In honor of today, and all of the women I’ve known, loved, and respected, I wanted to take this opportunity to write a little bit about my inspiration for starting this blog, and what keeps it going!

I grew up with a background that doesn’t look favorably towards makeup and cosmetic enhancement, with the view that doing so promotes an attitude of vanity; I wanted to make this blog to express a different side of cosmetics.

As most of you out there will probably intimately understand, it’s a difficult world to be a woman, and be content and secure with your own appearance. We are surrounded by images of airbrushed models, cosmetically enhanced celebrities and TV/media personalities, all illuminated with perfect lighting and immaculate makeup artistry or Photoshop, reworking their bodies and features into the modern ‘ideal’ of beauty.

Through history, we have seen that beauty has taken many different forms, but nevertheless, there have always been social objective standards of what is beautiful. As women, we feel threatened and insecure when we don’t meet all (or sometimes any) of the apparent prerequisites of being ‘beautiful’.

But as the fortunate will find, and the foolish will miss the real beauty of seeing, is that beauty is more than what’s just skin deep. It’s the joy you exude, the kindness you show to others, the grace and femininity you develop, it’s the person you are that makes you truly beautiful.

But that doesn’t happen overnight.

Like many other girls, I had my ‘ugly’, awkward stage. I had (and still have) a deviated septum, TMJ and dental crowding, I was unhealthy, a little overweight, I had terrible problems with acne for years. Being a teenager was a literal nightmare for me. I’d literally dream about having a clear, beautiful complexion, and what it would feel like to have svelte thighs like my skinny, pretty friends.

Things finally started to change for me when I was 17. I did my first ever cleanse, I felt great. My skin went from constant breakouts, to a random pimple or two before my period. To me, it was nothing short of miraculous. I went from a size 6 to a 00 in 3 months. My metabolism went warp speed, and I could eat anything and as much of it as I desired. For the first time in as long as I could remember, I felt comfortable in my own skin. I had gone for years feeling repulsive and wanting to be invisible, so it was a big change and adjustment.

But even with all of the seeming improvements I had made, I still felt like a fish out of water. I didn’t know how to interact with other girls, or approach men. I was terrified of the rejection I was sure would ensue. I had a lot of emotional and physical scars that I was still trying to heal and work through.

People say that others will open up to you if you keep a smile on your face, but with my dental crowding and TMJ I never wanted to smile. I didn’t want anyone to see my teeth, and my TMJ regularly caused extreme migraines and discomfort. Being so self-conscious about my mouth (and I have large lips, so it is even more of a challenge) I was constantly trying to think of ways to make people look elsewhere on my face… but I found myself unable to win in any situation; my skin still had hyper-pigmentation and scars from years of horrible acne, my deviated septum made me incredibly self-conscious about the appearance of my nose, and years of wearing clothes to down-play the fact I was overweight left me with a terrible sense of how to dress for my figure.

By the time I was 22, I finally started to get things sorted out in my own head, and figure out what I wanted, what I needed to do to get past wanting to hide in public, and how to change the way people thought of me after years of being reclusive, introverted, and socially awkward.

Many people don’t realize what a large psychological impact appearance can have. It’s not vanity, but shame that I felt.

All these years later, I’m still dealing and coping with the physical and emotional scars that originated in my tweens.

Now, I know you’re probably wondering what any of that has to do with this blog, or International Women’s Day, so I will get to that:

When I was 22 I started to seriously dive-in to learning how to properly apply makeup.

For years, I had absolutely no idea what I was doing. I just assumed if I covered the little red dots, smeared on some eyeshadow and coated my lashes in mascara, I looked at least human enough to not be scorned at. Oh, little did I know!

I forget how exactly, but shortly after turning 22, someone showed me a picture of myself from years prior—horribly over plucked eyebrows, thick foundation that made me resemble a geisha, clumpy eyelashes, and the pièce de résistance—bright blue eyeshadow. All to say, I felt even more embarrassed, especially when I realized that even with all of my insecurities at the time that photo had been taken, I looked better in the ones with a bare face than I did with the badly executed 80’s makeup.

My point in saying all that is simply to bring something in to focus; that sometimes, we have to look back at ourselves after having time to heal, time to build up our self-esteem, to finally be able to see the beauty behind our insecurities.

I’m not here to say that all makeup should always be applied in a perfectly natural fashion, because I believe there should be plenty of room for self-expression. Makeup is also a form of art, and can be an incredibly rewarding artistic outlet. What my discovery of cosmetics and proper application techniques has brought to my life, and the lives of many other women is this: it has allowed me to slowly heal beneath the surface. It has given me the ability to take control over how I feel about my appearance.

Deviated septum? There’s a contouring trick to fake a straighter, smaller nose.

Acne scars? There’s a proper way to conceal to give you the look of glowing, dewy skin.

Over-plucked your eyebrows as a teenager? A few strokes of a brush can ‘rewind’ badly thought out tweezing.

But that said, I’ve gotten older and I’ve discovered since, with as many things cosmetics can help with on the outside, there are even more things that need help on the inside, and those go so much deeper than I can even begin to elaborate.

My husband has been one of the greatest supports in my healing process. He has helped me overcome many of my insecurities with constant reassurance, praise, and expressions of love. He tells me I’m beautiful even when I don’t feel beautiful. That things will get better even when I feel hopeless. He finds me attractive no matter how ample my thighs have gotten (he likes my big butt!), and has extended himself completely in helping me begin the process to treat and fix my TMJ (genetic), dental crowding (genetic), deviated septum (baseball injury), crashed adrenals (stress), under active thyroid (due to the crashed adrenals), and candida (candida is one of, if not the largest contributing factor to having acne). He has helped me in the process of healing what cosmetics couldn’t, because… healing comes from love.

So, to me, International Women’s Day should be about building up, rather than tearing ourselves and others down. I’m sure I’m far from being the only one to have had these emotional and physical struggles, so if anyone can read this account and relate, well, that’s the reason I created this blog. To learn, to share, to move forward, to overcome.

I wish you all a happy, healthy International Women’s Day.

With love,
Ashley

Billings, Montana
Shop Luxe and Unique Gifts for Her at AHAlife.com!
Ashley is a visual designer, artist, MUA, and photographer by day, lifestyle blogger by night. She enjoys How I Met Your Mother marathons, Swedish pop music, and has a bit of a shoe fetish, and will beat you in a kombucha drinking contest, any day, any time.