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February 5, 2015 / Jenny Ann Fraser

The Beauty Experiment: how I skipped lipstick, ditched fashion, faced the world without concealer and learned to love the real me. (Repost)

(Reposted from another URL September, 2014)

Phoebe Baker Hyde, the author of The Beauty Experiment: how I skipped lipstick, ditched fashion, faced the world without concealer and learned to love the real me,  is a courageous woman.

When TLC Book tours gifted me with the opportunity to take part in “The Beauty Experiment” I instantly chose the option of writing a timeline of my inner voice in regards to my looks throughout my life and how it has impacted my feelings of self-worth.

Having spent many years listening to my ever-so-critical inner-voice, we are well acquainted, and this is one instance where my memory doesn’t fail me.

Phoebe baker Hyde however, had more on her plate than a simple blog post and a trip down memory lane. She decided that she would give up all of the trappings of the modern woman in regards to beauty of over a year.

No makeup, concealer, mascara nor fatigue hiding foundation. No new clothes, no hair products, no salon cuts, (unless you count a trip to a Hong Kong barber to have her long locks cut short like a man) and no jewellery.

She decided to see what life was like without these things while living in a city where it seems this would be considered a monumental act of rebellion. Apparently women in Hong Kong would never dream of going to the grocery store without being more dressed up and made up than I would for an important job interview.

At first I thought to myself. “I did that years ago!” I have long ago become very comfortable with my own reflection sans cosmetics that just tend to run down my face as my eyes tear every time I step outside in my frozen, windy world.

Then I considered a day without hair product and realized that I have little in the way of beauty courage. My fine curly mane, which untreated is equivalent to a head full of flying spider webs doesn’t live naked.  And I couldn’t shave my head no matter how often I’ve threatened to do so.

I lack the courage of this author.

That said, I have finally developed a healthy relationship with myself and I have long given up measuring my self-worth by what I see in the mirror. It wasn’t always this way, and looking back I can see the truth plain as day. As Phoebe Baker Hyde writes so eloquently:

“Good hair days, bad hair days: maybe less about the hair than the head underneath.”

Me at age 3:

I can remember my very first moment in life when I became aware that how I looked mattered to me, and quite frankly I believe it was the first of many times that I felt somehow less than and that I didn’t measure up.

I was just 3 yrs old, when I received my first hair cut, (I barely had the ability to grow real hair until I was about 10). But my grandmother, Grace, who had absolutely no talent for hair cutting, decided to help my parents out by saving them a trip to a salon.   I ended up in the hair dresser’s chair much sooner than planned.

Apparently there was little left to work with once Grace had practiced her art, so the only option was a short pixie cut. I can remember the moment I saw myself for the first time.  The adults in the room were crooning over how pretty I looked, but when I was held up to the mirror to see what I saw wasn’t me.  The picture that I had of myself had changed and I didn’t recognize this short-haired stranger. I burst into tears.

3 yr olds don’t have the longest of attention spans, (quite frankly I don’t have a very long one over 40 years later) and I had yet to learn how to be consumed with my appearance so I learned to live with my new hair.  That is until a neighborhood boy informed me that I was also a boy because I had boy-hair and girls aren’t supposed to look like that. I think this might have been the first time in my life that I resented my parents. Fortunately, that didn’t last.

Age 10:

By this age, fitting in was incredibly important and I had more than proven my lack of talent for it. I was not obsessed with my looks but I believe this was probably the age where I started to consider that maybe if I were prettier things might be better.  It was inevitable that I would explore this for some time as I attempted to untangle the unsolvable mystery of why I just didn’t seem to “belong”. My inner voice, (whom I later came to call Dexter) and I had a reasonable relationship at that age. Dexter had yet to learn how to abuse me.

Jr. High/Middle School:

This is often where we first start to build our relationship with that voice.  I can remember feeling so small and “less than” my peers as I was tiny and very slow to grow… praying for puberty so that I could be like those around me.

I can remember feeling dwarfed as my female class-mates shot up to the sky, developed hips and breasts while I remained stuck in the body of a child. It was, (thank goodness) the only time that I felt small because I was small, due primarily to Dexter’s incessant need to compare everyone around me and point out the differences.

High School:

By this time, I was actually starting to show signs that I might become a grown-up. My first week of Grade 9 we were measured in gym class and I can distinctly remember the feeling of relief when my gym teacher informed me that I was 5’ tall. I had feared (and not unreasonably) that I would never get there.

Later, as I matured, I did add a few inches to become something near average, though I will always have a tiny frame that is shaped more like an average 12 yr old. I have come to see this as a blessing… but that took another 20 years.

My final 3 yrs of school were the years where I really cared about what I presented to the world. I was a vocational student, taking half-day courses in Fashion Design, learning how to create the clothing that I saw in magazines, or my own head and being both talented and driven, I had few limits.  It was a fun world of creative exploration while I found out who I was.

Dexter however was always there suggesting that I was still, and would always be, less than in some way.  Too skinny, too flat-chested, too acne-prone, too different…

Not being a carbon-copy of everyone around me was a problem for my critical nemesis. Dexter had got it into his brain somehow, that who I was had to change…

Early Adulthood:

This is the part of my life where I was extremely busy postponing my inevitable nervous breakdown. This is such hard work I would recommend skipping the postponement and just going for the breakdown.

This is where Dexter became the ruler of my Universe.  My abuser, my jailer, and, my greatest liability. I fed him daily by believing that he was truth, and that if he beat me down enough I would finally straighten up. I had a life-time of “not fitting in” as evidence to prove that everything that Dexter had to say was necessary and true.

