Tag Archives: self-esteem

Seeing red and being seen, part 3: how I finally stopped worrying and learned to love makeup

It was last year that the person who changed my life came into it.

At least that’s how I see it. He would disagree, and tell you it all came from me. But my counsellor, who I was lucky enough to see for many weeks, was the one who gently suggested new ways of thinking.

It was him who realised that one of my biggest problems was that I was hiding. That it came from learning to be quiet, to disappear, to avoid confrontation. And then he asked me a question:

What could you do to stop hiding?

The answer was obvious. And terrifying. But I had to find a way to stop bottling myself up.

I already had several red lipsticks, sitting unused in my makeup box. I picked one. And the morning after my counselling session, I wore it.

And nothing terrible happened.

I don’t know what I was expecting. I was frightened somebody would notice it, comment on it. For a long time on the rare occasions I did wear makeup, even on my wedding day, I was terribly embarrassed about it. Somebody might realise I was wearing it, that I wanted to feel pretty. Somebody might notice.

The day after that, I wore it again.

I noticed something I hadn’t noticed since getting a job after many months of frustrating unemployment: I was walking taller. I was looking up. I was making eye contact. I was noticeable.

And it was OK.

I understand why a lot of women reject makeup. It’s their way of being seen as they are. For me, it was a way of hiding who I was and who I wanted to be.

I started to enjoy myself with it.

One day, a colleague commented on the lipstick. Complimented it in fact. And I didn’t want to run away. I didn’t feel uncomfortable.

A cashier at the sushi joint I frequented asked me what lip colour I was wearing. She loved it. I floated through the rest of the afternoon.

And then came the day when I looked in the mirror and, for the first time in a very long time, I saw myself as beautiful- something I had never really believed about myself before, if I’m being honest.

Obviously there was a lot more to it than lipstick, but for me, it’s become a tool I use to show love for myself. It’s been a long time coming.

Seeing red and being seen: How I learned to stop worrying and love lipstick, part 1: The Bad Beginning

All the red lipsticks

Yeah, so this still life ended up a bit 80s-tastic-vaseline-on-the-lens. It was my first attempt at one!

Make-up used to squick me out. I’m not kidding. Especially lipstick. When I tell you that the above is just a small selection of the lip colours I now own, and that of those about 75% are red, red, red, the fact that for a very long time I didn’t wear any may surprise you.

I blame ballet. 

Actually, it would be more accurate to say that I blame the stage mothers who used to volunteer to help with the ballet concerts my dance school would put on every second year. Somehow, it didn’t matter which of the Mums I got doing my stage makeup- and stage makeup was my first experience with putting stuff on my face that wasn’t just itchy-scratchy face-paint crayons. The result was always the same- they felt the need to lay on the greasepaint with a trowel. And that wasn’t something they did to everyone. 

This told me, aged about 6, two things. One: that makeup felt absolutely disgusting, thick and self-conscious-making and Too. Much. Two: that I wasn’t as pretty as the other girls. They didn’t have huge balloons of bright pink blusher on them, or inch-thick deep pink lipstick. Yuk. 

My mother almost never wore makeup. In fact, I would bet you could look in her makeup bag now and she would still have the same makeup in there she had back in the 1980s when I used to, occasionally, out of curiosity, take it out and look at it. And I mean the exact same- not thrown out and replaced. The Almay eyeshadow in ‘Peacock’, the ‘Honey Beige’ frosted lipstick, the concealer. I can remember the precisely two times she wore it when I was growing up. Both times I got upset- I wasn’t used to seeing her with makeup on. It didn’t look like her. She certainly didn’t encourage me to wear it either. I tried on lipstick only once growing up, and that was my Nan’s. A mistake- it was the same bright pink as that greasepaint and I wanted it off halfway round our shopping in the town where my grandparents lived but couldn’t take it off until we got home. 

I’ve since realised that what put me off wearing it was, at least in part, being terribly shy. I was often told off for being too loud- being seen and heard was a Bad Thing. Makeup made you seen and heard. Therefore, I avoided it. 

But I still longed for it. And then, as you’ll see, came being a teenager. 

 

On compliments: A simple way to boost your self-esteem.

It’s all thanks to Reese Witherspoon. 

I can’t remember how many years it was ago now, but I remember reading an interview with her in which she said that when people compliment her she always simply says “thank you”.

Think about it. When people pay you a compliment what do you say? 

Do you thank them? Or do you come out with something like “what, this? Oh, but it’s really cheap/I just threw it on/I’m not sure about it… and anyway yours is much nicer/it’s all thanks to my hairdresser…”

What are you really saying to them? Do you mean that their compliment isn’t worth that much? That you don’t deserve it? 

Next time someone gives you a compliment, try simply saying ‘thank you’. If you feel the need to embellish, how about “I got it at this great shop…” or “I like your __________ too”. Or just SMILE and say thank you. Notice how different it feels. How much better. 

