Today is International Women's Day and, in honor of this day, I wanted to share with you The Nake Face Project. In a nutshell, the founder of Girls on The Run, Molly Barker, and one of the coaches of the same project, Caitlin Boyle, were struck by the irony of their attempts to encourage girls to love their genuine selves even as they, as the mentors, were adherents of modern beauty habits all designed to camouflage them in some way: Coloring their hair, wearing high heels, uncomfortable clothes, wearing make-up, using anti-wrinkle creams, etc. They decided to go 60 days without any embellishments to their natural beauty. After all, if they couldn't convince themselves they were beautiful "as is", then how could they have credibility with the girls they work with. What makes this project unique is that they are not anti-make-up, anti-hair color, anti-high heels. They are just trying to figure out why they find these things to be "necessary". Each of them is blogging about her experience, with jarringly sincere posts about facing the world without the armor of cosmetics and potions...I guarantee that they will strike a nerve. Youth, beauty, style...why are they so important and how much are we buying into external definitions of our worthiness.
This project got me thinking in a bigger way. We are all wasting too much energy trying to impress other people. Yes, all of us. In some way.
Yesterday, as I was in my car listening to Dave Ramsey discuss the definition of "normal" and why he wouldn't want to be it, I was struck by his criticism of people buying cars they can't afford to impress people they DON'T KNOW on the road next to them.
It occurred to me then, and was reinforced by the posts of The Naked Face Project, that we are all spending energy and emotion trying to gain approval from people WE DON'T KNOW. (Read this post in which Molly explains dealing with the mortification she feels when she realizes the TSA agent will see her now-hairy armpits.) Haven't you ever felt exactly the same way about the checker at the grocery store, a person at your gym, etc?
The question that I've been thinking about ever since:
Why are we giving perfect strangers the thumbs up/thumbs down power?
I suspect it has something to do with be social creatures and struggling to find our place in the world, but I wonder how many of us are living in a place that pinches and binds in an effort to have membership in a community, all the while understanding that the fit isn't quite right. Even more importantly, why don't we understand that everyone is doing the same thing? Could it be that this reliance on superficial judgments to determine value is why character seems to count so little?
A couple years ago, I started participating in a weekly photo project. The goal was to simply put yourself in the picture once a week. We women don't do that. Somehow, when we see pictures of ourselves, we find that image lacking and we hide from it. We never stop to realize that everyone around us sees that person every day and finds her lovable, despite the wrinkles, the acne, the gray hair, the "extra" weight, the "small" boobs, the "too-big" nose, the "inadequate" lashes (man, the advertisement for Lastisse cracks me up!), etc. Despite all of our "glaringly obvious flaws", they love us. The real me. The quirky me. The imperfect me. Don't we love the same way? Since they love us for who we really are and we love them for who they reall are, the question remains: Who are we camouflaging for? Whose approval, no, whose LOVE are we trying to earn?