I’ve battled my feelings for mascara for too many years to count. I first discovered its magical way of making eyes pop and faces look awake at some point in my teens. Maybelline Great Lash was my mascara of choice, and it never failed to give me the confidence I needed to successfully navigate high school hallways, football games, and school dances. It gave me power in a way that my soft, baby face never did. It made me feel beautiful. It made me feel like a woman.
At one point in college, I realized my flirtation with mascara had become a secret affair. Nobody knew, but mascara was my obsession. I could not leave the house without a few quick swipes—I felt naked and childlike without it, almost as if I had left the house without wearing something as critical as pants. The time eventually came when I needed to take a break. I declared 40 days of freedom from makeup of all kinds to free myself from the bondage I’d gotten myself caught up in.
The first few days were awful—nothing but insecurities and self-doubt filled my mind. I looked in the mirror only to tell myself I wasn’t pretty enough, good enough, woman enough. I was back in my high school self—cute, but far from sexy. I looked wholesome, not desirable. In my mascara-free eyes, I looked like a little girl.
Soon after the initial shock and negative self-talk dominated my thoughts, however, I started to feel really alive. Suddenly I had more time on my hands, and more freedom to live my life. I could jump into a pool, have a good cry, easily rub my eyes if they itched—all without creating runny streaks or flaky smudges that inevitably happen when we wear mascara. Also, this small change seemed to make a big impact on my morning and nighttime routines, cutting them down to only a minute or two. It may sound extreme, but I hadn’t realized what a burden it had been to coat my lashes with that black paint every day, only to remove it several hours later.
When I wore mascara religiously, I felt insecure; but when I let it go and opened myself to be seen by the world, I felt known. No longer did I hide behind a mask. I was just me—light eyelashes and all. People could take it or leave it.
I continued my mascara fast well past those 40 days—three years to be exact—and when the time came that I felt free of my obsession, I welcomed back my old friend with open arms. Unlike before, this time I felt liberated. I could wear it every day, or choose to skip it for a week. It was a tool to enhance my natural beauty, not a tool to cover me up. Through my fast, I learned to treat it more like an accessorizing piece of jewelry rather than a must-wear pair of pants.
If I’m really honest with you (and with myself), I prefer life lived without mascara. Some may think I look better with it on, but I certainly feel better with my lashes bare. I don’t see anything thing wrong with the makeup in itself, but rather find that I am more fully me when I’m without it. I know that I shine and sparkle and make people smile not because of my long, flirty lashes, but rather because I am someone special and valuable without anything extra added.
Want to find freedom in your true beauty, rather than the made-up, culturally-defined kind? Try your own form of a fast using these steps as a guide:
1. Reflect. Spend some time thinking about the reasons behind your beauty-related actions. Perhaps it’s a makeup thing, like mine was. Or maybe it’s the way you dress, or how you wear your hair. Do you do it because you like it—because it helps you express yourself? Or do you do it because somewhere along the line you came to understand that it’s something “real women” do to be beautiful?
2. Plan your fast. Once you’ve identified the problem, it’s time to plan the solution. Choose a time (be it a day, a weekend or an entire month) when you’ll refrain from the behavior you’ve defined as inauthentic to who you are. Maybe you’ll skip part of your makeup routine; maybe you’ll stop trying to squeeze into your skinny jeans and opt for clothes that fit you as you are right now; or maybe you’ll finally let your curls spring free and skip your morning straightening session. Whatever it is, it can be helpful to record your thoughts and feelings during the process, so plan to have a journal handy during the extent of your fast.
3. Take the plunge. Much like ripping off the band-aid, you just have to do it. Go all in, and be ready to feel your feelings. It’ll be scary at first, but I can say from experience that you will find and immense amount of freedom in it, as well as learn a lot about who you really are.
4. Make a change. After you’ve completed the fast, make a decision about how you’ll move forward. If you find yourself in a position like I did—realizing that the way you were doing things before just wasn’t true to you—give yourself the freedom to change. Throw away your mascara; wear comfortable clothes that properly fit your beautiful body; chop off your long hair into a pixie cut if you want. Be who you are, rather than who the rest of the world says you should be—and know that it’s a beautiful thing.
Featured image by Dottie Mae on Flickr