After being in Colombia for 30-days, I can still recall the scene of my room the night before I left:
Prioritization piles, meticulously stacked and organized, next to my backpack. One, non-negotiables: headlamp, knife, travel adapter. Another, required clothing: hiking pants, several pairs of Darn Tough socks, rain jacket. Another, if I have space: an extra pair of yoga pants, denim shorts, denim jacket.
In the zona de cosmetica, where things like sunscreen, toothpaste, and insect repellent lived, so too, did my make-up bag. As wearing make-up had been a part of my daily routine for fifteen years, it was just as implicit as my passport.
30-days into this journey, and I haven’t used my make-up bag once.
Colombia has offered some serious space for self-exploration. The deeper I dive, to uncomfortable depths, the more I’ve seen make-up as another opportunity to conceal, to hide, to cover-up. Make-up has become counter to the intention of seeing my self, “as is,” which means accepting, and loving, all of the flaws, blemishes, and inadequacies, too.
Here are some things I’ve uncovered, after 30-days without make-up:
1.The Freedom to Be My Self, As Is
Let’s be real: when we wear make-up, we look different, we feel different, we are different. It’s an exhausting daily ritual that molds us into someone we’re not. It paints a dishonest picture of who we are and creates an expectation for how we want to be seen.
Often times we’re so focused on creating and maintaining this image of our self, that we sacrifice the beautiful freedom to simply be our self. We become dependent on the external to feel “like us.”
Not wearing make-up is giving me the freedom to feel like me, like my self, any time, all the time.
2. My Underlying Insecurities
If you wear make-up daily, then you’ve likely experienced the rush of anxiety that precedes what I call, the first-time without. The first-time without is the terrifying possibility when someone who only knows you as You + Makeup, may see you as you actually are – physically.
This anxiety applies with anyone – colleagues, friends, family, lovers – and includes questions like, “Will they still like me?” “How will they look at me?” “How am I going to see my self?”
I’ve experienced the emotional whirlwind of the first-time without more than I can count. And where my anxiety actually derives is an underlying lack of self-worth, a fear of inadequacy, and a sense of distrust.
Without mascara, I’m unworthy of the affection or the potential promotion. Sin concealer I’m inferior to the gal with glowing skin. And underneath it all, is the assumption that the value I have to the person I’m in relations with is inauthentic and shallow. This line of thinking does a serious disservice, to myself, and the other.
Removing make-up has uncovered these deep-rooted insecurities and shown me just how much self-work I have to continue working through.
3. A Perspective on True Beauty
The benefits and compromises of traveling are tremendous. Physical compromises include nourishing food and a regular diet, clean clothes, routine showers. What you see in the mirror does not reflect the image you maintained for yourself back home.
In 30-days, my physical body has been mauled by sand flies, healing a serious shoulder injury, sunburned more times than I can count, and vulnerable to an inconsistent diet. Externally, I’m self-conscious. But internally, I’ve never felt more satisfied with what I see, what I feel, and what I embody.
Leaving off make-up has helped me experience beauty differently, shifting the focus from fleeting external to sustainable internal.
Throughout this trip, the most stunning people have radiated beauty from within – goodness, compassion, curiosity, kindness. Maybe their hands were dirty. Maybe their clothes weren’t new. But their eyes were bright; their hearts were full; and their beauty, undeniable.
These beautiful beings have been a mirror for what I want to focus energy on – becoming my best self, the self I want to see and be seen for, every day.
Through honest investigation and a daily commitment to our practices, we plant the seed for beauty, true beauty, to grow from within.
4. How Simple Simplicity Is
At home, my life is a never-ending whirlwind of self-imposed decisions in a sea of infinite options: what to wear, what to eat, how to spend my time.
Even in the time spent following my daily rituals – meditation, writing, etc. – I would compulsively comb through a closet of hardly worn clothing, convinced I had nothing to wear. At grocery stores, I would exhaust energy debating between one type of tortilla and another. Combine the degree of choice that modern-life offers with my cycles of indecision and over-analysis, and you’ve got a recipe for decisions that are poorly, and hardly, made.
The decision to not wear make-up has simplified how I approach my physical appearance and my life, more broadly. I have been more content with the three pairs of pants I have here than I ever was with an overflowing drawer of Levis and leggings. While I certainly miss luxuries like almond milk and vegan protein powder, I’m much more satisfied with the simple sustenance of bananas and pineapple from the garden.
With no space, closet or pantry to fill, I realize how prevalent consumerism, infinite options, and the anxiety of choice were in my life.
While I’m not committing to a life without makeup, I am continuously impressed by what letting go of this ritual has uncovered, even after only 30-days.
I feel more free.
I feel more my self.
I feel empowered.
And I feel more beautiful.
And isn’t that the point of all this, anyways?