Sometimes the Best Way to Feel Better Is to Forget Yourself & Focus on Other People Instead

a black and white closeup of an eye. There's colorized blue eyeshadow in the outer corner.
Image by https://www.flickr.com/photos/simonnpowell/8489387607/ / CC BY

For a femme, I am really terrible at doing my makeup.

For real. I didn’t know the first thing, had practically never worn a stitch of makeup — let alone put it on myself — until a few years ago.

And even since then, I’ve been fuzzy on the particulars.

For example, there was somewhere called the crease that was supposed to be very important to putting on your eyeshadow correctly. But damn if I knew where it was. Or what to do with it.

When it came to thinking about “the crease,” my mind always went first to ice hockey (in my defense, I’m descended from Canadians). You know, that place right in front of the goalie.

But I try to learn more about makeup from time to time. Since a lot of my friends are super into it, and these days especially I’ve been teaching more and doing more work that requires a headshot (book jackets, podcast appearances, etc.).

And someone close to me who was taking pictures for me said that left to my own devices, I look like a corpse on film.

“Smile,” they said.

I smiled (or thought I did).

“No,” they said. “Not like that. Like a human being.”

So I’ve been making a more concerted effort as of late, to figure out how to somewhat mitigate this lack of photogenicity.

My friends have been helping me. Offering tips, making product recommendations, suggesting beauty YouTubers who might be able to help me make some sense of things.

And lo and behold, I’m starting to figure things out. I’m still a mess, but I’m learning. And I definitely know where the crease is now. Score (damn it, that’s hockey talk again)!

But yeah, it’s in between your eyelid and your brow bone.

Even as I’m learning, however, it’s become evident to me why it’s been so difficult for me to learn. And that’s because I can’t say that I’ll ever enjoy putting on makeup. For a simple reason, really: It requires that I look at myself for prolonged periods of time. Maybe some people like to gaze into their reflection, but I can’t say that I’m one of them. For me, the entire experience is weird and makes me self-conscious. Usually how I look is other people’s problem.

And just like saying a word over and over again makes it lose its meaning (a phenomenon known as semantic saturation), looking at my face for so long starts to make it look like a Picasso to me. Like an abstract assembly of parts and not something cohesive. And certainly not something beautiful.

Self-Absorption Can Easily Lead to Depression

I’ve found that’s the way it goes in general, when it comes to less concrete, less visual matters as well. The more I focus on myself, the more weird I feel. So if I spend too long ruminating on my own problems, my own awareness, my own issues and concerns, then it’s easy to feel anxious. Scattered. Disconnected.

For me, self-absorption never leads to self-love or ego boost. Self-absorption is instead a reliable way to end up depressed.

But if I can shift my focus to other people, everything normalizes. I’m still there, but as something connected to other people. I feel like part of something else, not the entire focus.

It was a big part of how I started to conquer my own depression many years back — learning to think as much or more about other people as I did about myself.

Just like the makeup, however, sometimes I do have to take careful looks into myself, even these days, as a way of checking myself. Making sure I’m still doing right by people. And still living a life that more or less abides by my own values.

But at the end of the day, it’s important to step away from the mirror. To go to the party and have an awesome time. And not spend all night in the bathroom touching up my lipstick.

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Books by Page Turner:

A Geek’s Guide to Unicorn Ranching

Poly Land: My Brutally Honest Adventures in Polyamory 

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