Natural Beauty Month: Season Three

Two years ago, I challenged myself to go the entire month of June without wearing makeup. I remember the first time I was about to leave my house without my usual eyeliner and mascara, I nearly cried. Why would I do this to myself? I wondered. Why would I choose to make myself feel so uncomfortable and exposed?? But I had already blogged about it, told all my friends about it, and encouraged all the women in my life to join me in the challenge – so I couldn’t back out.

By the end of the month, I had grown used to my naked face. No longer did my reflection seem foreign, and no more did I fear the world seeing my face as it was, naturally. I still thought I looked “better” with makeup, but I had finally accepted the fact that I didn’t need it.

Last June, I challenged myself again. At first, it was almost disappointingly easy. Soon, the challenge became less about my appearance and more about my life: Were my choices reflecting my desires? Were my actions consistent with my beliefs? Was Ibeauty isnt makeup letting the world see me as I was, even when I wasn’t at my “best”? When the challenge is simply don’t wear makeup, the course of action is clear-cut, even if it’s difficult. But when the challenge is be yourself and let the world see it, things are trickier. Before we can be ourselves, we have to know ourselves – a challenge all on its own, and a dynamic one at that. When I graduated from high school, I thought I knew myself, and for all intents and purposes, I did. When I went to college, however, I realized that I would have to get to know myself all over again. The same thing happened when I graduated from college, again when I quit my first full-time job, and again when I moved to Portland last summer. I knew who I was, for the most part, but I would again have to learn who I was becoming.

In my (almost) 30 years on earth, I’ve met myself many times. I’ve made some really good first impressions, and some really shitty ones too. I’ve seen myself do and say things that make me want to curl up under a rock and die; I’ve also done things that I’m immensely proud of. And what I’ve come to accept recently is that this cycle will continue. I will never outgrow embarrassing myself, and I will never be too old (or too young) to do something amazing. Living well and living happily takes time and practice; it also takes failure and sadness. But above all, I think, it takes acceptance and love.

This year, I again present to you the challenge of Natural Beauty Month. This might simply mean not wearing makeup, or it beauty is not the facemight mean wearing less. I might mean reminding your friend that he or she looks (and more importantly, is) awesome. It might mean not using hair products, or not dousing yourself in cologne. Or maybe it means speaking up, even and especially when you’re afraid. Maybe it means telling someone you love them first. Whatever it means to you, let it actually be a challenge – then face it. Because you, my friend, are one bad-ass ninja-warrior of love and happiness, and the world needs more of you.

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Beneath the Surface

I won’t lie – I’m almost disappointed by how easy this year’s edition of Natural Beauty Month has been. Last year, I tormented myself by standing too long in front of mirrors, picking apart my reflection. Last year, I looked longingly at beautiful women, wondering how I compared. Last year, I researched one natural beauty tip after another, ate healthier, slept more – all in the name of cultivating “natural beauty” (read: “natural good looks”). But this year? This year, I have other priorities. Do I still feel strongly that a makeup-free month is a good idea? Totally. Do I still hate the societal expectation that women wear makeup while real men don’t? Absolutely. But am I still consumed by how I look with makeup vs. without? No, sir.

While I am pleased with this new-found confidence in my naked, unadulterated face, it makes writing about my experience more difficult – or at least, less superficial. Whereas last year, my insecurities came rushing to the surface, this year, my attention is deeper.Purchase this image at http://www.stocksy.com/51066 A lot has happened since last June: my boyfriend of three and a half years moved out; a dear friend moved in; I reconnected with friends I hadn’t seen in too long; I went on dates; I finished my masters’ degree; I decided to sell most of my belongings and move across the country with no job awaiting. At 28, I am about to begin a new episode of my life – and instead of “Married… with Children,” this episode is more like “New Girl.”

As I reflect on this month so far, I cannot help but extend my reflection to the year itself. And as I ponder why I am so much more comfortable without makeup this June than last, I must give a nod to my experiences. Even though I am still concerned with what I look like, I have far more faith in who I am. The friends I have made (and will make) and the men I have dated (and will date) do not like me because I have black eyelashes or smooth skin: they like me for me. Of course, I want to be attractive (who doesn’t?), but unless we are looking at a photograph or painting, attractiveness is never purely physical. In a post last June, I wrote that, “looking pretty is not the point of Natural Beauty Month.” At the time, I knew it, but I didn’t fully believe it. This year, I believe it.

Love Your Body

Loving one’s body is one of those things that should be easy, but thanks to society and popular media, rarely is. Think about it for a second: when was the last time your body totally crapped out on you and didn’t recover? Sure, you may have broken a bone that didn’t heal quite straight; you might have lost a bunch of weight, then gained some (or all) of it back; you may even have had some crazy surgery that changed your body forever (like, oh I don’t know, had eleven of your vertebrae fused and two stainless steel rods screwed into your spine). But what happened this morning? Probably, you woke up, got yourself out of bed, made breakfast, ate it, then got yourself to work (or school, or maybe even a yoga class if you’re really lucky!). All those things are pretty amazing if you think about it. We are, for the most part, self-sufficient beings that can move, eat, breathe, talk, sing, dance, and heal — and most of this is done automatically! And even those who aren’t self-sufficient usually have someone else to care for them (that’s right, we have physical ability and health to spare!). Maybe our bodies don’t always look quite the way we want (or, more accurately, the way others want), but they sure do a lot for us. So perhaps rather than bemoaning everything that’s “wrong” with our bodies, we should simply say “thank you” every now and then. Eventually, we’ll might even see our bodies for what they are: a crude physical rendering of who we are and what we do.

How to Love Your Body When You Don’t Like It (Excerpted from Yogadirect.com)

This may seem like an oxymoron: love your body without liking it? 

Here’s why it’s important, and how to love your body.
  • If you are trying to become healthier, more in shape, or lose weight, it is imperative to love your body and yourself in order to stick to a regular healthy plan. If you don’t have love for yourself, why would you be nice to yourself? If you don’t love your kids (you may not like how they behave all of the time, but you still love them), then you wouldn’t be nice to them. 
  • When you begin to foster a deep love and care for your body, you will WANT to do good things for yourself. You’ll want to exercise, eat healthy, and take time for yourself.
  • Just because you love your body doesn’t necessarily mean that you like the way you look. Your body can be a work in progress, and you can still be trying to lose weight or get tone, and love your body.