Short Answer: Yes. Yes they can.
Don’t worry…a very long answer is coming. Very very long.
Why am I writing a long journal entry instead of a product review? Because today is my birthday, and I feel like being all thoughtful and wordy. I’ve also decided to take long break from blogging – at least for the rest of the summer (possibly longer). I love posting; but my schedule has become too crazy, and I need to scale back for a while. So I thought I’d take a little detour from “the usual.”
The title of my post sounds like I’m being sarcastic, but I’m really not. I love to throw the term “beauty junkie” around; but I also believe that my beloved products were part of a huge change in my life.
There was a time way back in the 2000’s (lol…) when I went through a seriously frumpy phase. “Frumpy” is putting things mildly. I had truly stopped taking care of myself – and stopped thinking of myself as vibrant or feminine. I was taking care of Maria, the singer; but neglecting Maria, the person.
At that time, there were also a lot of old, destructive thoughts still running through my head. I spent a lot of time telling myself that I was too fat, my skin was bad, I was out of shape, my hair was weird, and so on and so forth. And somehow all of these “problems” had come about because I wasn’t a good enough person. I needed more drive. More discipline. Better character. I didn’t deserve to look good and appreciate myself until I’d “fixed” everything. There was certainly no point in putting any effort into my appearance until I’d lost all the weight. Or met Mr. Right. Or gotten my career established. Or won the lottery/cured cancer/whatever.
I was so full of unreasonable expectations that even the smallest step felt almost impossible. And instead of being content to take baby steps and enjoy some progress; I kept piling things on my “to do” list, and feeling even more inadequate and overwhelmed.
Of course the result of all this harsh thinking was that I felt stressed out, exhausted and demoralized. And I looked like hell. The wake up call came in June 2006 when my aunt sent a picture of me holding my baby nephew. I suddenly realized that in less than 7 years, I’d gone from this…
I was shocked. Seven years isn’t a small amount of time; and there are things like flattering lighting, etc. to consider; but I still looked about 20 years older. Again…I was shocked.
If my adorable nephew hadn’t been in that picture, I would have ripped it up and thrown it away. But adorable nephew photos are too valuable to get rid of. So instead, I buried it under a stack of other pictures. I couldn’t forget it, though. What’s worse…I felt even sadder and was even harder on myself. But only at first.
I’d also been doing a lot of internal work, and it was starting to pay off. I finally took out the picture again; and instead of berating myself, I summoned up a little bit of compassion. And…when I looked at other old (“better”) pictures of myself, I started realizing that I had always been hard on myself. Even when I looked “good,” I never appreciated it. Why? Because I was always thinking of what was still missing or not good enough. No wonder I eventually stopped trying!
Maybe it was time to give myself a break.
In the year that followed, I started taking stock of things. I realized that I had let a lot of things go. Not just my appearance; but my health, social life, romantic life, hobbies, household, and just about everything except singing had fallen by the wayside. I also realized that I spent very little time doing things to make my life happier in the moment. I was always waiting for that magic day when I would reach my weight loss, career and financial goals. Then I would be good to myself. Then my life would start! I was in my mid-forties and waiting for my life to begin. Ooops.
Somehow, I finally decided that even though I wasn’t a skinny, rich, famous opera star with a perfect boyfriend; maybe I would just go ahead and start my life anyway.
One of the first things I did was…buy clothes. Not a lot of clothes. But clothes for the body I had instead of some future body. I even bought cute lingerie. And…I felt better. Much better. Without losing an ounce.
Then came a big change…beauty products. First it was skincare. Then it was wearing my contact lenses instead of my glasses. Then my friend (Nancy) and I went to a spring makeup event at Nordstrom. I bought a lash primer. Which led to wearing mascara, which led to other things. One day I decided I would get up 15 minutes earlier so I could put on makeup before heading out the door. Shocking!
For 15 minutes every morning, I sat at my vanity and played with pretty things. And I started to remember what it felt like to feel pampered and cared for. Instead of starting the day by telling myself what was wrong with me, I began the day feeling more beautiful. And I would catch my reflection every now and then, and be pleasantly surprised! Who was that person in the nice outfit with the snappy eyeliner? It wasn’t vanity either - it was pride. The kind of pride that came from knowing I’d done something that was good for me. It was also fun. And I was putting myself out there as if I mattered instead of trying to “hide” all of my “flaws.” I even started wearing…gasp!...sleeveless tops!
A lot of things changed after that. I eventually started dating again. I also started losing weight, exercising and taking better care of myself. Again…I was behaving as if I mattered. The most important thing was that I started having a life – and more people in it who mattered to me.
Now of course I know that the beauty products themselves were not solely responsible for the changes in my life. But in many ways, those girly things served as both catalyst and tool. No matter what the state of my singing career, weight, financial situation, romantic status was; I always had a quick, easy way to make myself feel good about myself now. I think that’s why beauty products do it for me. It’s a way to be right in the moment when my feelings about the past or the future take me out of the present.
Beauty junkie-dom was (and still is) a playful, creative and positive way for me to be nice to myself every day, and almost any time. Sometimes it’s a way to step out into the limelight, sometimes it’s a bit of armor when I’m feeling insecure, and sometimes it’s a way to cheer myself up; but most of the time it’s playing, pampering and fun – and it reminds me of how lovely life can be. Most importantly, it’s taking time to show some love for myself on a regular basis in a very visible, tangible way.
This picture was taken yesterday.
Again…it’s taken from a highly flattering angle (trust me); but I think that looks like someone who is participating in and living her life. I still have a lot of issues; but most of the time I’m proud of the way I look. I’m also very happy and grateful for my life and the wonderful people in it.
And I “feel pretty” almost every single day.
(Did you really think I could resist a corny tie-in?)
I wish you all a wonderful, wonderful summer (and possibly beyond). My heartfelt thanks to all of you who visit this blog, offer your comments and send me your emails. I wish I could tell you how long I’ll be away – but I really don’t know. I’m still a beauty junkie, though – and I’ll continue to roam the beauty counters, tear ads out of magazines, read everyone else’s blogs, and try out every single product I can get my hands on.