Catch-Up Post 1: Self-Esteem

Well, it's been two weeks since I posted, because not only did school start again but I got the news that my grandmother has been put in hospice and went to visit her last weekend. It was a really good visit, but stressful, and I've spent all week doing triage academically: I've only read and written what was absolutely necessary, and I got through the week thanks to some understanding professors. This weekend, along with updating TME, will be spent getting caught up. There's too much material to cover in one post, so I'm breaking it up into two. This first one will be about the changes I've felt and seen in myself; the second is about the things I've noticed externally as a result of the Experiment.

I've had two dreams, since starting TME, that while I was covering my hair it grew back (I'm gonna let it grow out and I've stopped dyeing it), all the way down to my shoulders. It also reverted to how it used to look in the summer: bright gold-blonde. In both dreams I was styling it like I used to, and in both I was looking for a way for someone else to "accidentally" see it, as TME wasn't over yet.

I miss my hair.

But other than that, a good number of the positive things I had thought might happen as a result of taking this on have come to pass. MF predicted that for the most part other people wouldn't be able to tell that I wasn't wearing makeup, and that's been true. In fact, a female friend said something to me that totally made my day. We were sitting close together (so, she could see all the crap I used to hide) before class, and she said, "Are you doing that experiment thing?" I replied that I was, and she said, "Wow! Cause I was looking at you the other day and I was like, 'She's totally wearing makeup.' I can't tell that you're not made-up." Then she looked me in the eye and said earnestly, "You're very naturally pretty. You really are." Mostly, that's what people are saying, that I look great. (Of course, no one is going to walk up to me and go, "Holy crap, what happened to YOU??") So I've been getting lots of positive reinforcement.

The second thing-- and this is pretty awesome-- is that gradually, I've begun to believe that I am naturally pretty. Before I did TME, when I wore makeup I was constantly making sure I had enough lip stuff on so my lips didn't look purple, and I saw every single blemish on my skin as evidence that I wasn't pretty enough. I was always worrying about shine and whether or not my mascara was blurring under my eyes, and everywhere I went, I wanted people to look at me and approve of me. Then I started TME, and I'd look at myself in the mirror and go, "Oh my GOD, I look like I'm dead. This is awful."

But now when I look in the mirror, I've noticed that I'm looking for the positive aspects of how I look. I notice my eyes more, and I'm super-proud of my cheekbones. A month ago, I only looked for what was wrong with my face or my hair and I was never pretty enough; but I seem to be slowly getting into the habit of looking for what's right because I need to feel like I'm beautiful. I'm looking for the good, not the bad, and that feels really amazing.

The "bad" that I was truly nervous about, as many of you know, was my skin. I am going to put something on the internet now that I've always been irrationally ashamed of, but TME has changed it: every night, since I was twelve, I have squeezed whatever I could find on my face. Like, EVERY night. It was a ritual, relaxing and satisfying (come on, you can't tell me that the ones that go, "Pop!" aren't awesome), and until about a year ago the scars would heal in under a week. In the meantime, I could cover them up. No big deal. But I hid it, and I knew I was doing permanent damage to my face despite the fact that I didn't really feel the pain any more. Then about a year ago, the red spots started taking longer and longer to clear. Now, they can take up to three weeks (a few have formed what look like permanent red patches), and this new development is one of the things that scared me into TME: I didn't used to scar up. Now I do, and so I have to stop messing up my face.

I've been trying for years to quit, but now that I can't cover up my blemishes I squeeze less and less. In the beginning it was really hard-- I had to force myself to think about something else when the urge hit, reminding myself that there was no covering up whatever damage I did. Now, I only have two red spots (I slipped and squeezed a little)-- but the wonderful thing is, I feel like I respect my skin more now. If I want to look good I have to treat it well. Simple as that. And when I do treat it well, I'm more beautiful than I ever realized. I take good care of it with Proactiv and keep my hands off, and lo and behold... my skin is FINE just the way it is! How about that?

So I've gone from thinking that I needed to wear makeup to be pretty, to honestly believing that I'm beautiful without it. And it took less than a month! I'm really surprised by how fast it happened.

Overall, though, I think about how I look muuuuuch less than I used to. I look how I look today, and that's it. I used to feel like my physical appearance was constantly on display and I always wanted to be ready to be looked at, 24/7; I was also very vain, as I've said, believing that my appearance was a large part of what made me likeable. But now, not only do I not care as much whether people look at me, but I value my beauty (natural or otherwise) less. Yep, that's right-- I congratulate myself on how pretty I am far less often, because I was born with whatever genes, and then I took care of myself. So? That doesn't make me superior to other people, as I thought it did. It's just me, and I've got a ton of other stuff to do than spend an hour making myself up just so I can look at myself in the mirror and go, "Yep-- I'm pretty."

Finally, the last unintended consequence of TME: I want to lose weight. Not much, but now that I'm not always sucking in my tummy or making myself look thinner with any number of Magical Wardrobe Tricks, I need to start taking better care of myself. Not that I'm fat-- I'm not. It's more that I can't fool myself any more about how I feel about my body. Also, I am aging, and even though I haven't gained any weight I think I look different than I used to. I don't need to look like I'm 20, but I don't think it's a bad thing that I'm finally admitting to myself that it's time to be more diligent about my health. Can't hurt, right?

So far, TME has saved me money on cosmetics and hair, made me spend money on head coverings and crafties, made me believe that I'm genuinely beautiful, made me care less about however beautiful I am, and made me want to take better care of my skin and my body. So far, I'd say... so good!

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