Ugly Days

Ugly Days

Ugly Days

Just because I never wear makeup doesn’t mean I don’t like to collect it. Especially if it’s free. So, when a couple of my coworkers heard we could pick up some free lipstick from a product booth set up across the street, I couldn’t resist tagging along.

We waited patiently in line, we graciously gave them all our personal information, we sat through the product demo and finally…the free lipstick. I had it in my hands. All I had to do was step right up to the mirror and try it on…completely unaware of the slaughter-ing I was in for.

I looked into the mirror and was completely taken aback by what I saw.

Have my eyebrows looked like this all week?

Why is my skin so pale?

Do I really have this huge shadow on my upper lip?

I looked awful. And I felt even worse. I saw every flaw that existed on my face and it was horrible. Repulsed by my own image, I turned away, only to face a tall and slender employee. Her long curls perfectly coiffed, her face flawless.

“Oh, you didn’t put the lipstick on?” She asked me.

“No, I don’t really feel like it.” She hesitated while her eyes poured over what I imagine was my ghastly-looking face.

“C’mon, it’s Friday night,” she smirked. I laughed nervously because obviously I needed some ruby red lipstick to distract from my bushy eyebrows.

So what’s the deal? In my life, I’ve been very purposeful in the beauty choices I make. I don’t really wear makeup and I’m fine with that (You can read more about my relationship with makeup here). Sure, we all have our “ugly” days. I usually try to fix mine with makeup (which usually ends with the crushing realization that I don’t know how to put it on). But I have always resolved to tell myself that no matter what I do, I have to love my face (and body) for the way it is. No amount of makeup or hairstyling or fashion-fussing will be enough to “fix” me if I’m not content with who I am at my most organic state.

And yet when I looked into that mirror, I instantly lost all belief in my natural beauty.

Here I was, standing in this product booth, surrounded by beautiful women…and I just couldn’t help but feel inadequate. The reflection I saw was so different from the perception that I’ve built up of myself. The shock broke me. And I turned away completely embarrassed of the person I saw.

My beliefs about self-image have taken a long time to form. And despite feeling so confident in my ideals, they didn’t hold up as a defense when my feelings came crashing in. All of the negative ideas I’ve collected over the years, the ones I thought I was done with, resurfaced in one moment of vulnerability. Building a positive body image and beauty ideal is an ongoing process, especially in a world that is constantly reminding me that I’m subpar.

I could’ve walked away that night, depressed and dejected because of what I saw. I spent the commute home catching glimpses of myself in every reflective surface I passed. Very narcissistic, I know. With each of those reflections, I saw again and again that I looked normal. There was nothing incredibly hideous about me. So, instead of feeling depressed, I chose to believe in what was the most common image, which also happens to be the one I’m used to.

My face is my face. One bad mirror, or negative criticism for that matter, isn’t going to change that. And I like to think that it’s because I try to appreciate my features for what they are, it’s a lot easier to love them through the ugly days too.

Besides, I’m pretty sure that mirror was lit by the devil.

What do you do with your ugly days? 

The Gift of Being

The Gift of Being

On the train from Winnipeg to Toronto
On the train from Winnipeg to Toronto

“Me” time. I’ve never understood the concept. I found it to be a little obnoxious if even. Why do I need to take time for myself? As if I’m not constantly making decisions that benefit me.

But this last month has been full of reflection. And I think I might finally understand the concept of taking time for yourself, although I’d probably call it something else.

Generally speaking, the motto for my life has been: be a better human being. And you can imagine how quickly someone might fail at this quest. Every day I hadn’t accomplished something to save the world, advance my future or change a life, was a day that hadn’t lived up to my enormous expectations.

And in that deep and ambitious search for purpose, (because that’s really what I’ve been trying to find) I found myself not only constantly physically and emotionally exhausted, but deeply guilt-ridden when I felt like I’d wasted my time.

But here’s the thing: If I’m going to beat myself up for every time I watch a movie on Netflix instead of figuring out how to become a better human being, I lose part of my humanity in the process. I lose out on one of the most valuable gifts we have as humans, the gift of just being.

In this last month, I took plenty of time to just enjoy this gift. I took a 36-hour train ride solo from Winnipeg to Toronto (a “waste of time” I could’ve easily avoided by taking a plane). I stretched my musical muscles and released my inner gamer geek. I watched tv shows and movies. I went biking and worked muscles I didn’t know even know existed. I started sewing and painting again. All things I’ve been meaning to do for a while. But I just couldn’t give myself the time. I couldn’t see how any of these activities would add up to something meaningful, something I could use.

But most importantly, I learned to write again. And I think that’s what really did the trick. Writing has played such a huge role in helping me process life. Every time I’ve put a pen to paper, I’ve come out with a strong sense of self and understanding of the world than I had before.

So here’s to allowing yourself to just be. And in that process, becoming a better human being.