Can we stop apologizing for how we look?!
I've grown up with a mother who carefully applies her make up every morning and re-applies her lipstick and lipliner after every meal. She has a lipstick for every season, every outfit, and half of them are carried around with her in her purse. Whenever we get together, she has new make-up for me to try on. And I don't mind this, it’s fun! I love talking about make-up with my mom and I have to admit that of the many things I miss pre-Covid, going to Sephora and playing around with make-up is one of them.
But unlike my mother, it never defined me. I never felt naked without it, or horrified if heaven forbid I needed to leave the house without my "face on". Anyone else have mothers or grandmothers like this? Anyone else grow up to the passive aggressive question, "Oh, you're not wearing make-up today?"
I was raised to believe that make-up made me look more beautiful and I should always have it on. To no intentional fault, this was a little damaging (sorry, Mom!) for me, and my guess is, for countless other women, as well. And then let's throw in the media's portrayal of women and societal expectations and Bam, we're brainwashed. Now when we don’t wear make-up, we truly believe we’re doing something wrong, and we need to apologize for that.
I am totally guilty of saying sorry for how I look.
At the start of the pandemic when the task of putting make up on and doing my hair became too burdensome with the stress of life outside and inside my house, I would often apologize to others on my video-call at work for how I looked. “Sorry, I didn’t have time to do my make up today” or “Sorry I look awful today!” These apologies were sometimes met with a giggle or a “Don’t be ridiculous, you look fine.” And then we’d move on to the matter at hand. (Awkward? For sure).
And then I began to notice other people apologizing, too. Some men, but mostly women, who would say things like, “I’m not camera ready today” or “Sorry, I didn’t have time to put my make up on”.
Here’s what I noticed happens when these apologies are dished out:
1. Suddenly, we’re now all looking at you and you’ve brought attention to the thing you didn’t want anyone to notice
2. You’re offending me by assuming that I care how you look and deserve an apology because you haven’t met my standards
3. You're reinforcing (false?) expectations about how we need to look at work
Can we please all take the lies we've grown up with that women are expected to wear make-up, or that a done-up face makes us better at our jobs, and throw these ideas out the window?!
Can we please toss the notion that we need to look a certain in order to show your face on camera for a video call about (insert important work topic)
Can we please stop apologizing for how we look at work (or wherever we are)!! This is absurd!! Think about it!
The photo in this post was taken last week for my post on sharing your video. I will be the first to say I did not look my best that day. I had all 3 of my children home sick, plus my husband and I were also under the weather. We were awaiting Covid tests (which thankfully all came back negative) and were quarantined at home trying to work, do virtual school, and survive. I cancelled as many meetings as I could, but for the timely one I couldn’t miss, the photo above was how I showed up.
I'm so accustomed to apologizing for looking this way that I had to be intentional about not bringing it up during the call. And guess what? It felt great. It felt empowering! If my messy hair and bare face offended you, that’s YOUR problem, not mine. And even looking this way, I still did an amazing job showing up for work and my family.
Wanting to hear other perspectives, I polled some of my closest friends on why we apologize for how we look:
- “Because we feel judged by others, so if we verbalize what we think the other person is thinking about us or judging about our appearance he/she will judge us less. Like I beat you to it!”
- “I guess I’m just conditioned to feel that way”
- “I do it all the time. I did it last week because I had pink eye and didn’t wear make up. I also haven’t been blow drying my hair because I exercise in the morning.”
- “Yes, I always find myself apologizing for not looking my best. I think part of it is because these aren’t just your friends, they’re your co-workers and under normal circumstances they wouldn’t see you in a t-shirt, so maybe we have to acknowledge it.”
- “Because it’s what is expected of us. To have make up on. Also sometimes I apologize because I didn’t sleep and I know I look like crap but I’m so tired and just trying to survive.”
I imagine if you polled your friends, you would hear similar responses.
And this isn’t only about women. My husband said he does it, too, because in his opinion, dressing up means showing respect for the other person. (To which I asked, “so if you don’t dress up, you don’t respect the person?”)
Some of my friends also said that when they do wear make-up, they feel more confident at work. I think this is an honest answer and something we all feel. Perhaps it’s because we feel that by looking a certain way, the world is a safer place for us to make mistakes? I’d really love some sociologists or psychologists to weigh in on this one!
Don’t get me wrong, I love wearing make-up. My friends will tell you I’m often the most done-up person in the room because I like how make-up can transform my look and make me feel different than my usual self. But I also like how I look and feel without make-up.And guess what? I get to choose when, and where, and why I put it on and I don't have to apologize for it. Yay!
I want to hear from EVERYONE on this important topic.
Why do we do this and should we stop apologizing?