Looking Yourself in Eye

Back to Basics

by Delia Curtis

I stand in the shower, water gushing out of the nozzle-head, pouring down over my scalp, through my hair, and down my neck. The droplets stick to my skin like little beads of sweat. I run my fingers through my thick locks, cleaning off soap and conditioner. Turning off the stream, I linger for a minute or two and breathe. It is just me and my body. No clothes to hide behind and no makeup to accentuate.

I push the curtain aside and step onto the worn orange carpeted bathmat, my feet leaving a dark imprint in the fabric. The foggy mirror has accumulated steam, blurring my features as I stare at my reflection. Wiping away the dew, I stare at myself, still unrecognizable. With nothing but my own features to gaze upon, I examine each element. The lines that crinkle my eye when I smile, my asymmetrical dimples, the beauty marks—one just above my lip, over to the left and the other one just below my right eye. Occasionally raised, little red pimples pop up. I acknowledge them too. Simple bits and pieces of me that I’ve come to appreciate.

Your relationship with your face, when it is stripped down to its bare bones may be a difficult one. Getting acquainted with the freckles, the pale little scars, the shadows under your eyes, can be tough. With the trends of experimental makeup, self-love, and barely-there looks, there becomes an importance in rediscovering yourself and your particular features.

You, your body, and your face are inseparable—literally. They are your lifelong companions, so it’s important to treat them as such, loving them for who they are, whether they are your enemy or best friend. Sometimes both.

Makeup and clothing can be incredible sources of empowerment and invigoration. Enhancing ourselves to draw attention to particular parts of our being. But, while this can be creative, interesting, and thought-provoking, does it change the way we see ourselves?

  Art by Casey Denton

Art by Casey Denton

Sitting across from me, Senior Communication Studies student, Lindsey Goldin absolutely glows. Goldin has been able to transform the way that she sees and interprets her face and facial features after having severe bouts of painful cystic acne throughout her adolescence starting at the age of 11.

During this turbulent transitional period of time when we’re all stressed out about the little things like crushes, homework, and acne, that in hindsight may seem like insignificant blips in the pattern of life, can drastically alter your perceptions of self.

Acne had this effect on Goldin. Because of the severity of her cysts, she went on and off Accutane many times hoping to ease the pain that it caused, “For awhile, it was such a hate-hate relationship,” she said. Earnestly, Goldin explained that she always thought that people saw her for her acne. It made it hard for her to appreciate how she looked and made existing in her day-to-day life painful.

As her acne cleared up, she began maintaining a strict regimen for her face and was more conscious of the way that it looked. Becoming reacquainted with her newly fresh face was a difficult task, having always been obscured by the acne that covered it.

Seeing her face in this new light was challenging, but always having preferred the natural look, stuck to minimal makeup, really only using concealer, mascara, and lipstick, as to not hide some of her favorite features like her wash of freckles. But the real adjustment came with coming to terms with her features without any makeup on, which Goldin did with stride.

“I think that taking pictures while not wearing makeup and just looking in the mirror and not wearing makeup and even like leaving the house not wearing makeup really forces you to embrace what you really look like,” Goldin said. “There’s this really great picture that I saw and it was like a sketch of this girl putting on makeup and she says, ‘Here I am.’ And then you see her taking off her makeup and she’s like, ‘Here I am.’ And I definitely feel that way—both ways now.”  

While makeup can help you feel more like you, there’s nothing like finding the beauty in the features that already exist on your face. Goldin has always had a love-hate relationship with her nose, but reacquainting herself with this feature has allowed her to see it in a new light.

“I used to hate my nose. Growing up as a Jewish gal, I think we’re all just taught to hate our noses. I think a lot of people are, but especially people who maybe come from cultures where having a big nose is a defining feature and when I was younger I really wanted to get a nose job, but now I really like my nose. It’s something I like about myself and I realized that I liked strong noses in other people too. It’s something I find really attractive.”

Finding solace in her own features has definitely had an impact on Goldin and the way that she sees herself represented when she looks in the mirror, at a photo of herself, or even waking up next to someone bare-faced and vulnerable. As someone who’s gone through a lot of physical changes, whether that be with the addition or subtraction of acne or the gaining or losing of weight, Goldin still has difficulty coming to terms with being a bare-faced babe—like most of us do. “I’m still getting used to the way my face looks now—heavier, so it’s kind of been a struggle so I try to focus on things that I consistently like of my face,” Goldin said.

As cliché as it sounds, getting to know your face, treating it like an old pal can be comforting in the most rewarding of ways. It’s one of the first things you might notice when you wake up in the morning, so being able to accept it and love it for all it’s worth, pays off in the end.