First of all…I want to send out a huge thank you to my fellow sojourner, Caitlin Boyle. You are wise, empowered and beautiful. I am so grateful to have shared the last sixty days with you. You are an old soul…and I have learned a lot from you.
Second…if you are new to the Naked Face Project, please head over to the details page on my blog or visit www.thenakedfaceproject.com. I never thought something so simple as this would literally engage women from around the world in a conversation…and I am grateful to each and every one of you who have encouraged me, written me, shared your stories with me. Many of you, who read this now, have never felt the need or desire to write…but I know you are there and I thank you for dropping by. We are in this together.
Third…to my children. Thank you for listening to me ramble on about this social “experiment.” Everyday brought a new discovery and I’m sure there were times I’d be in the middle of unwrapping a thought and you needed my attention…and I may have missed that. I’ve unraveled from much of what I got tangled up with, when I was your age, and this has made me keenly aware of how impressed I am by both of you for staying true to your strengths and remaining honest with yourselves and with me. Thank you for letting me be the fun, mildly eccentric and occasionally neurotic mom in your life. I love you both with all of my heart.
I’ve split my conclusions into three categories…observations…what I’ve learned…and then of course what I would say to the 8 year old who asks, “So why do you wear make-up?”
a. The project received (and continues to receive) a tremendous amount of attention.
The huge response to this, in the media and in private conversations between women and men was and continues to be overwhelming. This says something. I’m not sure what it says, but it says something. Clearly the project struck a chord with something deep within our cultural and societal DNA. The project has been featured on radio stations, news stations and in newspapers in over 30 countries.
b. Because of the immediate response, during the first two weeks, I was literally terrified. I wouldn’t have told you that then, but I was very scared. I’m sure my anxiety over the project was exaserbated by physically not having my game face on and being out of routine…but I knew deep down that I was hitting some irrational thoughts that had been planted within me at such a young age…not knowing what might happen if these beliefs I had relied upon (as irrational and at times counterproductive they may have been) went away.
c. I was also aware of the fact that if this project was rubbing up against something uncomfortable in me, the potential existed that it would rub up against something uncomfortable in many women. I was worried about how others would react to this internal discomfort revealed in the conversations about the project and how it might play out in commentary about me personally and/or the project itself.
d. But if truth be told and I know no other way…I was willing to risk this because of the work I do with young girls and the place I am in my own life. As I review the motive in taking on this initiative, sure the question asked by the 8 year old girl was important, but I think I was also ready to answer it honestly. I was just sick and tired of feeling like I had to defend my age, my wrinkles, my skin, my body,…and was prepared to dig deeply into releasing those illusionary thoughts and the defense mechanisms I used to keep them real and make room for something more beautiful, fuller and more meaningful. I committed myself to this for reasons at the outset I didn’t even know…but in hindsight…I will be forever grateful for having the willingness to just go there…unsure of what would happen.
e. In those first two weeks, I was completely shocked by the negative messages hiding out in my thoughts. I suspected they were there and that the make-up and all the anti-aging products were covering them up, but I had no idea of their volume, both in number and in pitch. I thought I had conquered all that. The content of the negative self-talk was mostly around aging, being less attractive or appealing to the opposite sex, less visible, less valued…all measures of my worth in the world. I would actually have negative self-talk about the negative self-talk. I couldn’t win for losing!
f. But as I spent more time without the makeup, the products, the primping (and I never did much of it to begin with) I began to just feel happier, more confident, self-assured. I was laughing a lot, readily available to those around me, more engaged with my work and just generally as the saying goes “comfortable in my skin.” I began to feel more youthful, more alive, more awake. My thoughts gradually moved into a real love for this body of mine. I’ve always, due to my athletic career, had a respect for my body and what it could do…but as I moved further into this experience I began to have a love for and a more tender approach toward my body/my face/my humanness and the joy in it just being here.
g. As I review the project, from where I am now, in a nutshell, the last sixty days has been, for me, an opportunity to unravel from the messages I’ve received about the importance of my worth as it relates to my appearance and realize that these two things are completely unrelated.
