I am a self-conscious person. Every time I walk by a mirror or a panel, I have to force myself to not stare at my reflection, to not wonder if my hair is frizzy or if my dress is too short. I keep my vision straight ahead, my eyes focused on the cars driving by in the crisp winter breeze of New York City, the slush from melted snowflakes on the ground, the lights changing from red to green to yellow.
I walk through the revolving doors of my office, scanning my badge and entering the elevator, the red numbers disappearing as quickly as they come. My heels echo along the hallway as I retreat to the bathroom to make myself up, to present myself as a composed human being.
It's only after I wash my hands and my glasses and search around the bottomless depths of my purse, the size of which could match Hermione Granger's, that I realize something is missing. My heart speeds up and my hands, which were once relaxed as if wading through a pool of water, now splash through my purse, shoving spare change, receipts, gum wrappers, headphones and other miscellaneous items around until the realization slams into me.
I forgot my makeup at home.
I stop and stare at my reflection. I applied a bit of makeup at my apartment, but that was before commuting half an hour on the subway and bracing myself against the rain or snow or whatever Mother Nature decided to throw my way. I would then apply touch-ups at the office, a bit of foundation here, a bit of mascara there.
But when my makeup is not within my grasp, my breath catches in my throat and my zits seem like red mountains on my face. The thought of walking out those same revolving doors to the nearest Sephora immediately crosses my mind and I feel my body willing, wanting to take that step forward, a step toward being beautiful with a clear complexion. It would be so easy to buy a new container of liquid foundation or a powder compact. My old makeup was almost out anyway... I actually have to force myself to stop justifying the makeup purchase and swallow the panic rising in my throat.
I hold onto the cold doorknob for a few moments, slowing my breath before opening the bathroom door and walking back to my desk with my bangs and hair covering my cheeks and neck.
I will people to not talk to me and make a mental check-list of how many meetings I have that day, how many people I have to interact with, how many people it is possible to avoid seeing, talking with, hoping to not read their thoughts and judgment over my nearly bare face.
Then I realized that no one cared. People came by my desk and asked me questions about an assignment I was working on, or they talked about an article they read or something that was happening in their lives that they wanted my opinion on. These people -- my co-workers and co-workers-turned-friends -- didn't care at all.
There were moments during the day when I forgot I hadn't touched-up my face. That I maintained normal conversations without a care in the world. But then something would draw me back and make me realize I had barely any makeup on my face and I would bury my face in my work.
Once the clock hit lunch time, I was out the door, my shoes click-clacking so fast on the sidewalk I was almost jogging. I immediately applied foundation to my skin and an invisible weight was lifted off my shoulders. I felt this elation course through my body. My skin was clear. My face was perfect (or as perfect as it was going to get).
I realized that I use makeup as a crutch, that I've been conditioned to believe that my regular skin tone is not enough, that I need those long eyelashes, the plucked eyebrows and clear skin to feel beautiful. This is something that I'm working on. Since that day, I've taken better care of my skin and I am slowly using less and less makeup, since it's all about inner beauty, right?
I have learned to embrace my natural skin tone, my blemishes and everything about me... while I'm home alone in my apartment or in the comfort of family and close friends. I am less self-conscious than I was before. My confidence is blossoming, a green bud finally expanding into a rose.
I wish I could say that I no longer have the urge to check myself as I walk by a mirror. I wish I could say that "perfection" is no longer defined as clear skin and small pores and being blemish-free. I wish I could say that I no longer worry about how I look in public.
But I can't.