A few months ago I was hanging out with a few friends, and we decided to walk to 7/11. It was dark out but we had the lights of house parties along the street to brighten the way. I’m around 5’2” and my head was titled up, talking to a taller friend when I rounded the corner and ran face-first into a dumpster lid. The pain on my nose and eyelid lasted around ten seconds and I laughed off the minimal embarrassment.
I knew I had a cut on the bridge of my nose, but I wasn’t worried. When we got back to the house, I went to check out the damage in the bathroom mirror. My nose had a little cut but sadly, that wasn’t the worst of it. My eyelashes were gone. A large chunk of my actual, naturally grown eyelashes were missing on my left eyelid.
To say I was shocked is an understatement. I wanted to laugh and cry at the same time and I wanted my eyelashes back. I felt naked. My mood turned sour for the rest of the night.
Dread filled me the next day when I went to put on make-up. If I applied eye liner or mascara, the absence of the eyelashes was extremely prominent. My first thought had been to buy fake eyelashes, and I eventually did, but a terrible realization hit me.
There are starving kids in Africa and I had the audacity to worry about some missing eyelashes? Yes, that’s the most cliché analogy, but I was drowning in my first world problems. I stopped focusing on my missing eyelashes and started focusing on why I was so distraught.
Superficial. I was being completely superficial.
I relied on my looks way too much and it took a dumpster lid in the face for me to realize it. Maybe I wasn’t shallow, but I definitely placed an unhealthy importance on my looks. The shock to my system was a hard one. I’ve always had confidence with my looks and for a while, I didn’t think I was pretty without make-up. Now that I couldn’t look my best every day, I had to work on other parts of myself in social situations. I couldn’t use my looks to get what I wanted. The thought was terrifying. Yet, that dumpster lid to the face turned into one of the most valuable experiences of my 20 years.
Society needs a dumpster lid to the face. As a whole, we are way too enraptured with physical beauty.
First off, what is beauty? Our perception of “beauty” is twisted by the media. People who are skinny, have flawless skin and beautiful hair are labeled “beautiful” and anybody who doesn’t fit those descriptions is not. The damaging effects these images have on society result in body image disorders, eating disorders, buying beauty products that companies say you need, and so much more.
Thankfully, society is changing and the media is helping step by step. A Dove commercial received a lot of attention a few months ago. The commercial featured a group of women describing their faces to an artist, who would draw them. Unbeknownst to the women, they would also describe each other to the artist, and the women could see the comparison between the two drawings. Overall, each woman was prettier than they thought. Dove was under a lot of speculation and scrutiny for this commercial, but all of the articles I’ve read agreed that it does more good than harm.
What’s so great about physical beauty? It’s nice to look at, sure. But it’s just the top layer; there’s so much more besides physical beauty. A mirror will let you decide if you’re physically attractive but it can’t show you the important qualities. A mirror can’t show you how nice, considerate, smart, open-minded, witty, funny, accepting, and awesome you are.
Obviously, I got through the experience of losing my eyelashes. Not being able to wear eye make-up turned out to be a time-saver and resulted in less stress. I had more time to sleep before class, and when I didn’t wear make-up, I didn’t feel like I had to compete to be the prettiest girl in the room. I stopped putting so much pressure on myself to look a certain way. My eyelashes grew back and I can wear make-up, but I no longer feel the need to.
The whole experience taught me to be comfortable with myself, with or without make-up, and it was one of the most humbling and helpful lessons life has ever thrown in my face. Or one that I walked into.