You’re not downplaying yourself. You’re not downplaying them. You’re taking the kindness they’ve sent your way and sending some of your own back to them. 

Simple, no?

(And when you’ve practiced that one, try this- say something when someone says, does, looks or wears something good. Don’t just think it, let them know. You may well make their day.)

What doing a handstand on someone’s knees taught me about self esteem

It happened less than 6 hours after I had arrived in Auckland. There I was, in track pants and a t-shirt, trying to stabilise my core while I balanced upside down, my ‘base’ holding my shoulders up and me steadying myself on her knees while my Best Beloved spotted for us, telling me to tuck my stomach in, move my legs back, keep my arms straight. 

The move was called a low candle, and I was at my first ever session of acrobatics. My wonderful friend Anna C turns out to also be a fantastic teacher (a Princess of Cups? Most certainly). She has absolute faith in the newbies and, I gather, is usually the one grabbing them and throwing them in at the deep end.

Acro really works your core muscles, as well as a whole range of other muscles, often one set at a time. It’s an amazing workout, and (as I discovered) huge amounts of fun. But there’s one thing you need, more than anything else, to do it.

Confidence.

“Can you do a handstand?” asked Anna.

“Um…I haven’t in a long time.” I reply.

“But do you think you could?” she continues.

Then my Best Beloved goes on to demonstrate, with her basing him (she’s at least a foot shorter than he is), how to get up into the first move of a Pretzel by doing a handstand so your ass lands on your base’s feet, and then you walk over into a sitting position held up on their legs. Yes really.

“Do you think you could?”

You see, throughout the session Anna and the Best Beloved would both tell me I had been doing things right- I had balanced upside down, successfully leaned back almost horizontal into a Low Table. And yet, when I came out of moves I found that they were saying “yes you can!”, but I was saying “No, I can’t.”

“Do you THINK you could?”

You know the old saying, I’m sure: If you think you can, or think you can’t, you are probably right.

I know there are two things I need to strengthen to get good at acro. My core muscles (seriously, I could feel them shaking in that Low Table, though I was holding a tough position), and my confidence. Knowing you’re capable of something is well over half the battle. It was the doubts that brought me back down onto the mat, each and every time.

Oh, but I did do two successful moves- a sideways plank (being held up on Anna’s feet, one under my thigh and one under my shoulder, while I was told “and now look glamourous”. I was just excited to do it.

And a Flying Woman, where my Best Beloved hoisted me up into the air over his head, in a position much like the figurehead of a ship. And then walked off the mat and around the wooden gym floor with me. None of what came out of my mouth at that point was the truth. That was the fear talking.

And you know what? I’m going to keep going to Acro. And the fear is going to shut the hell up. 

Unhappy hipsters are unhappy for a reason

I talk to my friend Anna pretty much every day via text. Today she told me she’s breaking up the day by getting out at lunchtime (terrible weather be damned, good for her!) and going to Starbucks. This gave rise to a conversation about whether that made her a hipster.

Here’s the thing I don’t get, and don’t really like, about the hipster phenomenon- it’s the idea of ‘liking things ironically’. I just don’t get it. Do you just not like it? Or do you like it, but are embarrassed to say that you like it?

Neither of these, to me, lead to a healthy outlook or pursuit of happiness.

If you actually don’t like something- don’t like going to that kitschy cafe, don’t like wearing that retro t-shirt, don’t like drinking that drink…then why are you doing it? Why would you choose to do something you don’t enjoy, just because you want to appear ‘ironic’.

And if you DO like it, why should you be afraid of owning that? Maybe you love eating at the kitschy cafe because you actually really enjoy the crazy umbrella drinks. Maybe those milkshakes with a big fluffy pile of whipped cream on top give you a sugary buzz and feel super-indulgent. Maybe you’re wearing your retro t-shirt because you remember that show or band and you loved it and had all their albums or watched every episode religiously when it came on TV. Maybe you love 70s cuisine classics because they’re what you grew up eating at parties, and to you they’re just darn tasty.  All of those things are fine- actually, they’re great.

It’s what you love, don’t let others tell you it’s not OK to like it, or that you have to be ‘ironic’ about liking it. If you say you like it ‘ironically’, the message it gives is that it’s not really cool. Well personally I don’t give a monkey’s about cool.

Love what you love, whether it’s My Little Pony, or cheesy fondue…(excuse me, I’ll just go ahead and wipe the drool off the keyboard)… or cheesy country music, or romance novels, whatever it is- if you love it, work it, and don’t be ashamed of it. It’s part of what makes you you, and what makes you happy. Who cares what others think of it? It comes down to not being ashamed of who you are. Being loud and proud about the things you love is part of that. Life’s too short to do things for the sake of irony.

So go on, what things are you unironically smitten with? What things give you a big burst of pleasure? Enquiring minds want to know! (Well, I do, anyway).