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How I Gave Up Altering My Appearance - And Why You Should Try It

Why do you put on makeup in the morning? Why do you shave your legs? 

Here’s what I’ve noticed: lots of women know that alterations like makeup or hair removal contribute to unfair cultural expectations on women, but they still continue to do them. Nobody ever thinks of themselves as a part of those problems.

The thing I hear all the time is that women know, in a vague sense, that makeup culture contributes to harmful standards, but believe that they do it for good reasons themselves. I constantly hear women say that they know makeup can be harmful to self-image, but that they use it is for self-expression, to feel more confident, for feminism.

For a really long time, I thought I was one of the exceptions, too.

One day in high school, I decided to test my theory by giving up makeup for a little while – a sort of “if you love something, let it go” philosophy. In the beginning, I felt like I had proven myself – I felt way less confident when I had no makeup. After a while, though, I stopped expecting myself to look the way I did with makeup on. I started to be okay with my face again, and eventually, that led to me being so much more confident because I knew that everything was me.

This past fall, I was inspired by the growing trend of accepting body hair to take it a step further. I threw away my razor and gave up on shaving my legs, my armpits, everything. I just wanted to know if I really liked doing something I had been doing regularly since I was ten years old, or if I had just been doing it out of obligation. Again, I found myself so much more comfortable in my own body once I stopped viewing it as something to be fixed.

As it turns out, even though I had been doing all of those things and believing it was a choice, I had just been so swept up in the expectations and then the habits to realize that I really wasn’t acting on my own behalf.

A study presented by the American Psychological Association reports that, after having looked into a mirror at themselves for about ten minutes a day, women reported feeling more comfortable with their appearance.

Does this mean you’ll suddenly want to go fully makeup-free and hairy all the time? Not necessarily. Everyone is different, and everyone will find their results are different.

Far be it from me to tell women that they can’t do those things if they enjoy them - body positivity goes both ways, after all. But the thing is, if you’ve never lived without them, how can you know if it’s what you really want?

For me, full-coverage makeup was a big no, but once I knew that about myself, I could navigate special occasions or little bits of makeup in a mediated way that didn’t interfere with my self-confidence. Shaving my legs was something I really only did out of obligation and so I stopped, but after testing it out I found that I really do feel better without underarm hair.

It’s all about finding out what you do for yourself and rejecting everything that you don’t.

And so what I propose is this: find all the things you do that change the way you look, whether it be makeup, hair dye, hair removal, even photo editing, and let them go. Just to try it, just for a month. 

If you really do them of your own volition, you can go back to them stronger than ever, knowing that you do them for the right reasons. And if you find that you don’t want to go back, then you’ve given yourself the freedom to take a step back. 

Either way, you’ll never know until you try it.