“Who does not thank for little does not thank for much.” ~Estonian Proverb
I remember the moment so well: I had been seeing a new guy for a few months and I was staying the night for the first time. Up until that point he hadn’t seen me without heavy makeup, as I was careful to always look completely put together while with him.
That night I had to make a decision.
I could fall asleep with my makeup still on, or I could remove it first. Did I feel comfortable enough to let him see me without foundation, eyeliner, or mascara? Would he still like me?
For many people this might not be a tough decision to make (and truly, I have nothing against makeup or those who wear it), but for over a decade I had worried constantly about anyone seeing me without. I had over a decade of time to build up unhealthy attitudes about my appearance.
Any time I spent the night away from home, from trips and staying with friends to dating, I would get up around 5am to redo my makeup and get back into bed before “waking up.”
It was exhausting, but the only way I felt comfortable around other people. Going to the beach or the pool was a real struggle.
I remember this particular moment so strongly because when he saw me the only thing he said was “you look so different.”
The comment itself wasn’t outwardly negative, but I also noticed his body language and the look on his face. Let’s just say it didn’t make me feel supported, or beautiful, or seen. It simply made me feel sad.
Moving Past Crippling Self-Criticism
Sometimes I feel gratitude for that moment, the weight of my own insecurity so heavy that I knew there was a choice to make.
Would I repeat this scenario again and again in each new relationship, holding my breath and expecting the worst in that critical moment? Or would I learn to truly accept myself first, as I was?
Not long after, I stopped wearing makeup completely.
I had significant difficulty at first, to be honest. I was so used to feeling put together and confident. No makeup left me feeling depressed and deeply unattractive, as I was struggling with significant acne at the time.
I even had trouble looking up from the ground while I walked, as I was so afraid to be seen.
I remember thinking to myself during this time have faith, have faith, have faith.
And then one morning I was drawn to stand in front of the mirror and place one hand on my stomach and the other hand over my heart. I took a deep breath and said to my body, Thank you for taking care of me.
Then I touched the skin of my cheeks to feel their warmth and said, Thank you for your resilience.
Then my hands, my fingers, my wrists: Thank you for your strength.
And finally my throat, saying, Thank you for your truth.
I ended the practice with a simple thank you. I love you.
A Shift in Perspective
Whenever my critical eye began to get the best of me, I’d return to the mirror.
Thank you. I love you.
The most powerful part of the exercise for me has always been the element of touch.
I’ve always found it so easy to briefly glance in the mirror and only see what I dislike. My flaws become harder to see when I feel the strong beat of my heart and the muscles beneath my skin that make my life as I know it possible. A pimple doesn’t seem as important when my chest rises and falls beneath my hand during a powerful breath.
I still have mornings when I wake up and am not pleased with what I see in the mirror. However, I now also have mornings when I feel complete gratitude for what my body allows me to do and who I’m able to be.
I now have mornings when I look at my eyes in the mirror and instead of seeing pale eyelashes I see kindness. I see courage and determination.
Thank you for taking care of me. Thank you for your resilience.
It’s incredibly easy to be critical of ourselves, and so incredibly vulnerable to embrace our bodies, acne and all.
The next time you feel insecure, try reconnecting to yourself with a simple touch. Touch reinvigorates us with the energy that runs through our veins, our skin, our organs.
Thank you for your strength.
Place one hand over your heart and the other on your stomach and breathe in and out, feeling the healing impact of your breath on your body.
Thank you for your truth.
Stay there for several breaths, eyes open or closed.
When you’re ready, say thank you.
When you’re ready, I love you.
Sunset silhouette via Shutterstock