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Growing up, I never felt too confident about my looks, but I didn’t think I have low self-esteem either. I remember an old nanny and some relatives would call me and my sisters “pretty” as kids, but I never thought much of it. I’m not very “feminine” either.
I still remember a day where I was very curious about my mom’s lipstick. I think I was maybe in the 4th or 5th grade. So, I tried on some lipstick and after a moment, I felt strange and weird. Perhaps I felt a tinge of self-consciousness, seeing that some family friends were around, and not sure how they would think of me. After a few more minutes, discomfort and disgust filled me, and I immediately ran to the nearest water fountain to wash off the lipstick.
And even to this day, I do not wear makeup. The most makeup I ever wore in my life was on my wedding day. My makeup artist even told me that my skin is extremely sensitive and probably cannot handle any daily use of makeup. After washing off the makeup from my wedding, my skin started breaking out again the next day.
However, I no longer feel the same level of discomfort and disgust when it comes to wearing makeup. I don’t have anything against makeup, but sometimes I feel that society puts too much emphasis on using makeup to “look better.” Many weeks ago, I overheard a tiny snippet of a conversation among some staff members at my school. I do not know what the context was, which could be important, but I heard someone saying along the lines of, “If you don’t wear makeup, you don’t look good.” I was a bit startled to hear these words spoken “publicly,” because I personally do not agree with this statement. It’s true that makeup can enhance your appearance, if applied correctly. I am not a big fan of bold, obvious makeup.
Attempting a Modest Outlook
In the bible, 1 Peter 3:3-4 states, “Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.”
Modesty is one of those hot controversial topics that can be quiet offensive to modern society. The bible particularly emphasizes the importance of modesty, especially for women. However, Jesus, Himself, lived a very modest life. Personally, I have no trouble dressing modestly because I’m not someone who likes to draw attention to myself and prefers to blend into the background. I’m not trying to say that people who do not dress “modestly” is trying to draw attention to themselves. It is just for me personally, I feel like I would be drawing unwanted attention if I dress “immodestly.” On the other hand, I cannot say I have the inward beauty of a “gentle and quiet spirit.” I feel that my spirit is constantly raging inside. Outwardly, I may seem like a quiet person. Even my voice is also easily overpowered by a noisy classroom. Inwardly, I am actually very rough, constantly fighting negative emotions, especially when students are disrespectful. There is a lot of power behind a gentle word and private corrections when addressing and interacting with my students, but it is very difficult to master, as I try to balance between teaching focused students and addressing disruptive students.
Needless to say, I wrestle a lot with the multifaceted concepts of beauty.
Anyways, I do not wear makeup for very practical reasons. First, mastering the art of makeup is also extremely hard for me. Makeup looks different on everyone. It is also very time consuming to learn. I simply do not have the time before going to work to apply full face makeup. Now, the second, most pressing reason is that I have acne prone skin and cannot handle having makeup.
My shifting journey of skincare
When I entered high school, I started growing pimples on my forehead and on my cheeks. I remember my mom buying the whole Proactive set to help me; I then started using this other expensive brand that had seven plus steps when Proactive didn’t really help. However, my acne never went away. It just got worse in college, because I started sleeping even later and did not eat healthy.
As an ISFJ, I do care a lot about how others view me, but I didn’t really care how others saw me physically. I never really cared if others found me attractive or not. I worried more about my personality and how my certain quirks would drive people away.
Sadly, I will say that I did feel self-conscious one time in college about my looks. I took a selfie with a friend, and she posted it on Instagram. A few seconds later, some of her followers commented on how I looked “like a guy.” We decided to take it down. Even though I did not care about being “feminine,” the comment still hurt me.
After attempting many trials and errors of different skincare routines and watching skincare gurus on Youtube, I finally found a routine keeps my acne at bay: Cerave and pimple patches. I still have old acne scars, but for the most part, I now only get a minor amount of pimples here and there if I eat too much junk food. Some of my students get a kick out of asking me what my pimple patches are for and where they can buy them.
It was only recently that my school district relaxed the mask mandate. Wearing a mask is now optional on campus. I still wear mine in the classroom when I am teaching, and most of my students still do also. Aside from safety reasons, I admit, I do feel a bit exposed to my students if I do not have my mask on, fearing that they will judge how I look. Even around my colleagues, who already knows how I look without my mask pre-pandemic, I feel self-conscious. I just feel so used to covering my face and can easily hide my facial expressions with my mask that I would not want others to see. Just last week, a student asked, as a joke, if I had big lips or small lips. The students and I laughed at this question, but I did not answer him.
Initially, I thought that most of my students still wear a mask for safety precautions also. However, I recently discovered another reason when it was time to take Yearbook pictures for my Reading Decathlon Club.
After taking several pictures with our masks on as a group, the Yearbook teacher asked us to take off our masks and take a picture with our bare faces. Two of my male students were reluctant.
“I have acne,” they told me. This was the first time I ever heard any of my male students being self-conscious about their skin. Stereotypically, female students would care more.
After some encouragement and seeing that I also took off my mask for the picture, the two male students also took off their masks and asked me,
“Ms, can you drop your skincare routine?”
I was actually very taken aback when they asked me this, and feeling slightly embarrassed, I answered them, “Cerave.”
I’m not sure if they were serious about the question, but it actually made me feel more confident and comfortable about my own skin and not as self-conscious about how I looked in front of students.
Modesty and self-consciousness are both intertwined in my life. Perhaps, I find physical modesty easy because of my self-consciousness. Perhaps, my self-consciousness induced my modesty. Nevertheless, in this moment of gentle self-consciousness, I felt a beautiful connection; I felt seen.