Going Bare in June

June’s challenge is going to be tricky for me. I’m not going to wear any makeup for an entire month. I know that for many this might not seem like a big deal, but for me IT IS. I wear makeup nearly every day. I certainly wear it whenever I do anything in public beyond going to the gym or grocery store. On any given day, here is what I’m most likely wearing on my face (yes, ALL of them):

Tinted moisturizer
Liquid foundation
Under-eye concealer
Spot/Blemish concealer
Pressed powder
Bronzer
Blush
Eyeshadow
Eyeliner
Mascara

Makeup is part of my routine and part of my identity, but not necessarily for the best reasons (stay tuned for my personal history with makeup in a future post).

My roommate, Elisa, dreamed up this month’s challenge. To understand her reasons for deciding on this challenge, and what exactly it would entail, I sat her down for a little interview. Here’s what she had to say:

 

Erica: So what I’ve learned from the No Coffee challenge is that the rules need to be specific and the motivations behind each challenge need to be clear. So let’s start with motivations. You chose the No Makeup challenge, why?

Elisa: I chose this challenge because I’ve lived with you for five months now; I see your habits, you see my habits, and as you know I don’t wear makeup. The world of makeup is fascinating to me. I didn’t grow up exposed to it, I don’t know how to apply it, what the rules are, I don’t really know much about it. I’m fascinated by it and in a lot of ways I reject it for myself. I pay a lot of attention to beauty standards and how they are unfair for women. I buy into some of them and don’t buy into others. Obviously it’s easier to reject the ones I didn’t grow up with. I’ve seen you without makeup, and… are you wearing makeup right now?

Erica: No

Elisa: See I had to ask you. You look beautiful, nobody would look at you and think, “Wow, she needs apply makeup.” Makeup is an enhancer. I guess people wear makeup for different reasons. As your friend I would want you to have the confidence to feel beautiful without it. I guess this challenge is a unique way for me to rebel too, kind of vicariously. But I think this is also to help you focus on the feelings that you have without makeup. You already know the feelings you have with it on – its part of your routine, it’s a standard you’ve set for how you look.  I think you’ll find what makeup may be masking for you. There might not be much to that, there might be a lot. We don’t know.

Erica: So what are the rules for the challenge?

Elisa: Well you have to agree to them. But I guess the rules are everyday you can put on sunscreen or moisturizer. I don’t want to wreck your skin through this. But not the tinted moisturizer that you have. No tinted lip stuff. Chapstick, Burt’s Bees, lip balm are okay.

Erica: What about lipgloss?

Elisa: Nope. And if you want to make an exception to wear makeup I was thinking we could have a pre-set number of times you could wear makeup so that if you have something important… But I don’t know though. Because is there anything so important that you have to wear makeup? I would rather talk about it and see why you feel like you needed makeup in that situation. So you’d have to dissect why you want that and have a reflection.

Erica: Okay so no makeup at all for the month.

Elisa: Yeah. And if you feel like there’s something dire where you absolutely need makeup I want you to sit with those feelings and I want you to discuss them and we’ll come up with a solution.

Erica: So last question, at the end of June what are you hoping I’ll learn from this experience?

Elisa: At the very least a higher awareness of your own motivations for wearing makeup. You’re already pretty aware of unfair beauty standards, so I don’t think you’re going to have epiphanies on how unfair it is that women are compelled to wear makeup. That will probably be confirmed in a more experiential way. But maybe this will allow you to not have to wear makeup every day. And maybe more faith in the beauty that you have without it. To feel beautiful and confident without makeup and not feel nasty or incomplete.

 

There was more to our conversation. To keep me accountable, I am going to hand over my makeup to Elisa on June 1 and she is going to take it away and return it to me on June 3o.  Like anything, if I falter I will have to reflect on it. Some of the things that Elisa and I would both like to see me reflect on in the next month are:

  • My personal history with makeup and my own motivations for wearing it.
  • The change in my routine (time now gained by not spending it applying makeup)
  • How I feel being makeup-free in different settings and situations
  • How much money I spend maintaining my makeup collection
  • Reflections on beauty, both inner and outer

So stay tuned, friends. If I thought May’s No-Coffee challenge was tricky, June is going to be a doozy. 

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Debrief: A Month Without Coffee

So as I’ve gone through this month’s challenge – No Coffee – I’ve learned several important lessons. Some of which have to do with how I should go about these monthly experiences – like setting clear rules and motivations from the beginning. Other lessons are more general, having to do with my life, health, habits, and well being. Here are some of the most important things I’ve learned in May:

1. Any endeavor you set out for yourself, whether its trying monthly challenges or climbing a mountain, should be done with intention. I needed to know why I had decided this challenge, what I expected to get out of it, and how to navigate the hurdles and road blocks that sprung up along the way. For every journey, you need a map. And this experience is no different.

2. Your doctor is SERIOUS when suggesting you should reduce your caffeine intake. To be fair, I didn’t give up caffeine in the month of May. I still allowed myself caffeinated teas and diet cola. But by not drinking coffee, I know that I significantly reduced the amount of caffeine I was consuming regularly and I can feel the difference. I usually experience stress and anxiety through physical symptoms (chest pain, shortness of breath, etc) and I felt all of those drastically reduce this month. I even had some weird patches of numbness on my body that are starting to regain some sensation. Cutting caffeine is definitely not the answer to all our health problems, but this month has taught me that reducing my own intake of caffeine has made me feel considerably better.

