When Constance Rhodes viewed America the Beautiful, a documentary about America's obsession with beauty, she felt convicted to test her personal dependence on cosmetics by pledging to go without makeup for one month. Intrigued by her "bold-faced" move, TCW asked Constance, a recovering bulimic and co-founder of FINDINGbalance, a Christian nonprofit dedicated to helping people eat well and live free, to tell us what she learned through this experiment.
You gave up wearing makeup. That's huge in our culture!
I know! Last year I watched America the Beautiful, which asked the question: Do we have an unhealthy obsession with beauty? This was right where I've lived much of my life since I struggled for years with an eating disorder. When I first became involved in The True Campaign, which has the mission to "challenge cultural views of beauty and identity," I knew God was going to use my role to strip away some of my own false beliefs in these areas. While not a Christian film, America the Beautiful reinforces God's truth that our value doesn't rest in looking a particular way, as dictated by our culture.
What did you hope to accomplish?
I wanted to challenge my human desire to be noticed for my appearance. Looking "perfect" has been a god to me. But I was also interested in propelling a Christ-centered message about beauty to others by removing my "mask."
Was it just a ban of makeup, or did you include perfume and hair products as well?
I only did makeup. Honestly, though, I'm as obsessed about my hair as I am about makeup, so there's probably another experiment coming. But I can only take one step at a time!
What was the most challenging part?
The first day. Daily I posted a photo on my Facebook page of me without makeup. It felt incredibly vulnerable. I was terrified that people who knew me—especially men—would reject me.
And how did people respond?
Really positively. They affirmed me and told me how beautiful I was. At first I was like, "Yeah, whatever." But when you hear often enough that you don't look freakishly ugly, you reach a point where you've got to choose to believe the truth or continue holding onto the lies.
Why do you think women develop such a dependency on makeup?
We're products of our culture. Only after going without makeup for a month did I realize how silly it can be to think we've got to have all these colors and dark lashes and perfect lips. Going deeper, I'm learning that we focus on beauty (or whatever else becomes our god) to avoid contending with disappointment. If I can make my appearance the reason people do or don't like me, then I have an easy way of avoiding the fact that some people simply aren't going to respond to me the way I wish they would.
Is that what you learned about yourself?
Yes. I learned that the world won't end if I don't look a particular way, and I'm not as ugly as I thought I was. I also learned that underneath it all, on some deep, seemingly untouchable level, I still believe parts of me are too "ugly" to be loved. So during that month I read and reread Proverbs 29:25, which in The Message reads, "The fear of human opinion disables; trusting in GOD protects you from that."
The month is over. So are you back to wearing makeup?
I am. But at least a few days a week I don't put it on, and I try to go without it in a variety of settings, including work, church, and shopping.
Any surprising discoveries about your faith?
As with any practice we do in an effort to be more Christ-like, we can end up becoming even more focused on ourselves than we were to begin with. It's similar to the Jews who were so intent on following the law that they missed Christ right in front of them. Ultimately it's not whether or not I wear makeup that God cares about, but whether or not I'm in bondage to it.
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