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The Instagram picture that encouraged me to go makeup free

Whenever I look at another woman and think how much better she is at this, that, or the other, my mother’s words (quoted from Theodore Roosevelt) come to mind:

“Comparison is the thief of joy.”

I know those words are true; however, I struggle to feel the joy that comes from loving myself exactly as I am. I compare too much.

I came across two pictures on Instagram recently that had me wondering about what we are valuing as women. The first was of a reality show star gazing lovingly into her baby’s eyes — only instead of focusing on that tender, real moment, my eyes were drawn to the many white lines shooting off her face, linking to the different brands of makeup she was wearing.

Another picture was of a popular blogger promoting her business and clothing line, living in her near-perfect house dressed in near-perfect outfits with near-perfect hair and makeup. The more I scrolled these two women’s pages, the more my emotions turned from curiosity, to jealousy, to depression.

“I don’t look like that,” I said to my husband who was sitting beside me. “But, should I look like that? I mean have I just completely let myself go?”

My husband reached across the bed, lifted the phone out of my hands where it had been for the past hour, and tossed it across the room.

“Stop looking at that,” he said.

But I couldn’t stop thinking about it. Not about the women in the pictures, but about why we all care so much about what other people are doing or wearing.

I used to think I was a sort of lifestyle writer. Only, my lifestyle doesn’t look anything like the lifestyle I see popular bloggers portraying. Where are the screaming kids? The messy minivans? The greasy hair and stretched-out clothes? Where are the dirty floors and handprint-covered windows and real confessions of real days?

A few days after seeing those pictures, I decided to try something out of my comfort zone. We were going on vacation to Fish Lake, and would be staying in a little rustic cabin for the weekend. I packed my clothes, my socks and my shoes. But I did not pack any makeup. I packed a brush, but I didn’t pack my flat or curling irons. I told my husband I would not be fixing myself up this trip. I was going granola.

“Good,” he said and smiled.

For the first time, I spent an entire weekend with friends and family without “putting on my face.” Getting ready was a breeze. I thought I would be very self-conscious about looking so raw all the time, but actually, I felt confident (even when my husband’s grandmother — who knows me very well — looked at me and asked me to introduce myself). I wasn’t worried if my foundation was blended or if my eyeliner was smeared because I didn’t have any on.

When I think about some of my biggest role models growing up, there is one who stands out. She was my youth single adult teacher and I never — not once — saw this beautiful woman wear a stitch of makeup. Her advice and example helped shape my life perspective. I admired her, I did not envy her. There is a difference.

If I had daughters, I would declare a makeup-free week where we go on vacation and no makeup is allowed (actually, I think they call this “girls camp”). Because who we are is not at all or even kind of related to how much makeup we have on. It is our hearts and our actions and our words. I think what we post says a lot about where our focus is.

Let’s focus on each other. Flaws and all.