#NoMakeUpSelfie: What This Means, What We Thought it Meant, and What it Means to Me

So there’s been a lot of this whole #nomakeupselfie stuff going around Facebook. Surprisingly no one has actually nominated me, perhaps because I am known for going out without make-up on a semi-routine basis, and half my “selfies” already feature no make-up. The sad thing was that I didn’t even know until Friday that the whole idea behind this trend started last year and was aimed at raising funds for researching a cure for breast cancer. Once again, we as a society have missed the mark. To correct for this error I propose that we keep our causes separate – you want to promote finding a cure for cancer go ahead post #nomakeupselfie, you want to challenge the beauty ideals – maybe try #mybeautyselfie.

For the record - this was the idea. For more information check out this site or tack on "and cancer" to #nomakeupselfie in Google.

For the record – this was the idea. For more information check out this site or tack on “and cancer” to #nomakeupselfie in Google. If you post a #nomakeupselfie, make sure you highlight the point.

But let’s just stop for 30 seconds and pretend, that as I (and I think most of my friends) believed, the campaign was about what it appeared to be – challenging the societal ideals about female beauty. Well that’s cool. Challenge away. But I think we’re challenging it all wrong. The choice to wear make-up is majorly personal. Yes, it is certainly influenced by societal ideals, however, just as with the whole Dove “Real Beauty” campaigns, and the “Real women have curves” propaganda, we are creating a false dichotomy. Being a normal BMI is not an indication of a better or healthier person, nor is wearing make-up an indication that you are hopelessly misguided by society’s ideals for beauty.

I recently started wearing lipstick. This was partially out of a “I should look like a big kid when I meet the actual big kids” motivation, but it was also out of a “when I wear this fire engine red lipstick, I feel like a total boss.” Does this mean I feel less whole or less powerful when I’m not wearing make-up? No, the other time that I feel the most powerful is when I wear my dry-fit and I am laced up for a run – I am aware of every muscle in my body as they vibrate with excitement, but I also don’t tend to have an ounce of make-up on, unless I already had it on and was too lazy to remove it.

Yeah, I take a lot of selfies - make-up or no make-up I am still me. #nomakeupselfie? No. #Ilookdifferentondifferentdaysselfie

Yeah, I take a lot of selfies – make-up or no make-up I am still me. #nomakeupselfie? No. #Ilookdifferentondifferentdaysselfie #mybeautyselfie

Translation: I feel whole with and without make-up. I am make-up-dexterous (if that can even be made into a term).

Does that mean I think that my cousin who I’ve rarely seen without at least mascara is a beauty industry sell-out or hopelessly confused about what it is to be beautiful? No. She is beautiful inside and out. She knows just when someone needs help and does what she can to help. She lives with her heart, and a dash of mascara.

This iconic image from Dove's "Real Beauty" campaign sparked a shift in attitudes, but did we shift in the wrong direction?

This iconic image from Dove’s “Real Beauty” campaign sparked a shift in attitudes, but did we shift in the wrong direction?

“Real beauty” and “real women” are great in the sense that they challenge the thin and painted ideal in an effort to create self-acceptance and self-love. But they got a little lost on the mission. To me this whole thing isn’t about the specific behaviours and ideals per say, it’s about the North American “self-esteem crisis” (which for the record really is a bit of a North American thing). But creating self-acceptance shouldn’t come at the expense of discounting whatever you’re not.
Accepting your weight is great. Doing it by delegitimizing anyone who isn’t your shape isn’t.
Accepting your face without make-up is great. So is feeling powerful and beautiful with make-up.
Assuming people are doing everything because of society or that because they fit society’s ideal they must be happy, just doesn’t make sense.

Even the thinnest of models may have bad body image. We assume that if you’re thin you’ve got it made. We assume if you’re making six figures you’re happy, but even the richest men suffer depression. We assume a lot of things based on appearance, and we get jealous, so we hate. We hate people who look better than us or are thinner than us, more successful than us, whatever they are that we are not and we want to be. Just remember that we all do this regardless of what we have, we as a species focus on what we don’t have, no one has a perfect life. Hating them because they have something we don’t doesn’t make us better, doesn’t mean that our assumptions are correct, just makes us a little sad and angry.

People are people. No two people are the exact same in every aspect. Not even identical twins or clones…. maybe clones, but you can’t really guarantee their thoughts are the same. We all have things we would rather change. It’s part of Western society – we constantly look for what can be improved, and it’s great, except when it’s not, and it leads us to invent problems just so we can invent a solution.

The challenge we should be issuing isn’t “Real women” or “no make-up” (because that also assumes that only women face appearance pressures), the challenge we should be issuing is “What Makes You Happy.” Nevermind changing society, change you – do what makes you happy.
I was reading the TED blog (I know, coolest person ever) and in the article, Kelly McGonical talks about New Years Resolutions and explains that they fail because rather than asking ourselves what we want for the next year (i.e. sitting back on January 1, 2015, what would you want to say you achieved in 2014?) we focus on what we should want. Key word – should.Epic
So my proposal for this whole challenge society? Challenge yourself to be honest about what you want – if you want to lose weight, not society wants you to lose weight, you’ll probably be a lot more successful, and at the end of the day happier. If you want to wear make-up because it makes you feel epic, be f***ing epic, if you feel fake with make-up, don’t wear it, and still be f***ing epic.
It’s that simple. If we all did this than worried about attacking behaviours and judging them, we’d probably get a heck of a lot farther in this game.

As I mentioned – the #nomakeupselfie really is about cancer research, so go ahead and post the selfie, but I challenge you to also donate to fund cancer research.

If the whole beauty ideals and eating disorders domain is more your battle, I challenge you to post a #mybeautyselfie and donate to an eating disorders program, and tell someone they’re beautiful.

Let’s keep our messages straight and fight the fight we want to fight.

P.S. Check out Saturday – I will be posting a follow-up to this – “What Will it Look Like When We’ve Got it Right?”


  1. Pingback: The #nomakeupselfie is still a beauty contest. And I’m not playing. | Shaunanagins

  2. Pingback: What Will it Look Like When We’ve Got it Right? Understanding the “World Without Dieting” Campaign | climbing the crazy tree

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