3. My coffee cravings, just like any of your own cravings, are linked to habits and emotions. It didn’t take me long to realize that my coffee cravings usually sprang up around the same time everyday – between the hours of 2pm and 4pm. It just-so-happens that this time is also the height of my daily craziness. I’m usually running around from place to place, moving from one task to another while constantly thinking about what else needs to get done that day. Not coincidentally, this time of day is when I’m feeling most overwhelmed and scattered. Before this month’s challenge, I would escape into a cup of dessert (“would you like some coffee with your cream and sugar?”). At best, my body wanted a chemical boost of caffeine and sugar. At worst, coffee became a way for me to stick my proverbial head in the sand and avoid life for a moment. Either way – adjustments are in order. I can fuel my body with a healthy snack, a short walk, or some quick meditation. The latter two may also help with the desire to escape the real world.

Going forward, I can’t say for sure what the future looks like, but I know that reduced caffeine and taking stock of my emotions when those afternoon cravings come up will definitely be part of my daily life. When I do decide to have coffee, I’m going to opt for a small decaf and keep the accoutrements within reason. Or maybe I’ll resist the urge for coffee altogether. All I know is that, since this challenge, I’ll definitely have more coffee consciousness.

What’s my motivation?

I had a conundrum the other day. I asked myself: if I have a decaf coffee, does it still count? I found myself in a state of confusion that forced me to look at my motivations for the no coffee challenge. What exactly was I giving up – coffee in general, the regular liquid dessert that punctuated my day, caffeine, or….? Without a clear and specific motivation driving the challenge, it was easy to get lost in the details of rationalization and excuses. I cued a type of inner dialogue:

“Well it doesn’t count because its decaf.”
“But you didn’t say you were giving up caffeine, you said you were giving up coffee.”
“But caffeine is the worst part of coffee, right?”
“But there will still be loads of sugar in that drink even if its decaf”
“But I haven’t given up sugar necessarily, I had a ginger beer last week instead of coffee, WHATS THE DIFFERENCE?”

I ended up breaking down and getting the decaf coffee. But the cognitive dissonance created by the whole experience still made it quite a learning experience. In these monthly challenges, and in life, my motivations and intentions should be clear, since that clarity will only ease and improve the decisions I make in the future.

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No Coffee Blues (and slip-ups!)

I’ve given up coffee for the month of May. I decided on this challenge because it seemed like an easy enough way to start off a year of challenges. I don’t drink a lot of coffee, but I do drink it regularly and with A LOT of cream and sugar. I basically turn my coffee into mocha-flavored sugar water. Its a problem. But on May 5, I decided to give it up for the rest of the month.

The first lesson I’ve learned is that I actually DO drink a lot of coffee, mostly because I find myself in coffee shops so often. Some people like bars or clubs, I like working or reading in a coffee shop. Call me lame, I just like it. But since I’m in coffee shops all the time, I have found that I’m also drinking coffee all the time. Since giving up coffee, I’ve had to adjust my orders to be coffee-free, a new but not entirely unwelcome change. For instance: a coconut tea with steamed milk is just as tasty as my usual Chai with espresso.

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My non-coffee coffee shop alternatives!

Second lesson: my regular coffee breaks are more about breaks than about coffee. The whole act of stopping what I’m doing, walking to get a coffee, and sitting back with basically a liquid dessert is an immensely satisfying ritual. But I don’t need coffee to do it. Maybe one day, I won’t need any beverage at all. A walk or nice classical song or meditation might do the trick.

Third lesson: failure is part of this blogging experience. I had a busy weekend this weekend. On Friday night I was unable to sleep and got a whopping total of 4 hours of sleep before waking up at 7am. Last night I got about 3.5 hours asleep and woke up at 7am yet again. This morning and yesterday, I broke down and had a cup of coffee just to feel awake. I didn’t beat myself up over it, and tonight I plan on getting a good night’s rest so that I’m back on track tomorrow. The solution to bring tired isn’t coffee, it’s rest!

Until next time,
Erica

Why Thirty Days?

For several months, I’ve been looking for a challenge. I wanted to try something new, then blog about my experiences. I wanted to experience some kind of long-term personal growth; I wanted to learn about myself and test the boundaries of my usual behavior.

But I had a difficult time coming up with a challenge. What should the challenge be? How long should it last? I thought about Gamifying my life. I thought about giving up television. I considered doing the “52-Week Money Challenge.” But aside from the 52-Week Money Challenge, how long was I supposed to try these things? What if I burnt out or couldn’t see it through? What if I absolutely hated it but already made the commitment?

My roommate had the idea that, rather than try one challenge for a long time, I should try many challenges for a short time. The challenges should be long enough to keep me on my toes, but not so long that I would end up being miserable. A month seemed like a perfect amount of time. Whatever new habits I acquired that I liked – I could keep. But even if I hated the challenge, it would be over soon enough and I would learn about myself along the way. I loved the idea; at the end of a monthly challenge, I will find that I pushed my own boundaries, made a new habit, found something to appreciate, learned to be grateful, etc.

I pitched the idea to my friends, and they immediately started drumming up ideas for challenges. Some examples include: giving up alcohol, going without make-up, not looking in a mirror, taking public transportation instead of driving, finding answers to my questions the ‘old fashioned way’ rather than Google. All great suggestions!

I’m beginning this month a little late and I’m starting small – I am going to give up coffee for the rest of May. This is a challenge I have been wanting to try for a while. Next month, I will officially kick-off my “Thirty Day Endeavors” with a challenge from my roommate, whose brilliant idea sparked this blog in the first place. Stay tuned!

 

Want to submit an idea for a challenge? Fill out the form below and give me some ideas! The challenges should be about personal growth and self-discovery, not just random experimentation. Can’t wait to see your ideas!