Dexter abused me as punishment for my many failures, reminded me constantly of all of my flaws and kept me awake at night with a litany of my sins among which were not being able to get it together enough to look like something in a magazine. Every time I looked in a mirror what I saw was not myself, but my failure as a human being.

Finally, I could postpone no more.  I had starved myself down to 92 lbs, not out of fear of getting fat, but because I believed I was so worthless that I didn’t deserve food. Mirrors were avoided… I developed the ability to walk past them without even registering what I was seeing and when I failed at that and saw my mal-nourished, exhausted and over-worked body staring back at me, it looked and felt something like this:

My much younger self.

My much younger self.

All I can say is thank God for excellent therapists…

My much healthier 30s:

I had finally come to recognize Dexter for who he was. I now knew that he was a master of lies, and just because he spoke, it didn’t mean I had to listen or worse yet, believe.

I had become healthier in all ways, and what I saw in the mirror no longer upset me.

I became rather determined not to let my looks define my self-worth.

It was at this point that I started to fully understand the truth of my physical appearance: I am actually, in my own unique way, beautiful… and I knew that it didn’t matter.

I knew that what I believed about myself held far more weight than the package of a tiny body, dark curly hair and bright-green eyes ever had, as they had gained me nothing when I didn’t believe that they had any value.

Since I have a habit of being more interested in work than in standing in front of a mirror for myself, I learned then to feel confident without makeup worry more about dressing others, this was what I did for a living after all. I worry about dressing myself if I have the energy. I had finally recognized that the shell that I call my body, is just that and I have learned to be grateful simply to have it and give up any notion of how it measures against anyone or anything.

40 and fabulous, in my own sloppy way.

I’ll be honest.  I still find myself wishing that I could organize myself to dress better, wear a little more makeup and have more good hair days, but I realize, that this is just a story that plays quietly in the background that has little consequence.  I’m just not that woman who will spend much time prepping to get out of the door and I’m fine with that. In fact, I’m fine with me.

Dexter doesn’t hang around anymore having run out of fuel since I don’t listen to him and I am far more interested in cultivating inner-beauty by adding compassion and value to the world I find myself in.

People have often suggested that this place where I live now is easy for me:  After all, “you’re thin and pretty”. Let’s face it, is this not the ideal that women are to strive for?

To this statement I have one response:

Yes, I am thin and some people think I’m fairly pretty. But, I was once young and thin and pretty and hated myself to such levels that I saw a monster in the mirror and believed that was who I was…

It is not the hair, but the head…


Thank you Phoebe Baker-Hyde for your courage, and your fabulous book, and thank you to TLC Book Tours for asking me to take part in this tour!

November 21, 2011 / Jenny Ann Fraser

A Different Take On The Occupy Movement

A good friend sent me an email last week with this photo attached. The subject heading said: A Different Take On The Occupy Movement.  …continue reading

October 24, 2011 / Jenny Ann Fraser

Why We Need To Work Together

On a typical workday morning, I get up, feed my cat, shower, brush my teeth, have breakfast, get dressed, pack up what I need for the day. I don’t usually leave the house without my phone, my stainless steel water bottle, coffee mug and of course my purse. Most weekdays, I head directly from work to The Conservatory of Music to use a practice room to practice for my voice lessons, so I also pack my music binder.  Continue reading…

October 20, 2011 / Jenny Ann Fraser

Occupy Wall Street: What I Have Learned

I’ve been paying some attention lately to the Occupy Wall Street Movement and even attended the Winnipeg Occupy Wall Street Protest, though rather briefly. And yes, I could be heard at least once lamenting “why can’t we start a revolution in the spring?” Continue reading…

October 17, 2011 / Jenny Ann Fraser

Situations Matter

A few weeks ago, I stepped out of the front door of the building I work in to run for the bus and just about walked right into the middle a fight between two young men. One of them was swinging a very large chain at the other.

I quickly jumped back inside, locked the door and watched to figure out what exactly was going on while reaching for my phone to call the police.  Continue reading…

September 28, 2011 / Jenny Ann Fraser

What To Do With a Beautiful Day?

The last days of summer are always something to be cherished. I’m not sure I could find many who would disagree with that or, maybe I would. In this day and age, as I have mentioned before, it seems to have become socially unacceptable not to be ridiculously busy.  And life is really busy. I… …continue reading.

September 22, 2011 / Jenny Ann Fraser

How Much Should We Earn?

I write often about acceptance, and being in the moment.

Every day, I find that accepting the small things that string together the hours of my day, makes my life much less stressful, and much more pleasant.

Whatever happens, from an encounter with a difficult customer, to being given tasks that I really dislike, acceptance is key to maintaining peace.

Continue reading…

September 19, 2011 / Jenny Ann Fraser

When Things Don’t Go As Planned: Part Two.

“The best laid plans of mice and men often go astray”
Last week, I wrote about how my website and launch did not go as planned. In fact, I am still having issues with fixing the things that are not working well, but I understand that life is much less stressful when you accept… …continue reading.

September 16, 2011 / Jenny Ann Fraser

When Things Don’t Go As Planned…

Part One:

On Thursday September 8th, I woke up 36 minutes after I was supposed to be at work.

It’s no wonder since I had been sleeping about 5 hours a night the week before getting ready for my super-duper website launch. The one that didn’t actually happen because the night before, when my friend the web-developer came over to help me put the last finishing touches on my site… we ended up with broken code instead of a finished to-do list.
Continue reading…

September 8, 2011 / Jenny Ann Fraser

My 3rd Annual 40th Birthday Dream

Read all about it here.

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