Skin Deep Beauty

Tis graduation season. Time for young people across the country to shine. Girls in party dresses, sparkly shoes, glamour makeup. Looking their best. Feeling their best.

A few years ago I was asked to be a graduation speaker and, in preparing, I took a look online at some other, more famous speakers, for inspiration. Since then, I take time, every year, to listen to a few speeches given by people who interest and inspire me.

This year I found a speech given in 2015 to Wellesley graduates by the fabulous writer, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. I am not going to summarize her speech here. But I mention it because the opening of her speech was about makeup. And that got me thinking.

Makeup hides flaws. Is this a good thing or a bad thing?

Adichie didn’t wear makeup in her teens. But in her young adulthood, she found herself in a professional situation where her contribution to the conversation was dismissed by the men around the table. She decided to start wearing lipstick to give her the appearance of being more experienced, older. Maybe, she thought, her co-workers would treat her with more respect.

Like Adichie, I was not a makeup-wearer. In fact, I resisted makeup except on the very most special occasions until I was in my 40s. And, whereas Adichie put on lipstick to appear older, there came a point when I looked in the mirror and decided concealer was needed to make me look younger.

So, what are the pluses and the pitfalls?

On the positive side, makeup can make you feel better about yourself – in all sorts of ways. For a young Adichie, it gave her more confidence among intimidating and dismissive businessmen. For an older me, it staves off being dismissed as “over-the-hill” and irrelevant. For teens who feel like one big pimple, it can give confidence in social interactions.

But are there downsides related to these same concerns? Men don’t wear makeup. Should women develop confidence in other ways rather than giving in to unequal standards?

I think it all comes down to this: Does wearing makeup make you feel better about yourself INSIDE? When you wear makeup, do you feel your inner self shine as much as your outer self? Or does makeup make you feel more like an object? Or, along with hiding your physical flaws, does makeup cover up your inner being? Teens are especially vulnerable to this pitfall as they struggle to establish their identities.

Bottom line: To wear or not to wear. Only if it enhances how YOU feel about yourself.

Share your makeup pros and cons.

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