But this wasn't about proving anything or quitting anything. This was about challenging my self-perception, my own notions of beauty and the role that makeup plays in all that.
My biggest concern before I started was that I would feel self-conscious and not act myself, but surprisingly, that was never an issue. I discovered that even when I felt self-conscious about not looking so good, I was still able to be friendly and outgoing. This was a wonderful discovery because that validated my continuous work to develop a strong sense of self, unrelated to external context and input. And I noticed that no one reacted differently to me, men and women alike. This was incredibly powerful to me because it really confirms to me that confidence is the strongest attractor. It also has shrunken the discrepancy between the way I thought I looked without makeup and the way I actually look without makeup, which is not so different!
The one time that I really felt self-conscious, and had to give myself a little internal pep talk, was when I was sitting with my friends at a restaurant in Manhattan and in walked the guy that I had recently gone on a few dates with. I thought, "shoot!", and tried to inconspicuously check myself out in the mirror. For a minute I thought, "Is he going be disappointed with the way I look? Is he gonna think, 'Oh this is what she REALLY looks like,' but none of that happened. He came over to the table to say hi and didn't give me a look that made me think for a second that he was thinking any of the things that had run through my head minutes before. And, he asked me out again. This further confirmed that makeup is not the defining factor.
Wearing no makeup also gave me a greater of awareness of another reason we (or I) wear makeup. The main difference I noticed when I stopped wearing makeup was that I looked more tired. Usually, when I am tired and my eyes are drooping, I just put makeup on and boom, awake I look. But without makeup I was forced to use the natural means of looking awake: GETTING MORE SLEEP! It alerted me to the way we use makeup to cover up our tiredness or other "blemishes" instead of addressing the root cause, namely; sleep deprivation, stress, anxiety lack of exercise etc.. If we didn't have makeup we would probably have a greater incentive to take care of ourselves better. I'm working on keeping that awareness and taking better care of myself even though I am back to makeup.
One of the "exceptions" to the no-makeup challenge was for a wedding and a friend of mine got married smack in the middle of my 10 days. Even though I was "allowed" to wear makeup I had an internal battle "Isn't it hypocritical to put on makeup to go to a wedding?", and "Won't it be hard to go back to not wearing makeup?", and "Won't that break up my process and insights?". As I was mulling it over I realized that there are certain times and events that wearing makeup isn't even about my own sense of self, but about looking presentable and showing someone else that you care to put in the effort. Showing up to a wedding, a date or an interview without makeup may give the message that I didn't care. Whether that's good or not is another conversation, but socially, it is almost inappropriate at times not to wear makeup. It would be somewhat comparable to showing up to a wedding, or date, or interview in a jean skirt!
I must confess that I "cheated" a little on my last day of the challenge. I know, I know how could I cheat on the last day! But it was Shabbos and I was back in Washington Heights. I was exhausted and I looked it. I felt especially like I needed some makeup since it was Shabbos and everyone else was wearing makeup. But to my defense, I only put on a very little eye liner and mascara, just enough to give my eyes a little boost. So in the end I didn't give myself the opportunity to see how or if anyone would react differently to me not wearing makeup on Shabbos, but maybe I'll be brave enough (or make sure to get enough sleep) next time. :-)
So what was the point? For me I really gained some valuable insights, strengthened my sense of self, and am less likely to think twice before stepping out of the house with a bare-face.