Melissa: Life Is Filter-Free

At 14, I noticed that I had acne. From there, I felt like I needed to at least wear concealer.


It got to a point where I couldn’t have possibly posted a picture that wasn’t doctored. I would zoom right in on every tiny microscopic blemish and get rid of everything. I vividly remember not being able to be seen without makeup… EVER.


I remember how a workman came to my house unexpectedly, and I opened the door and immediately closed it. I apologized and rushed off to apply my makeup first.


As I reflected on my attachment to makeup, something snapped. I thought to myself - “this isn’t normal… I can’t be like this forever.”


So, one day, I took a picture of myself after taking off my makeup. And when I looked at the picture, I just spiraled down a rabbit hole. “This looks so awful!” - I thought to myself.


But then, I just decided to post it on Instagram.


It was completely filter-free without any alterations. Even though I didn’t like the picture, I posted it because I had come to a realization. Basically, I realized - what’s the point of showing everyone a completely doctored version of myself? If people saw me in real life, they would say - “you don’t look like your picture…”


What’s the purpose of that?


Eventually, it became refreshing to look at a picture of myself and just post it. It felt freeing to think - “Yeah, I’m gonna post this without spending an hour to fix it and to get rid of all the blemishes.”


The first time I posted a picture like this, the response I got was great. And suddenly, I felt like it was okay to be open about my skin’s ups and downs. It was really nice to see how receptive people were - because back in the day, I never would have done something like that.


When I was younger, I was very self-conscious, and I couldn’t be seen without makeup. This was not a thing. My mom would see me without makeup in the morning, and that was it. No one else ever saw me without makeup ever. I began thinking very carefully about how I presented myself.


I always wanted to present a perfect and put-together image. I wanted people to think of me in that way. So, I never wore super casual clothes. It was always about looking put together, and wearing a full face of makeup always made me feel finished. Perfection was armor.


However, my ideas around this changed with age. As I started to near the end of University, I realized that people weren’t assessing whether or not I looked perfect. Actually, I was in an environment where being made up was kind of looked down on a bit. I was simply there for academics. When I noticed that no one else was going to those standards, I questioned why I was.


I started to realize that - “Okay, maybe I don’t need to be so made up…” This understanding came with age, with starting work, entering real life, and having to detach from idealism. Also, in my 20s, I started experiencing ability issues for the first time, and that certainly puts things in perspective.


When something so fundamental happens, you start to realize that actually… perfection isn’t so important. I’ve got a chronic condition that came on quite gradually and has affected my mobility. It’s a new reality.


As I connected with other people in the disabled community, I noticed that getting made up was simply a nice add-on. A lot of times, you have a certain amount of energy per day, and you choose what you want to use it on. Sometimes, when it comes to getting made up, you just can’t muster the energy. However, my disability doesn’t always affect me in that way so, for my job, I still choose to wear a full face of makeup. But now, it’s not coming from a place of panic. Disability made me see things in a different way. You notice things about life that you may have not noticed before.


For example, I would tell younger Melissa to care less about what people are thinking about her and to stop beating herself up over it. I would also tell myself to stop holding onto the idea that acne stops when you’re a certain age.


Moreover, although I never judged the appearance of others, I used to notice it. But now, I believe that we notice appearance to our own detriment. I don’t think it makes that much of a difference.