You Say Vain, I Say Confident

“Why are you wearing so much makeup?”

A surprising number of my conversations start with this question aimed in my direction. I am asked when arriving at class. Going to the gym. Attending meetings. Prepping to go out. Apparently, my eye shadow and lip color selections are of great importance to those around me — and not in a complimentary way. I cannot count the number of people who criticize me for wearing makeup and my hair down to the gym — yet strangely enough, I cannot remember a single time where my appearance has prohibited their workout in any way, so I do not see what the problem is.

For me, makeup is part essential and part experimental. I have bad skin; I struggle with hormonal acne, and being able to cover it up allows me a confidence I would not otherwise have. We live in the age of selfies and personal branding — I am not ashamed to say I feel more confident when I know I look my best. If that means swiping on concealer so I can work out at the gym without worrying about friends seeing me look like a mess, then that is that.

But makeup is not all about coverage. In some ways it is completely creative. Often, when people ask me why I am wearing makeup, their question is worded as if to ask, “Why put in so much effort?” To me and many others, putting on makeup is far from work, and can sometimes be the most fun part of my day. I like playing with colors, using my face as a canvas and trying new things. Why else would I spend the amount I do on products that — in essence — all do the same thing? In many ways makeup application is similar to art, and while my contour might not impress you as much as the Mona Lisa’s does, it makes me happy.
As someone who has struggled with mental health in the past, I can definitely say I drink the Kool Aid when it comes to the importance of appearance. I have flaws and I can admit them, and covering them up does not mean I don’t accept them. I have never gone without makeup to class. Once on a Friday morning I settled for a full face but no eye makeup – ballsy. Very few of my friends have seen me without makeup — even if they think they have, chances are I snuck a light application.

I am a great deal paler than the rest of my family, and using self-tanner keeps me — almost — on their level. I started wearing my hair up in public for the first time last spring. You read that correctly. I avoided wearing ponytails in public for almost twenty years, all because I was insecure about my face shape; I have fibrous dysplasia in my chin, and while few people notice, I do not look in the mirror without it bothering me.

There was a point last semester when I wore false lashes every day after ripping most of my eyelashes out due to stress. Also, your girl has hardly any eyebrows. For me personally, how I look on the outside directly affects how I feel about myself on the inside — and I am not ashamed of that.

Millennials are raised in a culture where people can become famous simply by being good-looking. To not feel pressure to look a certain way can be virtually impossible. When that crosses the line to unhealthy behavior is when you let the outside world start shaping how you see yourself. If I like my makeup and my friends comment negatively, it does not change how I feel. I wear makeup for myself, and my confidence comes from how I feel about it, not from the affirmation of others. So if caking it on and taking a selfie does it for you, then do the damn thing. And if you feel most like yourself a la Drake’s ideal woman — sweat pants, hair tied and chilling with no makeup on — then good for you. I would never judge someone on not prioritizing makeup and appearance; this is precisely why it hurts when I feel others judging me simply because I value these things. It does not make me any more shallow, any less aware or intelligent or valid. Life is not all about appearance — life is about what you do, who you are with, what you think, feel, say. There is obviously more to life than how you look — but if looking nice makes me a little more at ease with myself, a little more comfortable and willing to go out and enjoy living these moments, is it really anyone else’s business?

I am me with or without makeup, and I think that me is incredible regardless. Vain? I hope the word you are looking for is confident. I am not sure when society and social media started telling us that self-confidence and narcissism were the same, but this is a warped way of thinking. If you do not love yourself first, you cannot efficiently share love with those around you. It all starts with how you view yourself. And if a layer of Estee Lauder’s Double Wear Foundation and a well-blended eye from the Naked palette help me accept myself — along with dozens of other, nonappearance-based tools for self-affirmation — then so be it.

 

Bella Gerard is a junior in the college.

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