Giving up unattainable perfection is liberating!
I recently took stock of my daily beauty and wellness routines and started to see a pattern: despite my advocacy for body positivity, confidence, and self-care, I’m still trying to look and be perfect.
How did my body-positive attitude fail to translate into my day-to-day routine?
Two-hours of an inescapable beauty regimen kept me tethered to the vanity starting at 6 am every morning, trying to erase what I saw (or been told to see) as physical imperfections. My dresser was smeared with different foundation shades and eyeliner pens, and I spent hours crafting a suitable look just to go on daily errands. I put so much pressure on myself to be acceptable that sleep became secondary — a choice that left me with dark circles and patchy skin that I would then have to cover up the next day.
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Perfection is odd. And where you seek it is even odder. I sat alone in my room wondering why I literally applied two (yes, two) sheet masks in a single night. Why did I shave all the hair off my body to then wake up the next morning and do it again — as if it was unacceptable to walk around with the tiniest of leg stubble? Why did I spend tons of money on pore primer when it never truly worked?
Maybe I'm not as confident and comfortable with myself as I appear to the outside world.
Understand my shock when I started counting how many times during the week I couldn’t leave my apartment without touching up my eyeliner, teasing my hair, re-tucking my shirt into my skirt, and applying another shade of lipstick. I decided to retrain my brain to accept a more mentally healthy way of looking at my undone self. To do so, I gave up a few beauty routines:
I didn’t give up shaving altogether, but I severely backed off from it, using cold weather days as vacations from being so particular about my underarm and leg hair. Before my realization, I would shave every morning and night, fully attached to the idea that I had to be a hairless creature if I was going to walk around in the world. Now, I understand that hardly anyone notices unruly hair and that I wasted many hours trying to strive for an unreasonable level of perfection.
You’re officially a weekly or sometimes monthly visitor, razor — get used to it.
2. Daily Exercise
Yes, I’m one of those gym freaks who can talk for hours about the mental benefits of working out. And while I have noticed subtle differences in my size and musculature from hitting the gym almost daily for the last few years, I mainly go because it has such a positive effect on my emotional state. Everything is brighter and clearer, and it helps make my depression manageable.
However, all of these positive results go out the window when I’m too busy to exercise and then mentally shame myself. I’m perfectly happy with my body, and I work hard to maintain its size 16/18 athletic shape — but perhaps too obsessively. I learned to moderate my exercise and now go to the gym three times per week, which is way more manageable.
At 27, I learned the subtle (yet not so subtle) magic of contouring and never looked back — until now. The way contouring gave depth and definition to my features was my miracle cure for what I used to think was a truly heinous face full of enlarged pores and bulbous characteristics.
About three months ago, I started swimming to beat the summer heat and mix up my workout routine. As a result, my makeup bag dwindled down to face cream, lip tint, and brow pencil. It was nearly impossible to run from the pool to work every morning and not be late, and sacrifices had to be made.
At first, I didn’t recognize myself. Highlighter was not making the high points of my face standout. My nose looked bigger, my cheekbones looked less prominent, and my face was not as bright — but that was okay. I broke away from my brushes and made it out on the other side with a no-makeup look I had always been terrified to do.
We've all been there: standing at the back of a congested bar, holding a beer, watching strangers dance to overly loud music while friends desperately try to find other friends through spotty cell reception. A couple bumps into you, knocks your beer to the ground, and then the music abruptly stops and starts again but at a much higher volume.
I will never understand why I put myself through such misery for so long.
I know it’s not beauty related, but the unknown pressure I put on myself to go out needed to end. I thought I had to take advantage of every single late-night experience that New York City had to offer — more times than not, that experience was hanging out in a bar basement with total strangers. I’m not doing this one any more than I have to.
You will not find a single pair hanging in my closet or folded in my dresser. For years, I lied to myself that denim looked good on me and felt comfortable enough to wear all the time. It really doesn’t. It would be one thing if I didn’t try, but oh, I’ve tried. I had to realize that no matter how cool they look on everyone else, I’m never going to like the way they feel on my skin or look on my body. Sorry mom jeans, you’re out. Sorry skinny jeans, you’re not invited. Sorry bootcut, you’re not on my radar anymore.