Makeup played, and still plays a huge part of my life. Now, I’m not saying that if someone stripped me out of my makeup, I’d melt like the Wicked Witch of the West. I would just feel out of place for a couple of days.
And desperately deprived from lipstick.
In no way does this mean I don’t have self-respect, or lost my sense of identity. Makeup doesn’t define who I am, but it definitely, in some odd way, shaped the way I saw society.
Although I now perceive makeup as an add-on, it didn’t always start out that way…
Stage One – The Insecurities
Secondary school was were it all started.
My secondary education was a mess of trying to fit in, and figuring out who I was and what I wanted. Admittedly, I was nowhere near an answer for the latter, until college.
Where I blossomed into a beautiful butterfly.
The first form of make-up I ever placed on my face was eyeliner. No foundation, no concealer, no eyebrows; none of that fancy contouring or highlighting. Just eyeliner.
Maybe your first reaction to that would be: why.
It wasn’t to make my eyes bolder or anything, but actually to make them appear larger. Being of an Asian ethnicity, I was constantly stereotyped and made fun of for my small, mono-lidded eyes.
Yes I can see; No I’m not sleeping. Please stop asking.
As I was a shy, 12 year old with glasses and braces, being ridiculed made me feel embarrassed, resentful over my father’s genetics, and insecure about my looks.
During primary school, I never concerned myself about appearances. Kids didn’t care about what you looked like, as long as you shared your crackers and took turns on the monkey bars.
I was too weak to play monkey bars.
So having peers emphasize a flaw, I didn’t know I had till then, did a huge blow to my self-esteem. I was sucked into the stage, where people started to judge and care about what others thought about them. It was inevitable.
Thus, I did what any 12 year old, who wanted to fit in do; go on the internet and searched “How to make my eyes look bigger”. Now, I don’t remember which article I saw that made me leap for joy, but it had said eyeliner would give an illusion of bigger eyes. Not bothering with how to apply eyeliner, or what shade, or technique I’m to use, I adamantly decided that it was the solution to my problems. Eyeliner. Eyeliner. Eyeliner.
I begged my mother to let me use eyeliner, but she wanted to me to wait till I was much older. Being older now, I completely understood why she opposed. I was too young. Yet, I didn’t care, and it didn’t stop me from doing it. I thought that she couldn’t possibly understand my angsty teenage struggles, especially when she was born with large, double-lidded eyes.
Using what little pocket money I had, I bought my first black stencil eyeliner, and applied it to my top and bottom lids. Yes, you read it correctly. I did my bottom lids too. all the way. Yes, you may cringe.
Mind you, I had ZERO knowledge of makeup. A girl just did what a she had to do. Whether or not it worked (It definitely did not work), I felt better about myself with the eyeliner. If it was to soothe my insecurities, then hey, it worked better than doing nothing.
Stage Two – The Reasoning
After a two years of awkward trial and errors with eyeliner, I decided it was time to step up my game. Yes, I eventually stopped lining my bottom lids. Hooray.
I thought that, in order to make my eyes look even better, I would try out mascara. Funnily enough, despite everyone caring about their looks, I was actually only one of the few people that used makeup.
So, being a
cringe-worthy awkward teenager, I made-up this excuse to my friends and peers that I had to use mascara to, I quote, “lift up my lashes, so they’d stop poking my eyeballs.”
That, my friend, is how you justify wearing mascara at 14.
I was 14, not content with how I looked, and embarrassed of make-up.
Note: Though, eventually I found out at the optometrist that my lashes did actually poke my eyeballs. Oh the irony.
Stage Three – The ‘Mad-Scientist’
What I mean by ‘Mad-Scientist’ was that I experimented a lot. Whether it was my hair, clothes, and makeup.
Despite wearing eyeliner and mascara, I was still being made fun of my looks. I followed the article, didn’t I? People made fun of my small eyes, so I tried to change. So what was wrong? It wasn’t until much later that I realized people would always find something to criticize you with. Media cruelly extorted the definition of ‘beauty’.
