There was a time when I would never (and I mean never) leave the house without makeup, even for something as simple as posting a letter.
It wasn’t because I enjoyed putting on makeup and expressing my creative self, it was because I was ashamed of how I looked, and I wanted to hide my flaws from the rest of the world.
And being totally honest, if it was practical to have covered myself completely – from head to toe – in makeup, I would have. I was THAT ashamed of my skin.
But the problem with this whole routine of covering up was that even though I looked “acceptable” to the outside world, deep inside I felt like a total fraud, pretending I looked “perfect” when in fact, I felt far from it.
Underneath it all, I felt like I was hiding this terrible secret, one that deemed me unworthy of living a normal, care-free life.
Thankfully I don’t feel that way anymore (phew!), but you might be wondering how I made this monumental transition to change the way I perceive myself and my body?
While it’s been a slow and gradual process of learning to appreciate my body for all it can do (rather than judging my self-worth on how it looks), there was one particularly defining moment which became my turning point, and all it took was one simple – if slightly nerve-racking – exercise.
Eighteen months ago I had started treatment with our amazing Professor Schallreuter in Germany, and in order to allow my pigment to start returning on my face (it was 60% white at the time), I wasn’t allowed to wear makeup for four weeks, as the new pigment was so delicate that even washing makeup off would stop it from coming through.
Let me tell you: The thought of stepping out into the world bare skinned was terrifying, because it meant revealing a secret that I’d hidden pretty well up until then – that I had flawed skin.
The good news was that my face was responding well to the treatment, and I was starting to get my pigment back already. Yay!
On the flip side, it was coming back literally freckle by freckle, so my white areas were bright pink and my natural skin was very tanned, resulting in this very odd patchy kind of colour palette.
Basically, it was my worst nightmare and I’d be lying to say the thought of using a bag to cover my head didn’t sound appealing!
I remember sitting in my car as I was dropping my children off to school, contemplating how I would approach this.
I could go in with my head down and hope no one noticed how I look, or I could hold my head up high and walk in as though nothing was wrong with me, because in actual fact, that was true!
My skin WAS responding to treatment, and I knew deep down that this difficult transition was just something I had to soldier through.
Looking back at my kids, I was reminded that I’m a role model to them, and I don’t ever want them to feel this bad about their bodies, so I decided it was time to step up.
I would put the biggest smile on my face and walk in as though there was nothing to be ashamed about.
So I did.
I had a few children gasp, asking “What’s happened to your face?!” (don’t you just love their honesty), and I addressed it without buying into the shame I felt – knowing that my children were watching – and replied, “Oh, I’ve just had a bit too much sun, but it doesn’t matter how my skin looks anyway, it’s no big deal!”
And children, being so brilliant and innocent as they are, just replied “Oh, okay”, and went about their business.
They weren’t fazed by it because I wasn’t fazed by it (or at least appeared to be).
They all quickly got used to me looking this way.
And you know what? I actually felt great showing them as a person who didn’t look “normal”, that I was comfortable about my appearance.
After a few days of repeating this wherever I went (fancy black tie-do included), taking a deep breath, putting on a big smile and walking tall, I had my big “aha” moment.
Yes, the staring and inquisitive glances were as anticipated, but not only was I surviving just fine (it really wasn’t the end of the world), but I started to have the most amazing feeling overcome me.
Being honest about who I really was – patchy skin and all – was so damn liberating!
I felt free of all the anxiety that comes with caring about what others think; free of having to put up a pretense to hide my so called
I felt more authentic as I was showing up as my true self, and I felt empowered to be comfortable in my own skin for the first time in a very long time.
And then it suddenly dawned on me: if every woman and man who wears makeup just tried this for a few days – showing up in life without covering their perceived flaws – we would all see that every single one of us has some imperfection we’re trying to hide. All the people you think are perfect are just like you.
None of us are actually perfect, because in real life (not some Photoshopped warped reality that social media would like you to think), this idea of “perfection” doesn’t exist.
And the whole routine of having to cover up and hide is just downright exhausting!
After that day, I committed to not wearing foundation to cover my skin, except for occasional events when it would be fun to dress up.
Because I don’t like the feeling of covering up my skin anymore. It’s beautiful in its own imperfectly perfect natural state.
Oh, and the good news is that within a few months of treatment. while sticking to no makeup, my pigment had practically fully restored on my face!
WHAT CAN YOU DO?
It might be daunting (read: EXTREMELY daunting), but this simple exercise of being true to yourself sends with it a powerful message both to your own mindset and those of others.
Imagine if all grown-ups were more relaxed and open about imperfection?
It would give our youth a free pass to be themselves too; to look for beauty beyond the external aesthetics, and to know that self-worth is not defined by how we look, but comes from within – by knowing we are already worthy.
Because, WE ARE.