From the moment I could scramble my chubby legs up the bathroom sink to peer into the mirror overhead, I heard the words of my mother echoing in my head: “A woman never leaves the house without her face on.”
At four-years-old, this seemed like such a strange concept. Did she peel it off at night only to glue it back on in the morning ? Ever the eternal snoop, I became determined to find out what all the fuss was about.
I spent my days spying on her every move. Her beauty captivated me. Unlike the other mommies who wore stained, frumpy housecoats with their hair in pink sponge curlers, my mom was stunning inside the house and out. Her flaming auburn hair, tinges of gold weaving through the curls, sparkling ocean blue eyes, and lush cherry lips made that a universal truth. Then one morning I caught her sitting at the kitchen table with cigarette and coffee in hand – au natural .
“Yikes! Where did my pretty mommy go?” I wanted to cry, but fear choked my immature thoughts from being spoken. The vision before me was a dark, hollow-eyed, frizzed hair replica of the Bride of Frankenstein. No wonder she needed her face on.
Frightened by her unsightly appearance, I started worrying she’d become some pod creature from a black and white horror film. My private unraveling then ignited with a new terror: that one day I’d look just like that.
Eventually, of course, I learned “her face” was simply cosmetic camouflage. The fear of my pod creature mother subsided and a fascination with my artistic application of war paint ensued. It was minimal in my teens, but their layers got thicker as time went by— to cover not only the signs of my age but more so the insecurity that came with growing older and losing my youthfulness. Other than the dog and the unlucky few, no one had seen the real me in years.
Until one day, when my precious friend, Libby Ackley, presented a terrifying dare. “Jackie, I challenge you to go one whole day without any make-up on,”
I knew she wasn’t acting like one of those mean girls from my childhood who wanted a good laugh at my expense, rather coming from a place of love and reflection, but I remained cautious as I listened to her go on.
“Think about how liberating it will feel to own simply who you are and not care about how you’re interpreted .”
At first, I thought how silly. I’d prefer it if I kept the stuff on to keep the world (and my own) suffering to a minimum. But trusting Libby and successfully goaded into the task, I agreed to try.
One morning, after scrubbing my face clean, I stood before the 10 X magnifying mirror where I created my daily transformation. Staring at the bare, raw image, I was horrified to see how my skin had aged just from the night before. It didn’t seem fair that it took centuries for crevices to leave their mark on the Grand Canyon, but the ones on my body magically appeared overnight.
As I prepared for my day, at first I thought it would be a no-brainer. No one would care that I was makeup-less if I worked from home. Yet, a nagging voice inside me knew this challenge would mean nothing if I didn’t venture out into society. So I attempted to conquer my fear by journeying to witness the reaction of the general public.
Initially, everywhere I went, I found myself looking at the ground as people passed by. That image of my mom in the early morning hours flashed before my eyes, and I didn’t want to frighten anyone. Gradually, though, as the day went on and I got braver, I lifted my face until I was eye-to-eye with the world at large. And despite my insecurity and sick to my stomach feeling, I even forced myself to smile.
It wasn’t long before I discovered that nobody cared what I looked like. No one screamed and no one ran away. If I smiled, they did so in kind with my welcoming gesture, and before long, I forgot my face was naked.
I’ll be forever grateful to Libby for this experiment. This is not to say I’m going to stop exploring new colors on my eyes and lips. I am after all an artist and my face is just another canvas to create upon. But, that makeup free day will always be a wonderful reminder for me: When we embrace our basic divine nature in it’s complete and perfect form, without all the bells as the whistles, we will find a sense of freedom that can break through our own rigid, mental limitations.
If we allow this feeling of peace to permeate our beings, we will then explode in color, just as spring does after a quiet winter of self-reflection. Only this time it will come from a place of creativity, without the self-limiting beliefs. It is time we let those go, and get back to finding the blank and perfect slate within all of us!
Is there a part of your life you’d like to wipe clean? Your closet, your garage, your face, your friendships? It’s a liberating experiment and one that opens doors for new, wonderful self-realizations.