Monday, June 4, 2012

Me, Stripped

Where to start, really?

I, without realizing how deep this would go, started a "fun" project a few days ago that has turned into a soul-changing experience.

I have long known and told people that I look like an entirely different (and "ugly") person without my usual "war paint" or fairly heavy makeup that I NEVER leave the house without, and often sleep in (mostly waterproof/smearproof) in case someone comes to the door early in the morning, etc. I don't WANT to be the person under the makeup and I don't want anyone to see her. She's somebody I left behind when I left behind being Awkward. Ugly. Unaccepted. Shy. Friendless. The weird homeschooled girl.

At some point in my life, I turned into the kind of person I can't stand the most now (have we talked about mirrors yet? I'll get to that) -- a chameleon.
I changed to please whomever I wanted to like me. I would be whatever they wanted me to be.
And I hate people like that. But whatever we hate in other people is generally just a mirror of the things we can't accept about ourselves.
OK, pretty much always. Case in point? My whole life.

Ask me how that's translated into my adult life and I'll tell you it's not fucking pretty, and it's caused me a lot of pain.

I'm getting ahead of myself, but if you read my blog you know how I ramble.

I don't think I QUITE realized that there was anything I really hated about my appearance (except freckles, I prayed for God to take them away when I was 8) until I started going to classes at the local middle school. Though we were all homeschooled, my parents encouraged me and my siblings to take extracurricular classes once we hit Jr. High age. Choir, Band, etc.
One day in choir, two girls who were fairly popular and well liked (and pretty) came up to me and said "you know what, you should let us do a makeover on you! It'd be so fun and you'd get to feel PRETTY..."
and they went on and on about how fun it would be to do this wonderful service for me.
At first, I was thrilled that these girls were even talking to me, as an insecure 12 yr old will be.... (and they were JUNIORS)... but...
then I got to thinking.

Why do I need a makeover?
Am I not pretty, and therefore they need to MAKE me pretty? I'd always known that I had what I felt was a very "Different" look from any of my friends (who literally all looked the same, and better than me in my eyes). I never liked it but I never thought of it as something I could change. I grew up wearing thrift store clothes and hand me downs. The day these girls approached me, I was wearing a button-up hawaiian shirt and black stirrup pants with a purple skirt attached. My hair by nature has a strange half/wavy half/curly style with what I call the "plig bangs" (you can only understand if you've lived near Colorado City) in front.
Really, really awkward.
No sense of style. No sense that I should care. .I was raised by people who taught us never to focus on outward appearance, but to judge people by their actions alone.
So I did.
Until then.

It was bad enough that I was shy and had no friends. I felt completely without personality. Because I had nowhere to express myself.
Now I was ugly too.
And didn't know how to dress.

From that moment on, I made it my mission to FIND a way to look better. I bought Cosmo Girl and TEEN magazines, etc, and hid them under my mattress (they were forbidden in my home). I memorized every beauty tip and trick I could find. I looked at the pictures of the models and memorized what "beautiful" meant to the rest of the world. I picked out every part of me that didn't match that ideal, and began hating myself, one body part at a time.
And changing myself, however I could. Or disguising myself.

Straightening my hair... drawing on eyebrows.... wearing mascara... finding the right colors to compliment my features... learning about makeup and concealer and getting my first job at the age of 14 so that I could buy my own peer-acceptable clothing.

I was still awkward, don't get me wrong. I didn't grow into this new me completely probably until I was 18 years old, and even since then my makeup style has evolved immensely.
At first it was about accentuating my good features and hiding flaws (mainly bad complexion, which having children has mostly fixed).
Then I realized one day, I didn't have to look like ME at all anymore, and oh, what a wonderful thing that was.
I could buy a pushup bra that would make me look like I wasn't a 12 yr old boy. I could buy longer shirts to cover the booty that I despised so much (but is my claim to dating fame these days, lol). I could wear short skirts to make my legs look longer, and wear heels all day every day (and yes, I did, until my arches collapsed, and then when the pain went away from that, I started wearing heels again. EVERY. DAY.)

I could pluck and highlight my eyebrows into the perfect (too-perfect) shape, I could use eyeshadows, liners, special mascaras, etc to make my eyes look bigger, wider, brighter. I could use dark lipstick to make my teeth look whiter (ha, what a joke). You get the idea.

Eventually I realized that the day I could look in the mirror and feel beautiful was the day I no longer looked ANYTHING like

And I just accepted that. I thanked the gods of makeup that I could finally be pretty enough for boys to notice and for girls not to be ashamed to hang out with. People started asking ME for makeup and style tips. People started telling me how amazing and captivating my eyes were, whereas the only physical compliment I'd received before all this, EVER, in my life, was that the color of my hair was beautiful and unique. Just the color.

Someone posted something on twitter the other day that stuck with me, and I think it might have kind of spurred me in this direction. It was (and I can't directly quote it because I can't find it now) "Maybe she's born with it, or maybe she was born ugly as fuck and is covering it with 10 lbs of makeup."

Since the birth of my children I have had to learn to accept some bodily flaws as a part of who I am, and something I CANNOT change.
Stretch marks, for one.
Stomach skin that will never be supple and smooth, ever.
Breasts that are smaller than they were when I was 9 yrs old, and somehow still manage to sag a bit.

And I've had boyfriends who blessedly praised my beauty, even with the lights on, even with all my stretch marks, even with all my flaws that I blushed over and tried to cover for years. They told me every inch of me was gorgeous and I saw that they were telling me the truth. They believed that.

