For as long as I've participated in beauty and makeup, I've always felt the overwhelming need to achieve "perfection," constantly trying to improve upon what I felt were lacking skills. Of course, this desire isn't uncommon in people assigned female at birth, since the intersection of makeup and gender norms can result in impossibly high standards. So I'd lament over my poor makeup application, and feel insecure that I couldn't make myself look like other girls, what with my untamed eyebrows and complete inability to perfect winged eyeliner.
I, like many other people AFAB, grew up thinking I was supposed to look like the airbrushed, perfectly made-up models of the glossies, and spent an inordinate amount of time feeling like I didn't measure up. Yes, I took an intense interest in all things makeup. I obsessed over lipsticks and liquid eyeliner, and fawned over beauty magazines. Yet I mostly avoided makeup in the the day to day, since I knew I would only screw up the application and somehow do beauty "wrong."
Not until college did I learn that my beauty obsession and my "lacking skills" could coexist. My new gaggle of friends — all queer — were among the first people to appreciate and encourage my interpretation of beauty. They understood the appeal in the "imperfect;" the unlimited potential of owning your individual identity. However, this loving appreciation is not as common in the beauty community as a whole, despite its value and demand. Here are some reasons why we should embrace our flaws and personal interpretations of makeup, and eff the haters.
1. Life Is All About Imperfections
From our scars and insecurities to our histories of illness and traumatic experiences, humans are inherently flawed. My own life mirrors as much, with a bunch of beautiful moments interrupted by things like mental illness, chronic diseases, and other traumatic experiences. While unfortunate, these things have all taught me to perceive an immeasurable amount of beauty in places of pain or supposed "flaws."
Sometimes, another person's flaws or quirks are what make them all the more lovable and relatable to you. So why not look at beauty the same way? In practicing beauty, I enjoy its therapeutic and expressive benefits first and foremost, and the expectations of others are considered last, if at all. I don't hold myself to any specific standard when doing my makeup in the morning, save for my own approval. So if my makeup comes out flawed, I take it in stride. When I mess up my eyebrow-filling-application, for instance, I like to think it allows me to channel different facial expressions.
2. Body Positivity Is Not About Perfection
Striving for perfection in makeup application might be enjoyable and positive if you're a makeup artist, or if you identify with certain mainstream tenets of beauty. There are those who enjoy the experience of a "perfect" foundation application, resulting in a great measure of pride and some pretty body pos feelings. And all the power to them!
But if you find yourself stressing over achieving the perfect arch, are ashamed of your lip liner application, or use foundation despite your distaste for it, makeup is no longer a tool for body positivity. This was certainly the case when I was younger, when my fear of failure and inability to understand feminine beauty norms got in the way of getting any real enjoyment out of these routines.
For people empowered by or on the quest toward body positivity, a daily ritual should revolve around self love, with beauty remaining a safe space. If you spend too much energy obsessing over the fact that you don't do your makeup "right," then your beauty routine might become counterproductive. So embrace the tools and skill you possess, even if they aren't up to par with your favorite MUA or Vogue spread. After all, who says they have to be?
3. We Shouldn't Be Policing Beauty
In addition to the criticism I've had of my own skills, I'll shamefully admit that I've caught myself silently judging another person's makeup job on multiple occasions, whether it be regarding their "too thick" winged eyeliner or foundation that is too heavily layered below the eyes. But honestly, who am I (and who is anyone, for that matter) to judge someone's interpretation of or preferences surrounding their makeup routine?
Many of us critique others and ourselves based on internalization of the patriarchal, cis, heteronormative ideas of beauty in our society, as well as our own insecurities that arise from living in these systems. However, the reality is that everyone has a different take on beauty and femininity (depending on preferences, gender identity, culture, etc.), and there is no one way to do it right. If your idea of "pretty" doesn't match the way "pretty" looks on billboards and beauty ads, that's OK.
My idea of beauty certainly doesn't match the status quo of being feminine and perfectly put-together, but it still makes me happy. Especially concerning my gender identity, whereby sometimes it can feel as though my identity as a gender nonconforming person is under attack when I'm policed for not doing femininity correctly (I'd rather rock a black lip than a pink one any day). Beauty is intensely personal, though, and it's no one's place but my own to define how I interact with it.
4. You Can Turn Your "Mistakes" Into A Statement
I am not by any means a makeup expert, so I make my fair share of "mistakes" in my beauty routine. Sometimes, however, I find that there is potential to create an even more interesting statement by working off of the aforementioned "mistake."
Take my eyeliner for example: Whether it be because of the quality of the pen, my shaky hand, or my inability to perceive symmetry, I draw part of my winged eyeliner too far away from its corresponding line for it to be able to meet peacefully below my brow bone. So, instead of wiping it off and starting over, I often drawn a double wing or a long and twirly one. With enough boldness and creativity, you can turn any mistake into a statement.
5. You Should Carve Your Own Path
If you love applying makeup or presenting in a way that may not be considered conventional, embrace it as "your thing." You don't need to "improve" or change your presentation for the sake of Internet trolls or IRL haters. Just unapologetically do you, and set trends on their way.
This took some time for me to accept in myself, and was yet again complicated when I faced people trolling my appearance (makeup included) on the Internet. However, I know that the way I do feel beauty feels good and right to me, and most of the time I don't care if that doesn't fit a certain norm or gender expectation (especially since my own gender identity already falls outside of convention). It's hard to separate your preferred beauty routine from what you perform because of the male gaze. Embrace alternative beauty, never strive to impress anyone but yourself, and get acquainted with the gorgeously makeup-free you.
6. Beauty Means Something Different To Everyone
What may be considered "messy" to one person might be "sexy" to another. I don't want to utilize the over-simplified "one man's trash is another man's treasure" thing, but I'm going to anyway. When someone points out a mistake in my makeup application, it's frustrating not only for politeness reasons, but because they're being incredibly assumptive about my intentions for today's look. I, and many others, find value and appeal in makeup looking slightly disordered or askew. Seriously, I'm a sucker for a little smudged eyeliner and asymmetrical eyebrows.
"Mistakes" are as subjective as beauty is, and understanding that something outside of your own definition of perfection could be considered flawless to another human being is essential for respecting one another's beauty presentations.
7. You Can Still Be Your Beauty Maven Self Without Enforcing Certain Expectations
Your love for clumpy mascara and fading lipstick, and your lack of so-called "skill," don't make you any less of a beauty maven if you identify as such. This also applies to queer or gender nonconforming people's unique and varied take on beauty. If you enjoy makeup, your place outside of the bounds of beauty norms does not make your voice any less valid. I learned this myself when going from insecure young adult, to beauty addicted college student, to beauty writer. Not all my readers appreciate my beauty and aesthetic choices, but that's life! I still know what I'm talking about, and have a huge arsenal of beauty knowledge and unopened Glossier masks to back me up.
There is value in the imperfect. There are niches in beauty for sloppy, amateur, rebellious, and queer people with tastes that reflect these values. Not everyone is going to love your look. But never cease in your mission to share your beauty philosophy with the world, wielding your lipstick proudly along the way.