I gave up makeup for a year for spiritual reasons, and learned a lot from the experience, spiritually and in other areas of life. Here’s Part 1 of the lessons I learned. Read Part 2 here. Read the start of my journey here.
Giving up makeup for a year was a faith-based decision. I don’t think I would have done it if I didn’t feel that it was getting in the way of having a relationship with God.
Giving up makeup, for me, actually meant giving up a large part of my external beauty, which in turn meant giving up a crutch I had been relying on for years. That was the problem: my beauty was essentially a foundation upon which I tried to build my relationships to other people and the world.
I didn’t really know how to understand things like kindness or love without it. So, in my quest to reconnect to God and make sense of life after a long period away while I was in university, I had difficulty. I would find myself in church every Sunday, gawking in disbelief (on the inside) during the sermons, which largely seemed to be some variation of the same message: God loves you unconditionally. What on earth did that even mean and why did I find it so hard to accept? What about my flaws, my mistakes, my sins? Didn’t I have to atone for them? Suffer for them?
I remember approaching the pastor about this one Sunday, when I was in a very cynical frame of mind. He told me that I just had to accept the gift of God’s forgiveness and I would be forgiven. It was mind-boggling to me that something could be so simple, and more than that, painless.
And so I would leave church every Sunday, freaked out and kind of disturbed at the notion that we didn’t have to earn love. I had based my entire worldview on the very opposite notion, that love was something that had to be earned. That carried over into my relationship with makeup, and beauty in general.
Rather than treating it as a thing, I used it as a way to earn interest and kindness from others, which I mistook for love. Eventually, I came to feel that no one would love me, listen to me, or care about me if I wasn’t physically beautiful.
And strangely, I also used beauty as a wall to keep people out. They could only get so close before I kept them out, concerned that if they got to know me, I would lose my beauty in the shadow of my personal flaws. I was (am) awkward and shy. Sometimes I said the wrong things. Sometimes I ran out of things to say. I suspected I was boring and more than a touch too serious. I wasn’t funny. It wasn’t always easy to make friends.
So that is how I went into my year of makeup. Here is what I learned along the way.
Life is Better When I Have Faith in God
Once I took the makeup off, I didn’t feel so internally clogged. I wasn’t able to be as heavily guarded as I was with makeup, and when I went to church, I was able to slowly accept that God did indeed love me.
It is such a seemingly simple concept that has had, and continues to have an enormous impact on my life.
First, I have had moments of feeling secure, probably for the first time in my life.
Everything I had tried to put my faith in before–people, beauty, achievements, intellect–had failed me. Because God is perfect, the burden of my shortcomings isn’t too much for Him to handle. It’s still a hard thing for me to wrap my head around sometimes, but knowing that I can trust myself entirely to God has taken a heavy burden off of me. I feel like I can rest.
Second, I feel more able to open myself up to and be vulnerable (eep!) with others. 7 months into my makeup-free year, I got (re-)baptized. I felt moved to do it because my understanding of God had changed. I had grown up being taught about God at home, in school, and at church, but I somehow came to believe that God was angry with me constantly and missed the message that He loved me.
Even though I was worried my friends might judge me, I invited them to my baptism anyway, and most of them came–in fact, they were happy to. This was a big step for me, because I wasn’t used to inviting my friends into such personal parts of my life. It also helped me to realize that I shouldn’t hide who I am, even when there are aspects of my identity (like being a born-again Christian) that are definitely not popular. Since that, my friendships deepened, and I found myself feeling a closeness with my friends that I had not felt in years.
Patience & Gratitude Can Really Make You Happy
Before, when I used to feel down or upset, playing around with my makeup or my clothes or my hair would help to make me feel better. Without these things (and with the realization that I had to stop looking to external things to validate me), I had to learn to use other things to cope with difficult emotions or situations. At one point, when I was going through some personal anxiety and failure, I started rattling off things in my life I was grateful to God for and sometimes wrote them down in a daily planner. Being grateful helped me to find some balance and peace when things felt like they were going overwhelmingly wrong.
There were also many times when I felt like the year would never come to an end, and I grew frustrated with the seemingly slow passage of time as well as with looking at the same bare face every day. These were the times when I needed to remind myself that this was where I was at the moment but that it wouldn’t last. I don’t think I actually knew how to define patience before starting this journey, but I think I can say now that involves taking one moment at a time and dealing with that moment instead of rushing through to the future.
Learning to process moments through gratitude and patience made me significantly happier overall–much happier than I was with a pretty face.
Read Part 2 here
Have any questions for me? Confused about the God part of why I did this? I’d be happy to answer. Leave your questions in a comment below.
Would you go a year without makeup? Why (not)?