The Emboldening Effect of Eyeliners
“the more I did it, the more it felt like me.”
I have never been much of a make-up person. Growing up in a strictly religious environment, I never saw any women around me wearing it, and if any did, it was frowned upon. It was slutty; sinful.
On my thirteenth birthday (I think, might’ve been fourteenth), all the girls from my class were sleeping over and they wanted to do each other’s make-up, just some fun eyeshadow – nothing advanced.
I was the only one who didn’t want to participate; partly because I never had held any make-up in my hands before, and partly because I still felt shame at the thought of making myself feel pretty.
A year later I tried on mascara for the first time, just a two euro stick from H&M, but it did the job. Then a few months later I started drawing in my eyebrows. And that was my beauty routine till I was around fifteen/sixteen (my mom did once try to help me use foundation, but I didn’t like the way it looked).
I don’t exactly know when it was or what brand, that doesn’t really matter anyway, but I remember how it felt the first time I ever put on eyeliner. Make-up to me up to this point wasn’t something that I needed or did for any particular reason.
It was more so because my friends did it and being the youngest of them, I was a bit insecure about my babyface. There wasn’t any passion, it was just “because” . But when I winged that first liner, something felt very different.
It was the way that it amplified my face – the way it drew the gaze towards my eyes. I felt emboldened; like I couldn’t be ignored or overlooked.
If you don’t recognize this feeling in my words, then think of the time that you put on a dress or a pair of pants that just fit you. Or when you finally got your hair cut the way you had always wanted. You are still the same person, but suddenly you start to see the person you had always viewed yourself as.
It’s not about needing to hide or change. It is about being control of your appearance and finding the things that really show the world who you are. Not who other factors – culture, family, friends, etc. – think you are or should present yourself as.
“It definitely makes me feel empowered and in control. I can transform myself into the most badass version of myself with a bold eyeliner. It’s funny but it makes me feel like I can handle anything the day has to offer.”
That’s my friend Kaja. As soon as I knew that I wanted to write about this I asked her about her own experience with it because if I know anyone who loves a good eyeliner as much as myself, it’s her. Likewise, I, she started using it when she was around fifteen – no clue how to start but good old YouTube had her back. Over time it became a staple to her beauty routine, “the more I did it, the more it felt like me.”
For whatever reason, society largely seems to think that women who wear and enjoy make-up do it purely out of 1. insecurity, or 2. attention from male-counterparts. Because a woman could of course never just do something for herself! No, it must be for something ulterior, it must be for a man *queue eye-roll*.
To clarify, there is nothing wrong with dressing up or doing your make-up in a special way for a partner or crush. But to say that it is the sole purpose is a wildly egotistical and entitled statement. You think I spent 15 minutes perfecting this line of ink around my eyelid to get cat-called by you? Sir, please stay six feet away from me, thank you.
Even in these times of lockdown where I have only seen three people in person over the past six months (partner, colleague, the lovely lady who brings out the groceries at Tesco), I still find myself reaching for my liquid eyeliner pen.
It’s for the days where I feel at a loss, where I feel like I’m blending in with the walls around me, that I find power in reshaping my image. It’s not for anyone or any event – it could be, if the particular circumstance makes me feel like that line would give me that extra confidence that I need to power through the day. But in the end, it is always for me; to make me feel strong, irresistible, cut-throat, and in control.
2020 has been a hell of a year, and it has shown us that life is truly unpredictable. And maybe it is a bit silly to give this power to goddamn face paint. But being able to – despite everything else that is completely out of your control – chose how you look is powerful.
Whether it is striking a power pose for a few minutes before a guaranteed awkward Zoom presentation (been there, done that), going for a run, putting on your favorite outfit, meditating, or winging an eyeliner... finding the thing that makes you feel bold and confident is nothing to be ashamed of.
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