It is not uncommon for me to hear someone tell me that they never take off their makeup when they are in the presence of others. Depending on your social habits, this can create a situation where the amount of time spent wearing makeup is significant. The consequence can be a gradual shift to a lifestyle that is dependent on makeup.
It is important to ask yourself the question, where am I comfortable not wearing makeup? Am I wearing it to bed when my partner sleeps over? Do I need it to go for an early morning jog or to the gym? Is makeup mandatory every time I leave the house?
Makeup not only serves as a cover for imperfect skin, it can also be a constant reminder that an issue exists. Over time, the continuous reminder that you are flawed, begins to transform into negative emotional thinking that effects how you view your self-worth. Imagine being in a social setting or at work and feeling the inner tension that exists when you know that you are intellectual capable, but feel unattractive? The fear of being perceived as physically unattractive creates limitations in other aspects of your life.
I was reminded recently about the importance of self-perception. We interpret the world through our biased eyes. I recently listened to an interview with Lin-Manuel Miranda the creator of the extraordinarily successful play, Hamilton. He discussed his grade school experience. He was surrounded by what he described as “genius” kids and felt inferior. I don’t think anyone would say that Lin-Manuel is lacking in intelligence or creativity. However, his self-perception was that he was inferior.
Our thoughts and actions can validate our deepest fears if we unknowingly practice hiding from our insecurities. It’s important to present your best self, but if your best self is predicated on the notion that your real self is no good, it’s time to take small steps to support your actual self.
For most people, feeling the need to wear makeup was a gradual process. Most girls didn’t wear any makeup as children and when they were first taught how to use makeup, it was not at the expense of their self-esteem. It was an innocent process. In the same way the process can gradually turn into a mandatory habit for some, the reverse can happen as well. At some point in time you wore significantly less makeup and the same can be true now, even though it does not always feel possible.
Start by taking incredibly small steps to reverse the process. I often tell people if the step is so small that it’s laughable, you may have found yourself the perfect first step. For people that are highly addicted to makeup, I often suggest finding one time in your daily routine where the potential consequences of being seen as less attractive are small and try putting on 2% less makeup in that moment. Large goals often lead to paralysis, not major gains. By taking incredibly small steps over time, we can bypass our defenses to make significant progress.
Once you feel comfortable being seen with 2% less makeup, next time try 3% less, then 4% and so forth. If you reach a level where you feel like you can’t use less makeup, stay there and in time, whether it’s days or months down the road, when you are ready, continue to very slowly decrease the amount of makeup you use. Eventually, you’ll reach a point where you’ll realize that in fact wearing makeup all the time isn’t necessary. At that point, other personal attributes that you are deeply proud of, will get the opportunity to be on display without any interference.
Matt Traube, MFT
Child and Adult Psychotherapy
Phone: (805) 324-4684 and (781) 223-8629