This is one of my favourite photos of myself in the world. I don't have a scrap of makeup on. BECAUSE I'D JUST RUN A BLOODY MARATHON! My bare face was the last thing on my mind!
I've worn makeup almost every day since I was about 13.
I don't feel like me without makeup. I don't feel pretty. I don't feel myself.
And I know that's terrible. I know just by saying that, by thinking that, the patriarchy are winning. That I've bought into every mascara advert and magazine cover and beauty myth.
I know that makes me insecure and uncomfortable in my own skin and a victim of my own internalised misogyny. I know that it makes me shallow and it makes me sound like all I care about is being pretty (which isn't true at all).
I know that. And I know it's terrible. But I can't help that.
I used to be unable to go out of the house without makeup.
I remember when I was at uni I wouldn't even go get milk from the shop across the road.
I was in constant fear of going out without it. What if I saw someone I knew?
Foundation, mascara and blusher were my shields. My protection.
I remember my first parkrun wondering whether I should put a little bit of makeup on. Just a tiny bit. I even remember my Nan saying "you could probably put some foundation on."
It was the first time I'd ever been out in public, around people, for a run, and I didn't know what to do.
I knew putting on makeup for a run was silly. I knew that. But I was scared to go out without makeup. To lay myself bare like that.*
But I did it. And once I'd joined the first-timer's chat and lined up and tackled that first hideous hill at Bramhall parkrun, it was the last thing on my mind.
So I didn't wear makeup to parkrun. And then I didn't wear makeup to my first race. But I wasn't quite brave enough for bare-faced photos. I wore sunglasses the whole time to hide my naked eyes.
In fact, that was my security blanket for a while. Not to protect my eyes, but to shield them. Particularly at races where I knew there could be photos.
I remember my second 10K. Phil was coming to support me, about 5 weeks after we'd started dating. He'd seen me without makeup by this point, of course, but never in the cold, harsh light of day. I almost, almost put makeup on then too.
I started to get used to it. But only for running. Anything else, makeup was on at all times.
Things started to change when I moved in with Phil. We started to do our food shopping after parkrun, which meant I was suddenly going to Aldi with no makeup. Then I started marathon training and started to really, really not want to do anything after a Sunday long run, so I stopped wearing makeup on most Sundays.
I'm getting there. It's taking some time. Yesterday I came back from a run, had a shower and put a new set of running clothes on for the food shopping so it looked like I'd just come from a run. I know it's silly, but it made me feel better, but it also felt like progress to actually choose to go out without makeup.
I still love makeup. I love it because it makes me feel good, but I don't want it to be a crutch. Running has helped me to be able to go out without makeup for the first time. I can go to the shops or out for a walk without worrying about not wearing makeup. I can have a lazy Sunday without getting properly dressed and still feel okay enough to go get some milk. I'll never stop wearing makeup. I'll never stop wearing it for work or when I'm out for the day. It makes me feel good about myself and I like to present the best version of myself I can.
But if I can go to the shops without a full face of makeup, that's progress. If I can post photos on Facebook without makeup, that's progress. If I can feel like myself without makeup, that's progress.
*I just want to say, if you want to wear makeup to exercise, you do you. I just really wanted to face my personal demons and challenge myself to go without it. Wearing makeup to exercise isn't wrong, and it's nothing to feel guilty about and you shouldn't be judged for it. But for me, I wanted to push myself to go without.