Beauty? by Guest Blogger Lacey Johnson
There is something magical about the energy of coffee shops. It certainly makes for entertaining people-watching, however I am often struck with my most profound bursts of writing inspiration in between latte sips and muffin bites. Fairly recently, I randomly stumbled upon an old friend in one of my favorite coffee spots, whom I had not seen in over a year. While reconnecting with her, something occurred to me which I have been unable to eject from my mind. After hanging out for almost an hour, our flow of conversation began to lag.
My friend began to compulsively check her phone, and had developed a very distant, distracted gaze. She was clearly no longer in the coffee shop with me. “What are you thinking about?” I asked her. Her reply has haunted me since. “Oh, just thinking of ways to make myself look better,” she whispered, before immediately proceeding to go on a seemingly endless rant discussing her delusions over a guy who clearly had no intention of ever seeing her again. She concluded the rant with an attempt to make a case for how she was clearly “way hotter” than his other alleged conquests, going as far as offering proof by showing me images from their Instagram profiles. She was on a mission to achieve another level of physical beauty because she felt it would make her more desirable to a man which, by default, would make her life better. In the middle of a coffee shop, I had an epiphany: Countless women, young and old, are plagued with a problem. It is one of their biggest roadblocks to attaining happiness. They believe that beauty – physical beauty – is the key to a better life. They believe it determines their worth. I know, for I once held such a belief.
For the past seven years, I have periodically worked as a regional makeup artist for a well-known cosmetic company. It has been a job which allowed me to earn a decent income while maintaining schedule flexibility throughout college. I am sincerely grateful for that. I have met countless fun and inspiring men and women throughout my time doing it, however I have also encountered its ugly opposite. I have gained a world of knowledge about the cosmetic industry, as well as a great deal about the insecurities and priorities of women, young and old. I have long considered myself to exclusively be a writer at my core, and cannot help but want to share my experiences through words. This desire was birthed a few years ago during my first mission trip to the third world country of Belize. A seed was planted during my time there, and my desire to experience true beauty, something no cosmetic product or procedure will ever give you or me, has continued to grow. I am not the same young woman I was prior to the trip.
Over a period of eight days in Belize, a spiritual shift took place within me. I am not referring to a religious shift whatsoever, but a spiritual one. My eyes were forced open, and I felt as though I had been knocked over the head with the truth. It sort of felt like having a pie shoved in my face, out of nowhere, except it was a transformative and lovely experience. It took my breath away, for I had never before encountered joy in such a raw form. The beauty, love and gratitude flowing from the people I encountered, people who had nothing to offer me but human interaction and relationship, was simply majestic. I was humbled to tears each day I was there. Their gratitude for the most basic life necessities stunned me, stripped me and ultimately exposed me to myself.
I could not help but feel compelled to examine myself and consider all of the grudges I had been carrying, my often knee-jerk reaction to criticize others and how much emphasis I often placed on my appearance and image. I realized I had often been a seeker of things which would only produce emptiness in my life. Ironically, upon returning from the trip, I had to immediately return to work for a demanding event, which came with a high sales goal attached to it. The most uncomfortable aspect of it all was that I felt as though I had departed a place of such immense, healing beauty, only to be thrust back into a place of superficial ugliness. It is difficult to approach the gates of hell once you have seen heaven, even if only a glimpse. The ironic part was the purpose of my returning to this ugly place was to convince people I could make them more beautiful. I realized the customers were not ugly, the salespeople were not ugly, the products were not ugly, the brand I worked for was certainly not ugly and the overall intentions were not ugly. Each of those elements were top notch. However, the mindset was ugly. The mindset which had created an infectious epidemic of insecurity, self-loathing and the distraction from the experience of true beauty was, in fact, ugly. What a paradox.
