Monday, 8 April 2013

Confession: Make up is my beauty crutch

Guess what? The semester has almost ended! There are more essays to do but there's always time for my blog ;) I was freed from a particularly hellish week last Wednesday, and have been relaxing and doing some work for most of the weekend. Looks like I won't be able to catch up on my post backlog until the summer hols start in May though.

Anyway, yesterday I was working on my video review for the Hitachi HadaCRiE Cool -  it's the second instalment in my reviews of this awesome facial skincare device. I know I promised a video by week 2 of using the HadaCRiE, but I wasn't entirely pleased with how it turned out. I'll be filming it again tomorrow - crossing my fingers that things will go right!

Today's post is a contemplative one on a topic close to my heart. Inspired by the recent "confessional" type posts I've read (think Thought Catalog), I decided to divulge a little more about myself and perhaps reach out to others who're feeling the same way.

Here's a confession I have to make to everyone (including myself):

Make up is my beauty crutch.

You may be wondering what exactly I mean, or perhaps you're facing this same issue and are nodding your head in agreement. What I'm saying is that make up is not just a means of enhancing my looks or attracting others' attention. It has become a crutch that supports my self-esteem with regards to my looks.

Now before you start judging me as vain, superficial, or plain deluded, I want you to consider this story. It's the story of a girl, an average girl by most standards, and how she grew to possess a neurosis about her looks. This girl was a precocious child, ever-curious and confident about her relation to the world. She never really worried about her looks, as there were other interests that preoccupied her mind - reading, drawing, singing and other such pursuits.

One day, her permanent teeth grew out. She no longer had a row of small, straight teeth, as they made way for big, jutting, crooked ones, which people called "rabbit teeth" or "bugs bunny teeth". She stopped smiling in photographs and became intensely uncomfortable about smiling at others in real life. She couldn't even close her mouth or pronounce words properly. Intensely distressed, she persuaded her parents to let her put on braces. The process was long and painful, but she felt it was worth it. No one would really find her attractive as long as she had such ugly teeth, and braces would solve all her problems.

And yet that was not the end of the story. Other people, including those closest to her, criticised her looks in many other ways. She was always too skinny, despite eating well and regularly. She was "too tan" from frequent swimming, according to some Asian beauty ideal that fair skin is better. She had terrible eye bags and dark undereye circles because of her hereditary sinus problems. She wasn't spared from these little criticisms and comments from friends and relatives, regardless of how well they knew her. Somehow, everything about her couldn't compare to certain other girls, who she was ceaselessly compared to. Except perhaps her smarts - that's the only thing people praised her about.

It was only after her braces were taken off, and she was older, wiser and more confident, that she grew more attractive in others' eyes. This was when she put on make up to enhance her looks, and when that worked unbelievably well, continued using it to shrug off the secret in her soul, that

I'm ugly. People like her better because she's pretty.

She became obsessed with looking the best she could, from reading up about make up and skincare, to experimenting again and again to find out what worked best to conceal her flaws. She became better and better, and soon outstripped others who were "naturally pretty", as they didn't put as much work into looking good. She couldn't leave the house without make up on until a long time later, as she never felt comfortable until she concealed the flaws that were drawing so much negative attention.

I'm sure everyone knows that the girl I'm talking about is me. I'm not sure how many of you actually knew how insecure I've felt about myself, and how this has crippled some part of my self-esteem with regards to my physical appearance. Perhaps that's because you only see me like this right now:

This was me 9 years ago, before I wore braces, put on copious amounts of sunscreen to keep from being tan, and knew how to put on make up properly on my single eyelids:

I don't believe that the second girl was ugly, but others made her out to be so, and that really hurt. Since then, I've used make up as a shield, a way of concealing those flaws (like I conceal my pimples) or at least to help in avoiding attention. Instead of "you look like you haven't slept in days", "are you sick?", "you look so haggard", "why is your undereye area so black?" - all innocent questions if they didn't know about my sinus condition - my undereye concealer allows me to look "normal" and protects me from the painful reminder of the physical manifestation of a hereditary health condition . Either that or I wear glasses to hide them. I don't ever wear contact lenses without wearing undereye concealer, because when I do (and I did), I get the same old comments about my eyes that make me want to crawl into a hole rather than explain everything a million times over to every single person who asks.

In case you think I'm making a big deal out of this vain sob-story, I'm not just talking about myself - this is a story about all others out there who didn't strike the genetic lottery. Sure, I'm not deformed or anything, but I'm sure many of you have been through similar experiences, where people comment incessantly on your physical "flaws" to the point where you either have to ignore them or die a little inside. And my point is that: It is unfair. How can anyone help what they were born with? Short of doing plastic surgery, which is invasive and expensive, I don't see any other way to erase those sinus-caused dark undereye circles and bags, or make myself fatter so I look less "anorexic", or magically lighten my skin tone, which is naturally more tan than fair.

Even though I have matured into a tolerably attractive person, there's still that bitter sting of being judged based on physical appearance. Now it's the opposite - people judge me for wanting to look attractive and dressing well, saying that I'm too vain for my own good or am just out to get attention. Looks like people never stop judging, eh? 

Nowadays, if I'm wearing contacts, I don't leave the house without 1) evening out my uneven complexion (as my skin is so thin you can see the arteries in my cheeks) with foundation 2) applying undereye concealer to conceal those sinus-caused dark undereye circles and bags 3) applying eyeliner to prevent people from thinking I'm half-asleep (yes, it has happened before, and I was scolded for it by a teacher).

So now you know. Make up is my life-support. On casual days I wear glasses and concealer at most, but the self-esteem issues related to my appearance that began in childhood never truly left me. I can honestly say that I'm still hoping for the day when I can feel completely comfortable in my own skin, and think that I'm beautiful even without make up.

Rachel loves sharing about the beautiful things in life from different perspectives. She writes on beauty and lifestyle in Cherchez Beauté , and does more abstract stuff on Antelune . When she's not writing, she's playing with her dog Holly, doodling and reading fiction. You can follow her on Facebook , Twitter and Instagram .