2. What I’ve Learned:
a. There are lots and lots of women who do not use makeup, primp or color their hair. They never have or if they did, they just stopped for reasons that vary as much as there are women. Many of you were puzzled by this project and why it mattered. It would be interesting to talk with you to learn more about why this process was never a part of your life. Based on emails and conversations I’ve had with many of you it has a lot to do with the priority your mother or other significant women in your life put (or didn’t put) on their appearance.
b. The big, bold and spirited me doesn’t change whether I have on make up, high heels, color my hair or get manicures or NOT. The big, bold, spirited me has been with me since before I was born and will be with me after this human experience. It is beautiful and perfect in every regard. Brilliant, radiant, and fully worthy.
c. This means that the big, bold and spirited YOU dosn’t change either and it is as worthy as I am and I am as you. I can no longer watch, participate in or listen to any media or advertising that speaks of a women’s appearance in a harsh, critical, demeaning or derogatory way. Before all of this started I was projecting MY views on beauty, appearance and worth on your intentions. This project has not only minimized (if not removed entirely) judgment of myself but of others as well.
d. Nothing in my outer life changed at all, other than I had more time, money and room in my suitcase. I went about my regular day of business, speaking, hanging out with my kids and going on dates. No one unfriended me or told me I was unworthy of being here because I didn’t use those products. I realized that the quality of my friendships, relationships, work, sense of self is remarkable. I am surrounded by the coolest, most authentic and loving people in the world. My gratitude for them and my lifestyle continues to grow exponentially.
e. On the other hand, I learned that we are human and with being human comes having, living, being within this amazing thing we call the human body. We can’t avoid this and so with our physicality comes the fact that apperance does matter. How much it matters varies from person to person and is a very complex and complicated conversation. How much emphasis we put on appearance depends on a lot of things, but I do know that our culture’s current over emphasis on a woman’s appearance can lead to a large number of self-esteem and self-worth issues, starting and most commonly found as body dissatisfaction. (According to a recent statistic 80 percent of 17 year old girls experience dissatisfaction with theri bodies.)
f. Determining how much energy we give to our appearance is up to each of us individually and will surely vary depending on where we are in our own lives, but I know for me that what this project did was remove all those old irrational thoughts I had about my worth and it possibly being related in any way shape or form to my appearance. That association is now entirely gone. What has emerged though is this wonderful awareness of my body/appearance/face/ presence being another vehicle to express who I am on the inside. I realize, even now as I write, the most thrilling and potentially early-on-confusing part of this experiment will be what I add back in. I wish I could share with you now exactly what I will add back in, but the truth is I won’t know until I get there. )
How will who I am reveal itself through this awesome and amazing vessel we call the human body?
I do know and realize that everyday starting April 1st will be a journey into something I haven’t known.
My Response to the 8 year old girl’s question
“So Molly, why do you wear make up?”
Based on the experiences I’ve had with young girls over the last sixty days, I won’t get that question again. If I had an event today that included any girls or young women I would choose NOT to wear make up. I just do not feel any need or desire to do so.
Should I be in a situation, however, where a girl does ask the question…I know now I would be able to answer her honestly. Why I wear it on any particular occasion will vary, but I know that it won’t have anything to do with needing to fix myself, to look younger, enhance my eyes or hair…it will be simply because on that given day I chose to. Maybe it will be for fun, or out of respect for the formality of a particular occasion, but I do know it will be a choice. I am, you are, she is the same with or without it and so too is the BEAUTY of who we are.
I wish I had a definitive right and wrong approach to this conversation, but I don’t. Where I prioritized appearance in my life in my 20′s is certainly not where I prioritize it now…but I do know that where I am now is all I can claim to know and be. And that for this woman…right here right now, beauty, at least the kind I see now and feel now, comes when I lean into where my joy is.
I find joy in a whole host of different ways…watching movies curled up on the couch with my kids into the early morning hours; attending a Girls on the Run 5k and seeing the smiles and hugs of every girl who crosses the finisih line; spending time with women and men who enjoy intellectual conversation on a variety of topics, everything from politics to religion to the humor we find in our own lives; running; practicing yoga; listening to an 8 year old recap her favorite movie for 40 minutes; sleeping in; geiting up early; sitting on my porch with a cup of coffee, holding hands with the man I love.
Girls on the Run coach to her team of 3rd, 4th and 5th grade girls: “So, can anyone tell me what it means to be comfortable in your own skin.”
3rd grade girl raises her hand. “To not be itchy.”
I think that pretty much says it all.
(Sidebar here…I had this interview immediatley after finishing this piece.