Academic life made me addicted to makeup. I just had to cover up all my defects, the blue eyes from stress and sleepless nights, the hyperpigmentation marks, the dull complexion and eternally weary face. Every morning I put a perfect face on to show to the world and trick myself into believing that I can face every challenge the day (and degree) has to offer. My mental and emotional state was in a devastated condition, I needed that necessary “high”, that unreal confidence and courage from painting my face to go on continuing everyday. My friends bought into it. No one knew I was suffering from a crippled self esteem and self worth. PhD genuinely causes imposter syndrome in even the most confident of people.
I used to stare in the mirror morning, noon and night. I used to keep the brush going, with streaks of colour or base blending, blending, blending, juts on and on and on glaring at the mirror. I did admit to a close friend that I can’t seem to put the brush down. I would stare for long into the mirror scrutinizing every zit and pore and irritating my sensitive innocent face. I didn’t know it then but my journey on self care taught me that people with severe anxiety stare in the mirror all the time.
Ever since I found my self esteem I detest makeup. This is strange because just when I was finishing PhD, I decided to move back home after completing and buy some makeup favorites for my new future job, future life and future parties and events… It never happened. I underwent a life changing experience which broke me in such a way that it really made me think what is important in life. There was no job, there were no people. Not even any family. The pandemic had me trapped in my house in my room, making me realize that all I ever needed was MY own approval, my own validation, my own love for myself. I will always only have me. There is no one else and there won’t be.
As it was I had already bought so much new makeup that I didn’t need more. But the truth was I had enough makeup before as well but I chose to buy more just to lift my shattered self esteem and get that rush from buying material items. But in the pandemic after a family member’s loss, my spirit was shattered and thoughts about the fragility and brevity of life makes you wonder what is worth living for. Long hours of introspection, self accountability and reflection, aided with reading success books ensued to help me find a path again. After months of solitude and depression finally I realized I need to live for me. I need to be happy for me, and love myself exactly how I am. I will end up losing everything and everyone but I will always have me.
A new seed of self esteem was born, one that wasn’t dependent on a vermillion or scarlet hue on my lips and a deep charcoal on my eyes with blood flushed cheeks. My self esteem came from me being me, and being the most unique person in the world.
Ever since I found my self esteem I have developed a disgust for colour cosmetics. Nail polish looks like cheap plastic. Glitter is pieces of plastic that can scratch my eyes. Mascara seems like glue to give you blindness. Eye shadow and blush seem like poisonous pigments. Foundation seems like a pore clogging goop. Lipstick seems like a bullet of lead you end up eating entirely which will give you stomach cancer. It seems so hazardous to health that I am beginning to wonder if I will ever return to using any of the many bags or makeup which I had bought.
I have started valuing the natural flush of blood in my lips and cheeks that comes from vigorous exercise, drinking water and eating vegetables and fruits and deep long hours of sleep, and day naps.
I only use that stash of skincare that I have. It became skincare for self care. I moisturize myself nicely, slather eye creams on tired eyes to put me to sleep, use feet, nail and hand cream, treat that pimple and use hair detanglers and hair oils. I have never looked or felt better about my appearance. There is no competition of beauty of anyone with anyone. I love myself how I am and how I look and there is no comparison of anyone with anyone. We are all beautiful and should be happy from within.
I never stare at the mirror anymore, I don’t burst any pimple anymore either, as a matter of fact I don’t even have any acne either. Just a splash of cold water in the morning and I’m good to go for the rest of the day.
Mirror mirror on the wall,
I don't need to look into you,
To know that I am the fairest,
Like the rest of them all.
For further reading please see the research paper “The Psychological Factors that Affect Makeup Usage and the Perception of Makeup in Different Situations” by Devina Narang