I hate makeup. There I said it. Sure, I put it on and I think I clean up pretty good, but I really hate doing it. Some women love it and that’s great. I wish I did but I don’t. I hate paying for it. I hate applying it. I hate taking it off at night. It’s just one more step in a skin care regimen that I resent. When I do shows, someone usually does my makeup for me and that’s when it really looks amazing. Unfortunately, when I do it myself, well let’s just be honest, I usually don’t do it at all when I must do it myself. It makes me crazy! I feel funny even confessing it because it’s so ridiculous.
My mom used to spend hours every morning “putting her face on”. She’s beautiful. I, on the other hand, remember being a kid and wondering why she did that when she could’ve been doing something fun like catching crawdads or building forts. She also took it to the next level with matching outfits and coordinating jewelry. What a woman! I, on the other hand, was wadding my tangled hair up in messy buns before it was cool and running out the door barefoot in cutoff shorts to dig up worms. While she was getting “made-up,” I was getting in trouble for messing up my Sunday dress. Not a lot has changed.
A lot of folks see me doing what I do. I love what I do. I don’t even mind getting “made up” for my work. It’s the equivalent of paperwork in jobs that professionals in other industries otherwise enjoy. It’s a necessary evil to make possible something amazing. However, if you come to my home, you will most likely find me in a pair of sweatpants, an oversized t-shirt, no makeup, and a messy bun. That is me. It’s no more real or unreal than my stage persona; it’s simply another side of me. A more comfortable side.
What we tend to do as professionals is assume that people are only as they show us they are. We assume the take-charge, type A boss must be impossible to live with. How often have we heard the water fountain gossip, “His poor wife!” We assume the extroverted associate is energized by a crowd when he is in fact exhausted from wearing his ‘work-face’ for 12 hours. We believe the happy-go-lucky intern to be happy indeed. We spend our lives trusting that what we are seeing is the whole picture, yet we miss so much!
Maybe we’re lazy. Maybe it’s easier to apply makeup than to let ourselves be vulnerable. Maybe it’s easier to see other people’s makeup at, no pun intended, face value. In one scenario, we avoid revealing and working on ourselves. In the other, we avoid the effort it takes to deeply know and care about someone else. We live in a world that loves makeup and make believe, but there are other sides to every face. There’s a side that isn’t contoured, bronzed, or highlighted. When will we understand that the face that isn’t airbrushed is beautiful too?
The next time you start to roll your eyes at coworkers, snap back at associates, or roll your eyes at your boss, stop and take a really good look. Take a look beyond the surface, beyond their behavior, beyond your instinctive view. Take a look into the deeper person and try to understand that there is a story there that you know nothing about. There is something that wakes them up at night. They’ve probably laughed so hard they’ve cried or cried so hard they thought they might die.
We are not that different from each other if we really look- but that takes effort. It takes effort to look deeper into someone’s life, but that’s what it takes to be effective. And if you can’t make this effort, then you are probably part of the reason they put makeup on in the first place. Isn’t that why we all dress up and play pretend – because we fear rejection? Don’t we believe that if we are open and honest, people won’t respect us or won’t like us? Maybe, just maybe, we’ve been hurt so often that we put makeup on to deceive ourselves. What if we don’t like our own reflection?
I struggled with my team during one of the most personally difficult months of my life. I pretended everything was fine. But as I put on what I thought was a fine performance, my crew noticed that I was losing things, forgetting appointments, and despite my best efforts was a little more irritable than normal. Gradually, I began to sense that they were losing confidence in my leadership.
So, I went into the team meeting with no makeup (literally no makeup). I was wearing jeans and a t-shirt. I was honest, “Look, you all are important to me, so I want to be honest. I am going through a divorce. I am devasted and questioning a lot about myself. I am in a weird place emotionally and I really need more support than usual on this upcoming campaign.” It was like a dose of medicine that you know is working because it burns. It was difficult, but my team hurdled around me with so much support and encouragement. They took off some of their own makeup too.
Now, I know that a lot of professional consultants would disagree with me. That’s okay. There have to be boundaries in what you share and don’t share in professional settings. I certainly would not go into detail about my spouse’s infidelity. That’s too much. But from a personal perspective, I find that being honest with the people you entrust your business to is important. My team needs to be able to trust me and a huge part of that trust is made possible because I am transparent with them.
When you consider that most professionals spend more waking hours with their team than they do with their families, it is even more important to occasionally take the makeup off. Otherwise, you run the risk of morphing permanently into your career alias, and there are real dangers associated with becoming one-dimensional.
Seeing and being seen for ALL that we are is a deliberate commitment to being kind to ourselves and to others. It’s saying in essence that we are good enough, we are approved of, and we are accepted exactly as we are in every arena of our lives. Makeup has its place, but let’s keep it on our faces and not our hearts. Let’s agree to be human and to see humans. The illusion of being perfect carries with it expectations that will inevitably lead to far too much pressure and unnecessary disappointment. Today, lets just all decide to be real. Keep makeup to a minimum please.