I am the oldest of four children, the daughter of divorced parents, and was raised by my grandmother. Because of my nontraditional and lower middle class upbringing I often felt ashamed, not being able to relate to the many other children in my high school who came from two-parent homes.
Over time, this feeling of inadequacy eventually translated to embarrassment and the intense need to fit in and to be accepted. Because of this, I remember wearing certain outfits or adopting specific hairstyles not because I necessarily liked them but because those styles were considered "cool." I threw myself into drama club, cheerleading, dance team, and volunteer work. When I would go home, I would read countless magazines, closely following beauty and fashion news; the routine made me feel glamorous. I wanted to overwrite my complicated upbringing and become more than the hand that was dealt to me. I was trying to not only grow into who I was supposed to become but adopt who everyone else was at the same time. It was exhausting.
This need to fit in during my high school years affected my relationship with myself, as well as other people. My high school boyfriend, who started out as a close friend, and I began dating toward the end of senior year. As friends we got along great, as partners much less so. Beauty and fashion meant so much to me, but I quickly found out that he had strong opinions about these topics that went against mine. I could accept that he had no interest in it at all, but it was the requests that really threw me off. He insisted I only wear natural makeup, lipstick was out of the question, and probably the most bizarre rule was I could wear no red nail polish. Looking back, I should have seen this as a red flag, literally, but I was in denial and inexperienced and spent three years of my life only painting my nails ballet slipper pink.
"Getting my nails done was therapeutic, my skincare routine was my own form of meditation, and gosh, did I really miss painting my nails my favourite colour."
Not being able to express my love for all things beauty and fashion during these formative years was difficult. I always used beauty to cope with my anxiety, depression, and PTSD. Getting my nails done was therapeutic, my skincare routine was my own form of meditation, and gosh, did I really miss painting my nails my favourite colour. It felt like being shut off from a world I was so curious to explore. The only time I was really able to express myself through my hair and makeup was during the annual dance competitions when we would all wear bright eye shadows, fake eyelashes, and glitter in our hair to complement our sequinned costumes.
A few years later, my boyfriend and I broke up. I felt stifled in my form of expression, pretending to be someone I was not, and there was no compromise. Slowly but surely, I gained back my identity.
Not having to overthink if my eye shadow was neutral enough, if my lipstick was too noticeable, and finally being able to paint my nails the colours I wanted to was just the beginning. The whole world of beauty opened up, and I felt that I could outwardly embrace and explore what I was truly interested in. I even ended up transferring to a college that specialised in the fashion and beauty industry. It was there that I was able to connect with so many different, amazing people who were also interested in fashion, beauty, and art. I started going to Sephora after classes again, I took up extra acting work mainly because I loved sitting in hair and makeup, and even started writing because of it. The possibilities became endless.
Most importantly, I learned through the world of beauty that I could be multidimensional, and I could especially express this through hair and makeup. My beauty routine could reflect my moods, and vice versa. I could wear my hair any way I wanted to, buy any lipstick that I pleased, and you better believe I was painting my nails red. I navigated the world of serums, delved into the idea of daily sunscreens, and became excited about little things like face masks. I even discovered my love for hyaluronic acid. Shifting the focus to these details also, in a way, shifted the focus back on myself and the care and attention I needed to give to me.
After all was said and done, I was still Brittany, but just the best version. The breakup ultimately opened myself up to the world that I had deprived myself of the whole relationship — my own.