I doubt many of you would have recognized me if you passed me on the street. I was the stereotypical Southern Belle. I always had on my makeup. Although I prided myself on it being applied artfully so it looked like I wore very little. My hair was long and extremely straight. I spent time and money to get it to curl. Spiral perms and hot rollers were my best friends. Nails lacquered, stuffed into hose with heels on. It was not unusual to find me in a hat and gloves on special occasions like Easter Sunday.
I was also obsessed with my weight. While living with my parents, I went on Medfast a liquid diet. I lost the weight but I am convinced that there were long lasting effects of such an extreme diet. The one picture I have of myself from this time concerns me. I was way too thin. All of this prep took a lot of time and energy. I shudder to think what purpose I could have put all that effort toward.
I had a stylized ritual for my morning and had gotten my toilet down to 45 minutes everyday. This did not include the shower I took the night before. As I went through the motions, I became very aware of my own internal dialog and the emotional effects that my transformation created. It started to create unease somewhere deep in my psyche, as opposed to the comfort it had at first given me.
I came to realize that each day I was putting on a mask. A set of armor meant both to beguile and repel. To put it simply, I did not like myself and could not conceive that anyone else could. This realization brought on a period of depression. That day I got up and went to school without my makeup.
I was shocked at the difference in the way I was treated by both teachers and fellow students. Now I am sure this had a little to do with the grey cloud that followed me to all my classes that day. It really seemed to be more to it that that, so I created an experiment.
The next day still as down in the dumps as the day before I followed my regime to the letter. Miracle of miracles my day went back to normal. From there I would leave out one piece of my preparation each day until I simply came to school having showered and wearing clean clothes.
I found that I could do without almost half of my routine before there was a vast difference in the way I was treated by my peers. I have to admit I took great pleasure in my project. I was giddy with the thrill of gathering data. I even went so far as to test different shades of lipstick to see the differing responses.
My conclusion, wear red lipstick.
Now makeup is an extreme exception, and dreading my hair a daily meditation in acceptance. I have spent the intervening years looking at myself and learning to love what I see in the mirror.
To truly see oneself, all the positive and negative without blinking, without glossing over or sugar coating. To not just accept but to love this person. To think the best of them. To believe in their potential. What a gift. If we strive to do this for ourselves how would that effect how we relate to others? How would that change the world?