Since being back at University this year, I have wanted to try going out for a night out without any makeup on. Why? Mainly to just prove to myself that I could, and also to push myself very far outside of my normal comfort zone with the hope that it would further me along my journey of body positivity. It is almost the end of this semester and I finally brought myself to do it- as it turns out saying you want to face one of your biggest fears and insecurities is a lot easier than actually doing it. But I did it (!) and so I wanted to write about it.
I would like to point out that I am aware that many people go out with minimal or no makeup on every time that they go out, and so for many this would not be seen as a scary concept, and while I think it is amazing that so many people are comfortable enough and confident enough to do that, for me personally, not wearing makeup out in public is still quite a daunting thought. That's why this is a big deal for me. I am also not saying that people who wear makeup are insecure or lack confidence as I admire makeup as an art and think that it is a wonderful tool of self expression and personal enjoyment and also understand that the majority of people who wear makeup wear it for themselves, and that's beautiful.
Makeup has always been a massive confidence tool for me ever since about year 8 when I first discovered "Natural Collection" foundation, which I always wore two shades too dark for my skin tone. Going to an all girl's school I always got asked why I felt the need to wear makeup to school. People seemed to assume that because there were no "boys to impress there" that my wearing makeup was pointless. I didn't see it like that- I didn't wear it to impress boys, I wore it because even from that young age I was comparing myself to all of the beautiful girls that I spent every day with. In year 8 I compared myself to the year 11 girls who had grown out of their acne stage and looked flawless to me, and then in year 11 I couldn't stand that I had not grown out of my acne and so compared myself to an unrealistic image of my own self that I had wished for. Wearing makeup was against the rules at my school, and I was one of the only girls in my friendship group who wore at least foundation every day. This made me feel insecure too as I saw myself as the only person who felt that they "had" to wear it, everyone else seemed so comfortable in their skin and I always longed to feel that. It is now a running joke amongst my group that while everyone at sleepovers would take their makeup off, I would sit and put a full face on before going to sleep. I've never really explained that, I've just laughed it off but the reality is that I was petrified of waking up in the morning last and people seeing me without any makeup on. In hindsight this was an awful idea because not only did I underestimate how much my friends loved me, but I also gave my acne what it wanted- more and more dirty pores.
Makeup became more and more important to me and I began to use it as a mask to hide how I was really feeling. In sixth form when I was going through a difficult time, I felt that having my makeup done nicely showed people that I was doing okay, I believed it gave the impression that I had everything together and that I was happy. I used to think that if I put that extra little bit of highlighter on that my ex would think I was happy and would think that I was over him. Sounds crazy right? But that's what makeup became for me. I was no longer wearing it because I enjoyed it, I was wearing it because I felt like I had to, I felt like it was expected of me in order to prove my happiness to others.
What I'm trying to show is that I let myself be influenced by media, by propaganda, into believing that my natural features were not good enough. I've been taught to believe that I'm not pretty unless I draw my eyebrows on, that my skin makes me look ill if I haven't smothered it with foundation and painted my cheeks pink, I've learnt that my nose looks too big unless I take ages contouring it with different shades of brown and that my eyes don't sparkle unless I colour my lids with glitter. As I said, I admire makeup as an art, but for me personally, somewhere along the years, that art became toxic, it became a cover up of my biggest insecurities, and being able to hide them with makeup meant that I didn't have to address those insecurities or learn to accept my natural face.
Deciding to go out for a night out without any makeup on at all was terrifying for me. I was anxious all of yesterday leading up to it, and I kept wanting to change my mind. Here in Leeds, the dressing up is such a big part of a night out, its almost a competition of who can look the "edgiest" and makeup plays such a role in that- especially glitter, so not wearing makeup felt unnatural- which is ironic right? considering it is the most natural thing you can do. As my house started to get ready for our night out, the normal rituals began, people racing for the showers, speakers blaring music, arguments over borrowing clothes and then out comes all of the makeup bags filled with palettes and brushes and bottles and tubs. I didn't really know what to do with myself, so while everyone else was doing their makeup I went and watched an episode of Peep Show- so I already began to see a perk of not spending time doing makeup! Now in case you hadn't noticed, photographs tend to play a big part of our prees and I couldn't help but feel anxious as I looked at how beautiful all of my housemates looked compared to me. That voice in my head started to tell me that I looked awful, that I couldn't be in any photographs and that this whole no makeup idea was a very bad one. However, the voice inside of me that wants to be truly happy, that is enjoying learning to love myself outweighed the negative thoughts and with the help of my friends I had soon forgotten that my face was bare and I was soon laughing, drinking and taking photos. The hardest part about actually going to the club, was that I was surrounded by people I didn't know, which is completely different to being natural faced with your closest friends. I found myself apologising to people for the way that I looked, and even tried to explain why I was doing it to a few. This slightly upset me and I was slightly disappointed in myself for doing that. Why should I apologise for how I look? Why do I have to justify my decision to wear no makeup? The first few moments in the club were difficult, I felt vulnerable and exposed and in my head everybody was staring at me wondering why I looked so awful, why I had put no effort in to a night out. However, once I accepted that I had every right to be at the club looking how I did, once I realised that nobody cared if I was wearing makeup or not I had just as an amazing night as I would have done had I been wearing a face of makeup.
Six months ago I would not have even dreamt of going to a club without makeup on, let alone take and post photos of me doing so. I am proud of myself for doing it, I really thought that I might bail on it or that I might fill in my eyebrows a little bit and just not mention it to anyone. Six months ago all I would have seen in these photos is a lack of beauty, I would have been too ashamed of my lack of eyebrows to even consider posting these photos, I would have thought that my skin looked too red and patchy, that my eyes looked tiny without mascara and that these photos were something to be ridiculed and hidden away from anybody that knew me. I see them differently now though. I see everything that I have been through this year, all the ups and the downs, the heartbreak, the grief, the hurt, the hospital visits and the chronic illness and I see a strength in myself that I didn't know was there. I see that I do not need makeup to hide my sadness or my flaws, because I am no longer sad, and my flaws? Well, they're growing on me. My smile is genuine, I do not need to paint it on with lipstick.. I am the happiest I have been in so long, and I have worked so hard to reach this point and that confidence, that self dependency and that happiness is what makes these photos beautiful.
I guess it is true what they say- a smile really is the best makeup a girl can wear.
(PS- shout out and enormous thanks to all of my stunning housemates who have supported all of my craziness this year and have always made me feel loved and beautiful.)