A Latina woman applying mascara as she looks toward the camera in an off-the-shoulder sweater

I recently had a drastic schedule change that shook up my daily routine. I started a new job that called for a two and a half hour one-way commute and a 4:30 A.M. daily wake up time. This early alarm allowed for me to squeeze in my morning run before sitting for 14 hours on trains and at a desk. Running, to me, is like a big cup of coffee. I rarely start my day without it.

My new morning call time left me with about 20 minutes to shower, dry my hair and pack my lunch, the usual morning rush. During this transition time, I found myself wondering: When will I put on my makeup? Do I do my makeup on the train? Should I run less or wake up earlier to make sure I look presentable for the day?

Then, a simple thought occurred to me—I don’t have to do my makeup. I don’t know why it took me so long to come to this realization. My makeup routine only takes me about 10 minutes, and it is relatively minimal. Yet, I never once questioned it before. Gradually, I realized that my obligatory makeup routine brought small stressors that deserved my attention and some reevaluation.

A simple thought occurred to me—I don’t have to do my makeup.

What if I can’t afford to buy this overly priced foundation this month? What if my boyfriend gets angry that I got foundation on his white shirt (again)? Will I be rejected if he realizes how truly different I look without my eyeliner and mascara?

I was never overly self-conscious about how I looked without makeup, but I was more concerned about how people would view my “two selves.” I was more embarrassed and annoyed by the question, “Are you tired?” or comments like, “You look so different.”

My relationship with makeup has come down to: Where am I putting my energy? Sure, 10 minutes in front of the mirror is truly not a huge loss. Yet, does the amount of time I spend perfecting my outward appearance, my wardrobe and Instagram feed, match the time I spend cultivating my interior life?

Does the amount of time I spend perfecting my outward appearance, my wardrobe and Instagram feed, match the time I spend cultivating my interior life?

This thought was sparked when I listened to one of my favorite podcasts, On Being. During an episode titled, “The Inner Landscape of Beauty,” the host, Krista Tippet, interviewed John O’Donohue, an Irish poet, theologian and philosopher. In it, Tippet claims that there is a connection between our interior and exterior lives that goes unnoticed.

O’Donohue explains, “I think that there is always an uncanny symmetry between the way you are inward with yourself and the way you are outward. I feel that there is an evacuation of interiority going on in our times and that we need to draw back inside ourselves and that we’ll find immense resources there.”

He continues, “If you look at the educational system and you look at most of the public fora in our culture, there is little time or attention given to what you could almost call learning the art of inwardness or a pedagogy of interiority. That’s why I find the aesthetic things, like poetry, fiction, good film, theater, drama, dance and music, actually awaken that inside you and remind you that there is a huge interiority within you.”

After listening to their conversation, I realized that my problem wasn’t with makeup, but it was about the landscape I was choosing to cultivate, my exterior. Was I abandoning my interiority, which is arguably the most valuable and authentic part of me? The art of inwardness has taken a backseat to my outward appearance, as well as to my outward projections. l have always felt a need to project a self-image that was “put-together.”

The art of inwardness has taken a backseat to my outward appearance.

Going makeup-free for the past three months, and the foreseeable future, is a choice. I am prioritizing my inner landscape of beauty, tending to the gardens that have been long unacknowledged. It is an invitation to simplify, to examine my daily practices and ask myself what practices should I be prioritizing each day to remove all the fluff and pretense.

How can I better look myself in the eye? How can I acknowledge all the scars and spots on my heart? How can I weigh the energy I am directing outward with the energy I am directing inward? I am hopeful to see where the journey to inwardness takes me.

Have you ever gone makeup-free for an extended amount of time? What did you learn from the experience?

Image via Lenka Ulrichova, Darling Issue No. 17

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