The other day in body image class, we were looking at all sorts of photoshopped images in order to increase my students’ media literacy. When I showed a photo of a make-up less Jennifer Aniston, one of my student’s gasped.
“She looks awful.”
Except she didn’t really. She looked like a woman in her forties who maybe spent a bit too much time in the sun in her youth (sound familiar?), has laughed and smiled a lot and maybe cried a bit, and maybe smokes. She looked real.
Now, I understand that my student was looking at Jennifer Aniston with both much younger eyes than my own (so she doesn’t really know how sun damage sneaks up on you and how all those expressions you make mark your face in a beautifully revealing way) and also that she has only see Aniston and every other star fully made up and/or photoshopped so her perspective was off, but I also know that while the innocence of youth is one thing, media charades are a whole ‘nother thing. They distort our sense of reality, making us think everyone else is perfect and we’re ordinary… or worse.
And so what I told my student was that Jennifer Aniston looked like a woman in her forties and that our discomfort with that is so sad and so telling. Then I gently reminded her and everyone else that we were going to take off those masks ourselves for one day so that we could project our natural beauty while gaining some very valuable perspective.
Today, I want to invite you to join me and my classes for our next all natural days. This fall, I am teaching my two body image classes on different days so, if you are in, you can pick your all natural day from the two or join us for both (as I will be doing!).
Mark your calendars: October 18 and 19th are this fall’s All Natural Days.
What is All Natural Day? A chance for all of us to become reacquainted with and appreciative of the skin we’re in. For that day, you’ll let your skin breathe and project your natural, beautiful self.
Does the idea of this make you uncomfortable? It might. And that’s okay. Part of this experiment is having you move through the discomfort to get to the other side where you realize that while enhancements can be temporary fun, they don’t have to define you, and you aren’t beholden to them. Last semester, I was asked if I thought you could enjoy make-up and fashion and still be self-accepting or if just by using make-up, did it mean you were not self-accepting. I answered that question extensively recently on Voxxi and reflected, “Taking a self-accepting approach to style means that you inherently know that your style does not create your worth,it simply is one of many expressions of how you see yourself… When you are operating from a self-accepting place, you understand that style does not change your capabilities. You can go without make-up without feeling like you’ve lost yourself…” While I think you can enjoy fashion and make-up and be self-accepting, I also know that many of us rely on fashion and make-up to determine some of our worth, and allowing it to have that hold on us isn’t healthy.
So on the mornings of October 18th and/or 19th, feel free to take a shower, put on moisturizer (as long as it is not tinted or light-reflecting), brush your hair and your teeth but that’s where the primping ends.
Here are some things that should not be part of your All Natural Day:
Contacts (yep, wear your glasses!)
Weave or extensions (the clip in kind. If it’s sewn in, you can keep it there!)
Hair products (shampoo and conditioning in the shower are fine– no leave in conditioner, de-frizz or straightening products)*
Flat Ironing/ Curling/ Rollers/ Blow Drying
I am sure I’ve left something off the list so, here’s the deal, if anything feels like it could be an enhancement, it probably is- so skip it. And while it would be tempting to just throw on sweats (and pull your hair back into a pony tail if you have longer hair), I encourage you to dress nicely for the day (whatever that means to you– just not sweats) and to wear your hair down- showing yourself that you don’t have to be dressed down in order to forego enhancements and forgoing the all or nothing thinking that often plagues us (if I am not wearing make-up, I don’t deserve to pay attention to myself or my body in anyway, sound familiar?).
Want to take the challenge one step further? If you are on a social media site, change your profile picture to feature one of you without the enhancements and encourage your followers/ friends to do the same. If you do it, please send me a link or copy of the photo! Want to tweet about it this experience? Do so under #allnaturalday.
A few caveats: if you can’t completely go all natural in your life (for example, you can go make-up less to work but it would be frowned upon for you to walk in with wet hair from the shower, then, by all means, do what you HAVE to do but don’t do what you WANT to do).
If you are a trans or gender-variant person, participate by not using items that you would consider appearance enhancements but please feel comfortable using items that are part of your identity.
Here’s to loving the skin we’re in, as it is.
Are you in? If so, what day(s) will you participate? Why did you decide to participate in all natural day? What are you looking forward to and what makes you nervous?