Although I was still highly insecure about myself, I wasn’t sure what made me throw a theoretical middle finger at the haters. Somewhere in my thick-skinned inner self, I figured if I felt good and right about something, then I didn’t have to stop what I was doing.
Eventually I included foundation, powder, blush, and eyeshadow into the mix. I still didn’t know how to use them properly, but I had only one thing in mind, and it was to look good. Not for myself, but for other people. I was still stuck in stage of trying to please people, and fit in. It was prom night (15 years old); I wanted people to look at me differently and positively.
Stage Four – The ‘Seductress’
I wanted to look good, and attract guys. Enough said.
Don’t look at me like that. You used makeup like an upgrade too.
Look. I enhanced my features. It’s like getting new rims for your car.
Stage Five – The Struggle
At age 18, I soon grew tired of makeup. I hit a stage, where I wasn’t too sure if it was worth the effort.
At a point, I felt that makeup was taking over my life more than I wanted it to. I had started to hate the way I looked, and didn’t want to be dependant on makeup anymore. Yet, I couldn’t bear to give up my eyeliner. It wasn’t that I couldn’t accept having small eyes, but I felt vulnerable without the eyeliner. I spent so many years depending on it, I felt like I wasn’t myself without it. It was a constant struggle with appearances.
Yet, It wasn’t that I had to always have makeup on. I never wore any at home; it was only when I was out. I was self-conscious, and afraid to have people see me not done up. Even if they were strangers, I wanted people to have a good impression of me.
I knew this was unhealthy, but it wasn’t something I could fully accept yet.
Stage Six – The Acceptance
I was in my sophomore year of uni, and had a huge identity crisis of being asian-american, as well as integrating into tertiary education during my freshmen days.
I started to take the first few steps out of the house without eyeliner, which was due to my pure, sheer laziness and refusal to get ready.
Now, I knew my friends didn’t care about my makeup-less face, but what about strangers? I was scared of two things. One, when my significant other sees me without makeup. Two, people I didn’t know staring at me.
Only when I gradually became unconcerned with what people thought about me; realizing there are people who would like you for just being you, I grew more confident with and without makeup.
I knew there would still be people looking at me differently, but it wasn’t necessarily a bad thing. People were entitled to think whatever, and I accepted that. I accepted my flaws. I grew to like my small eyes, my freckles, and my almost non-existent eyebrows. Although makeup wasn’t the sole thing that helped me accept myself, it was still in the mix of my learning process.
Albeit, there were still days were I’d have smidgen of insecurities, but it wasn’t something I obsessed over. I was content with myself for the first time in years.
Because honestly, I have way bigger problems than this.
Eventually makeup became something that I grew to admire.
How it’s made, how different applications had different looks. I can’t say that I’m a pro at makeup like those admirable artists, but I’ve definitely improved since my first attempts in eyeliner.
Through the different stages, I learnt that you shouldn’t be embarrassed for wearing or liking makeup. It’s okay to feel those insecurities, those doubts; because that’s what makes us human.
For whatever reason you wear makeup for, you should always be happy and comfortable with yourself. If your reason is to wear makeup for guys, then whatever floats your boat. As long as you’re able to take criticism and judgement with a grain of salt; and tell negativity to get lost, then you’ll be fine.
Not everyone’s going to understand the way you live, so make sure you do those things because you want to and like to.
As cliche, and overused as it is, you’re fine with the way you look naturally as well. You may see a lot of flaws in yourself that other people may or may not see, but you don’t live to please others. Not everyone is a carbon-copy of one another.
Uniqueness is what makes us extraordinary.
What else did I learn from this? I can do a sick wing-liner now. It’s so sharp; it’s almost deadly.
– Charlotte T.
Food for thought: Makeup in the Egyptian times were used to please gods, as appearances were correlated to their spiritual worth. In China and other parts of the world, people wore makeup to show-off their social status; the fairer the skin, the more upper-class you were (whiteness meant you didn’t have to work). Do people still use makeup as a form of social-class representation?