But my face, I still could not accept my face. That's the real representation of me, right? That's the first thing people really notice when they look at a person. Their face. And my face isn't even mine. Not the one that I accept when I look in the mirror. The one that I try to ignore for the minutes until I can get it covered with the appropriate perfected makeup.

(as a strange but connected side note, I recently watched a movie called The Skin I Live In .. it's foreign, has Antonio Banderas in it. Don't watch it if you aren't prepared for a lot of sex and some very raw material, but it was a good movie and has also led me down this strange path of self discovery.)

How we look is a huge, huge part of who we are. If we didn't have our looks, whatever they may be, how would be define ourselves? What would be left? How would anyone know who we were when we came into a room?
(I could go into a whole diatribe about energy, because there's a REAL answer to this, but that's not what this is about. Yet.)

Over the past few years, everything else in my life has been stripped down to nothing. Naked, broken.... something that I cannot put back together as it once was, but a blank canvas, shattered pieces, to be built and painted into something completely new. Because it has to be. Because I'm ready for something better and what I had built was so complex and so unhappy and so fake that ... my soul couldn't stand for it anymore....

I decided to strip the last piece of that away.

And it's been a helluva lot more painful, and a lot more eye-opening, and a lot more of a huge, raw, bleeding wound than I EVER imagined. It has opened pathways of thought that I have closed myself to for most of my life. It has forced me to revisit and explore memories and feelings of complete inadequacy as far as my very being, my very essence.

I don't know who I am. I lost that person long ago. And I have an extraordinarily deep-rooted and terrifying belief that who that person is is not good enough, will never be good enough.

But I have to realize that she is. And I have to get to know her. And I have to let you all get to know her too.

And it starts here.

This is my journey of pictures so far this week. By now most of you know what I look like on a normal day, full war-paint on, hair done... I can be in my pajamas but my face will never be less than picture perfect. Til now.

It started with this picture, and I was just goofing off. Really.

Uploaded from the Photobucket iPhone App
I posted it on Instagram with the caption "do I really look THAT different without makeup?" and followed it with these:

Uploaded from the Photobucket iPhone App

Uploaded from the Photobucket iPhone App

I asked for people's opinions. And I WANTED HONESTY, because I was prepared to hear (and almost wanted to hear) that I looked better with makeup, and should stick with it. Yeah.
I got zero comments on the makeup picture. An overwhelming response to the other, saying that I was beautiful, adorable, gorgeous, and people were stunned.

Still, I have to take this with a grain of salt, because it's me who has to accept that girl. And it's still very, very hard.
But the next day, I took another picture before I did my makeup, and I posted it. Because the more I know people have seen me without makeup, the more I can just accept that they've seen it, good or bad.

Uploaded from the Photobucket iPhone App

^ I don't find that girl attractive.
But I'm getting closer to accepting that some people might.Or that it might not even matter if they do. (WHAT?!)

then I applied makeup, but only about half of what I usually wear, and posted the pic and asked for opinions again, as compared to zero makeup or my usual look:

Uploaded from the Photobucket iPhone App

Again, overwhelming positive comments, with a few comments about using more natural colors, etc, but that people were blown away by my "natural beauty" that I'd been "hiding" all this time.

Yep, still taking it with a grain of salt, and later in the day I did add a little more eyeshadow, mainly because my eyeliner kept bleeding onto my upper eyelid (who knew eyeshadow could help with that?!) 
Nobody said anything to me at work, but I don't know many people there anyway. I was dressed in workout clothes and old jeans so they probably thought I was just "dressing down" for our last rehearsal. Haaha. 
However, I DO think the girl in that picture is pretty.

Last night, when I got home, I washed my face. And that's when I really started to think about all of this. And I started crying, and sobbed. For hours. Over how deeply this has affected me, my opinion of myself, other people's opinion of me, my entire LIFE, events in my life, allowing abuse because I wanted always and only to be wanted and loved... that's been my motivation for everything. And through it all I have believed ABSOLUTELY that the real me, whom I had so successfully buried, was NOT anyone that anyone would ever love or want. Is not. 
Whoever the hell she is.
And then I realized that if I ever fall in love again... and if that man falls in love with me... I want to be who I really am.
And I want him to love ME. I want him to be okay with me painting my face to look pretty for a night out on the town but I want him to be just as attracted to me if my face is naked. If I'm not wearing a padded bra. If I'm bloated and my stretch marks are showing.
If I'm acting like the 8 yr old girl who laughed with her only best friend til she peed her pants.
Because that girl, that 8 yr old girl, holds the key to everything for me right now. She is the last remaining piece of the person that I am. She's my soul, and I left her behind.

And oddly I feel the need to apologize to her.
To myself.
to everyone...
Because in believing that just me is not enough I have put something out into the universe that I have been trying to fight out of everyone else I know. But how can I, when I can't even love myself? Or find myself?

I'm so sorry.

I'm trying to fix it.

I admit, today, after only 2 hrs of sleep and a lot of tears, I'm back in full war-paint. I'm not completely ready to step back into that 8 yr old girl and feel that way again and start from scratch building "okay-ness" about the real me. It's the worst, most raw, most heart-rending pain in the world to go this far back and re-live the insecurity, the aloneness, the total rejection of my self. But I gotta go back if I'm going to fix it.

Bear with me. I think this is the start of something amazing. 
But it's not going to be easy.

How I Feel Today (for lolz):

Uploaded from the Photobucket iPhone App