The New Year had me thinking a lot about goals, values, ambitions, motivations, life, and how excited I was to wear my new fuzzy socks. With all the talk of “look how far you’ve come in a year” and “can you believe that was only 1 year ago” I found myself even more reflective and nearly bubbling over with blog ideas – two of which involved writing about goals and values.
At my old job, we had a list of working norms – kind of like guiding values – and each day at our morning huddle, we would say what working norm we were focusing on that day. I loved that idea. I mean, obviously, in theory, you were living into every positive attribute every day you walked into the office, but how nice it was to really put your heart and soul behind one guiding value each week.
For this reason, I’ve decided to dedicate a new series of “Res” posts to my own kind of working norms – my own mini-resolutions. You don’t have to buy into any of these. You don’t have to make your own. But maybe at some point, it’ll make you think about what it would look like to radically change your life one week at a time.
Res 50: Admit the Insecurity
I’m a little too sensitive for my own good. I don’t mean to be and I am certainly aware of my ability to take things too personally. Nevertheless, I frequently find myself ruminating over things that bothered me more than they should have and using self-deprecating humor as a front.
One thing that bothers me a lot more than I have perhaps ever honestly explained is something I’ve been joking about for years: “girly stuff.” Growing up with two older brothers and a neighborhood full of boys, I was the quintessential tom boy. I didn’t want to watch Mister Roger’s Neighborhood or go to ballet class. I dropped out of Brownies (the precursor to Girl Scouts) because it was cutting into my “tree climbing time.”
When I approached the age where my girlfriends traded their Chapstick for lip gloss and their scooters for perfume, my mother tried her hardest to show me the world of makeup and hair care. I wanted nothing to do with it. I was happy with a braid and a prayer and I certainly didn’t want to put all that “stuff” on my face. It seemed like a waste of time and money and energy.
I became accustomed to never wearing makeup and that was that. I didn’t try too hard and continued to skim through life in the appearance department. Of course, as I grew older I realized what I had known along, makeup wasn’t a passing fad. Still, I was convinced I didn’t need it; after all, I could continue to hide behind my thick glasses.
Then I was invited to a very fancy event. I’m talking ball gowns and whatever the fanciest version of men’s clothing is. I decided I would put in my contacts and try to put on makeup. I’m a smart and inventive woman – I would figure it out.
The morning before the event, I decided to do a trial run for work. I put in my contacts and smeared the natural shades of shadow across my eye lids. Then I picked up the eye liner and had no idea what to do. First it looked too light. Then it looked too dark. Then it looked really dark. And then I looked like I had a black eye.
I looked at the clock and saw the time clicking ever closer to my limit of “if you don’t leave right now you will be late.” I looked back in my mirror and suddenly felt very, very small.
My entire adult life I’ve been making jokes about how I don’t wear makeup. I’ll crack a joke about how “at least I brushed my hair today” as an excuse for my constant messy head. I’ll say something about how I have no idea how concealer and foundation work – which is true, I don’t. I’ll dramatically shudder at the idea of trading my Vaseline for lip stick – I didn’t even realize I was at the age where people just wore lip stick for fun.
It had always been easy though – to change the subject, to laugh through it, to pretend it was whatever. And then there I was, 23-years-old, running late for work, with a self-inflicted black eye, wondering why I couldn’t do something so simple.
Resolution #50: Admit the Insecurity
I was talking about all of this at a bar the other night when my friend asked why I had never gotten into makeup in the first place. I started with my typical humor defense, moved onto the practical logic, and eventually settled on the never tried to learn message. And while most friends would have been content to leave it at that, this friend is a ceaseless challenge who retorted by asking me why. Knowing I’m not one to shy away from something difficult or attempting to learn something new, he wanted to know why I wasn’t trying now.
Nobody had ever asked that before.
I took a sip of my water and stared past him to the picture on the wall before carefully picking my words. After much deliberation, I spoke: “because what if I do try and put in the effort and I’m still not…” trailing off, my friend immediately picked up on what my heart couldn’t vocalize – “what if I’m still not pretty.”
We sat in silence for a little bit and in those moments, I saw myself clearer than I ever had.
I’m a little too sensitive for my own good. I’m also a little too self-deprecating. I’m also a little too cocky. I fluctuate between the extremes of all three. But in that one quiet moment at a tiny bar in New York City, I found a moment of clarity that helped me uncover the deeper truth to something that has been troublesome to me for a long time.
It takes a certain level of bravery to try to uncover the true feelings behind something or the true reason for actions, but until you understand the idiosyncrasies of mind, I imagine there is not much you can do to alter it. This week, take an honest look at yourself – behind the humor, the logic, or the excuses. At the end of the day, I suppose all we can really hope for is the ability to see ourselves clearly in the mirror and find peace – for better or for worse, smudged makeup and all.