Although I’ve grown up, my skin has not. Some days, I look in the mirror and see the pimple-speckled skin of someone 10 years my junior. Acne isn’t exactly a plague for me, but it is a problem. A real, daily problem.
And so I begin every morning with a flesh-toned ritual: concealer. I’m not a big makeup girl, but concealer I apply daily and liberally. Each flaw, scar, pimple, blemish, don’t-know-where-I-got-it red mark . . . muted with that tube of concealer. I breathe a heavy sigh of relief as the redness dims and the scar fades.
In a matter of moments, that which I dislike is camouflaged with just a dab of concealer.
It’s a matter of professionalism, I tell myself. Of wanting to look like an adult worthy of the jobs I take on. Or it’s a matter of decorum, I tell myself. Of wanting to look like I care enough about where I’m headed that day.
This is not an anthem against makeup; this is not a call to surrender the mascara wands and lipstick tubes. But it is a call to quit the concealing in our relationships.
No matter the state of our faces, we all wear emotional concealer.
In our friendships, in our relationships, in our marriages, in all our connections . . . we unabashedly slap it on, layer after layer. And in doing so, we hide. We fake. We embellish. We put on this face that’s a glorified version of reality, a dressed-up, fixed-up, jazzed-up version of reality.
Nothing wrong with sharing our victories. Nothing wrong with being our best selves. But in being our best selves, have we lost our real selves?
When I fake, when I conceal, when I hide . . . I build a relationship where the other person must do so too. I build a relationship where we’re keeping up not with the Joneses, but with each other. And the heavier I layer the concealer, the less of the real me you can see.
In order to stop the concealing, we must first recognize that which we’re hiding. (And it’s easier to hide an acne scar than a full-out breakout, right, ladies?) We must acknowledge our struggles, however messy, so we can share honestly.
It’s okay to be honest. It’s admirable, good, redeeming to stop pretending we have it all together. Because, really, no one does. We’re all broken and messy; some of us just use too much concealer.
When we conceal, we do a disservice to those we love. When I conceal, I tell my sweet friend that she has to measure up to the standard I’ve set. When I conceal, I tell my newest acquaintance that he cannot be honest with me. When I conceal, I tell Mr. S. that he is not safe to share his struggles with me.
To unveil ourselves is to love our communities.
Removing the concealer — or better yet, not putting it on at all — is a daily struggle. But the first time is the hardest. And the more of ourselves we reveal, the easier it becomes. The more of ourselves we reveal, the more joyful it becomes.
There is joy in letting down our guard. There is joy in our messiest. There is joy in being our working-striving-everyday selves.
Facing conflict? Be real.
Facing brokenness? Be real.
Facing unmet expectations? Be real.
Facing dark days? Be real.
Facing illness, physical or mental? Be real.
Facing difficulty of any kind? Be real.
And don’t freeze up for fear of being Debbie Downer. In being honest, we give those who love us the chance to build us up. We give those who love us the chance to encourage us, to help us, to hug us, to say I’ve-been-there.
(Oh, and if the one you tell does not at least appreciate your honesty and your attempt to connect? Not a true friend. Period.)
In sparing the constant glamour, we can find ourselves, really find ourselves. We can identify far better with each other when we reveal what’s behind the concealer. We can identify with our communities.
Where there is imperfection and honesty, there is life.
So what are you facing these days? Can I love you through it, pray for you through it, encourage you through it? Take off your concealer.
(Photo credit: my makeup bag and concealer.)