will ever judge us as harshly as we judge ourselves. Let us make choices we can be proud of, and allow ourselves to make mistakes—these mistakes will not kill us, and they will probably even help us to appreciate the times we get it right.

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