Belizean girls braiding my hair…
This is what I consider beauty…
Upon returning from the mission trip, my first day back at work was quite interesting. I recall being assigned to a middle-aged woman who, while being escorted to my makeup station, had been nervously looking in every possible direction. She reminded me of a child, nervous about being caught with her hand in the cookie jar. She reeked of misery and poor self-esteem. Her posture was bad. She was literally curling into herself, as though she wanted to make herself appear as small as possible. Perhaps she wanted to disappear altogether. Once she finally settled into the makeup chair, she refused to look me in the eye for more than two consecutive seconds, and her eyes continued to scan everything which surrounded her. In an attempt to add some cheerfulness to the situation, I made a light-hearted joke and offered words of comfort to her obviously unsettled presence. She proceeded to confess that she had never before been to a mall without makeup on. Clearly, it was torturous for her to be bare-faced, organic and in raw form in public.
I worked overtime to make my customer feel comfortable, and spent almost an hour carefully applying her makeup and sharing products and tips with her. However, everything about the entire scenario just felt wrong. Something inside of me felt I was contributing to something incredibly destructive. I felt like grabbing her by the shoulders and pleading, “Lady, you’ve got this so wrong! Please take your hands off of this obsession!” In the duration of our time together, I learned of her arguments with her husband over her vanity-related expenses, her maxed out credit cards, her planned cosmetic procedures, and was questioned repeatedly on the degree of satisfaction and pride I had with the work I had performed on her face thus far. I felt like saying, “Sweetie, I can fix your face, but I can’t fix your life.” I knew I could never fix her face to her satisfaction until she fixed what was going on inside of her. The whole encounter was nerve-wrecking, blood-sucking and just made me feel dark. It was such a grossly stark contrast to the encompassing and healing beauty I had so recently encountered in the most destitute villages of Belize.
Later that evening, I returned home, crawled into the bath, got as still as possible and posed an important question to myself: Why am I contributing to an industry which often thrives on making women slaves to the goal of being desirable and physically perfect? Even more frustrating, why had I allowed myself to fall prey to it as well? How can I do this differently? How can I do something good with this? I had never encountered such ugliness on the quest for beauty. There was seldom any beauty to be encountered at all. Rather, I often felt I was an observer of zombies walking straight into the mouth of a giant black hole. It wasn’t the fault of the makeup artists or the beauty advisors in the store. Rather, it was our culture. It was a mindset, and a mindset can always be changed. I decided I wanted to have a role, no matter how small, in changing such mindset.
My first mission trip made me more comfortable with the truth. It paved a pathway for me to gain a deeper love for honesty and authenticity, as well as the joy which can come from nurturing that which is not external. There is such beauty and freedom in honesty. I have continued to occasionally work as a makeup artist, for I sincerely love the women I work with, I enjoy interacting with people and I truly gain satisfaction from making them feel pretty. Playing in makeup is fun, too. However, it is no longer my primary job and takes subservience to my career as a writer, as well as all of my work in building The Daily Doll. When I do work makeup artist events on occasion, I approach it quite differently than I did before. A person is not a dollar sign. I will not contribute to anyone’s obsession or destructive driving, striving type of mentality for external perfection. I am there to be their friend.
Meet Jose, an especially precious soul…
I believe the quest for beauty – even physical beauty – should be more of a celebration versus a labor of any kind. In case you missed the previous sentence, I will repeat it again: The quest for beauty should be more of a celebration versus a labor of any kind. The quest for beauty should be more like, “I am valuable, therefore I want to be the best version of myself. I am going to take the best possible care of myself…” versus “I’m too fat or too skinny, too ugly and less attractive than the next person, therefore I need to drop some serious coin to change that. I need to be different asap.” It should never be painful and should never be negative.
The mental shift which took place within me is actually one of several factors which inspired me to create The Daily Doll. I want to share my knowledge and experience from the cosmetic industry, as well as with relationships, social interactions and personal struggles from the most honest, authentic, caring and liberated place possible. I want you to be better, stronger, happier and more informed than you were yesterday, as I am working to be better, stronger, happier and more informed than I was yesterday. Please join me on a quest for beauty. It may not be what you always thought it was.
I’m just being honest.
Here's the original Link to her blog The Daily Doll
Here's the original http://thedailydoll.com/beauty/