Hello, everyone! Kelsey here. I’ve been thinking a lot about self-care since I wrote about how important self-care is now that I’m a caregiver. Plus, I tend to think about it during January with all the “New Year, new you!” talk that can be highly problematic for everyone, especially people recovering from eating disorders. It made me realize just how much I need to start prioritizing little moments of self-care again in my own life. So I’ve decided to run a 12-week guests series on self-care.
Some of you long-term readers may recognize some of these posts because I originally ran the series few years ago. But a lot has happened in my own life since then, and I feel like I could use the reminder. Plus, we have new followers who never got the chance to read them! So every Friday for a little bit a writer I know will give us a peak at what self-care looks like for them.
Today, for the first installment, I’m happy to introduce all of you to my friend and fellow blogger, Lily Ellyn Dunn. One of the things I like best about this piece is that it focuses on a self-care ritual and an artistic expression that can so often go overlooked, but it’s something that clearly is so meaningful and enjoyable to Lily. I hope it encourages you to find your own sacred self-care in ways that are uniquely, beautifully you.
When I have to be at work by 8:00 I wake up before the sun. I feed my cats in the fuzzy gray light of the kitchen and brew a pot of coffee. Then I carry the steaming mug with me into the bathroom where I sort through my makeup collection, pick out what I want to wear that day, pull out my brushes, consider the blank canvas of my face, and start to paint.
My interest in makeup began a little over a year ago. For my entire makeup-wearing life before that my routine had been the same – foundation, powder, blush, brown mascara – maybe some brown eyeliner. On very special occasions I’d pull out my single gold eye shadow or one of my two lipsticks – both hand-me-down gifts with purchase my mother had received at a cosmetics counter years before. The whole thing took less than five minutes.
My makeup routine wasn’t any sort of conscious, minimalist choice – I just never thought about it at all – until one day when I was looking for a video on youtube and stumbled onto a makeup tutorial. From there, I discovered there was a whole community of people making beauty videos. These girls weren’t just “doing their makeup.” They were true artists. They were taking powders and creams and liquids and transforming the raw materials into something spectacular. I was intrigued. After watching dozens of videos, I decided to experiment a little bit.
I quickly discovered two things about me and makeup: First, that makeup is a great creative outlet for me—the way that painting or sketching are for more artistic people. And second, that I might just have a knack for it. I spent time researching products and brands, invested in higher quality brushes, and practiced new techniques. I started waking up earlier in the morning so I could take my time getting ready, excited to try something new every day.
And then I discovered the downside of being into makeup. When you wear glittery eyeshadow or bright lipstick, people tend to assume things about you. Mostly, they assume you’re insecure, obsessed with appearances, shallow, vain, attention-seeking, and inauthentic. I understand where they’re coming from, I really do. The world is saturated with fake images of perfect faces and bodies bearing the message that beauty is limited to one certain set of ideals and that we should do everything we can to change ourselves to fit into that box. I don’t believe in this. Nobody needs to wear makeup to be beautiful. Nobody should feel inadequate without it. But by the same token, nobody should feel like a little bit of glitter makes a person shallow or that red lipstick makes a woman fake.
Sometimes people say to me, “Your makeup is so pretty, but I would never take the time to do mine like that. I just can’t be bothered.” That’s perfectly fine, and I get that. But I feel quite the opposite. I feel like I can’t not be bothered to do my makeup. The time I spend playing with my makeup is time I make in my day to care for myself.
Music and art are widely recognized for their therapeutic qualities. They engage a creative part of your mind and help you relax, rest, and recover from stress and trauma. I’m no good at painting or drawing and I’m not especially musical, but I love doing makeup. I do it because it’s fun. I do it because it’s art. I do it because it reminds me that I have the power to create, and that transformation is possible. And if that’s vain or shallow, then I suppose I’m just vain and shallow.
Maybe one day putting on my makeup will feel like a chore, and if that day comes I can guarantee you that I will stop waking up early to make time for it, but right now it is one small thing I can do every day for no other reason than that it brings me joy. And joy is always worthwhile.
Lily Ellyn Dunn is a teacher, a freelance writer, and (most importantly) an ice cream connoisseur. She and her husband have recently relocated to Columbia, SC after two years in South Korea. Lily wrestles with her faith on her blog, www.lilyellyn.com. You can also find her on Twitter @lilyellyn.
Note from Kelsey: If you enjoyed Lily’s post, leave her some comment love and check out her blog. One of my favorites: “But You Don’t Seem Bipolar” And Other Things You (And My Gynecologist) Shouldn’t Say. I appreciate Lily bravely and openly talking about bipolar with her readers (in addition to talking about faith and books, all the books).