Why getting a makeover helps me get through a tough time

I am a control freak. I’m addicted to being proactive and not waiting around for things to happen or change. While these attributes can be helpful when pursuing career goals, it can also become detrimental sometimes, like when it comes to grieving.

And there are all different levels of grieving. You can grieve the loss of a loved one, the end of a relationship, a job termination. You can grieve an enormous life change because you feel like a different person and you haven’t yet reconciled where you are with where you’ve been. Whatever the situation, they all have one thing in common: they take time. Emotions need to be processed, fears need to be realized, thoughts need to whirl through your head. As John Green wrote, “that’s the thing about pain. It demands to be felt.”

But if you’re like me? When you’re coping with any of these things you desperately wish there was something you could do to fast forward to the time when things won’t hurt as much, when you won’t feel confused or stressed. Or at least to where the intensity of it all will have diminished. But time will always move at its own pace while thumbing its nose at how we feel about it-how else do we explain what Mondays always feel like.

But I have found that there is one thing I can do that gives me some solace in the midst of these experiences and helps quiet my feelings of helplessness of waiting idly for pain or disappointment to pass: a makeover.

It might sound trite, but it’s always really helped me to change my make-up routine, or alter my hairstyle. The easiest way that I can explain it is that there are times when I need to feel different and when my emotions aren’t cooperating with that need, having fun changing up my appearance is a welcome distraction that also gives me a sense of power.

In high school, my shy sensitive heart was scarred when the guy I crushed on madly fell in love with a friend of mine. The next day I walked into a salon, a ball of misery, assuming I’d just be getting a trim to my very long hair. But when the stylist asked what I wanted her to do, the words “cut it to my chin” came tumbling out of my mouth. The next few days I couldn’t stop reaching back behind me to remind myself what I had done. Something about making that decision had surprisingly empowered me. Made me feel like I was the one consciously making the decision to move on, instead of having rejection thrust unceremoniously on me. The girl with hair cascading to the middle of her back had been dismissed by the guy she liked. The girl with a new sleek bob had not.

This coping mechanism continued as I grew older. After suddenly losing my job, I felt depressed and worthless. Easily disposed of. Tagging along listlessly with my mom to a department store one day soon after, an aesthetician at one of the makeup counters complimented my eyes. I chatted with her about my inability to do eye makeup well and she convinced me to sit down and let her try some new colors. I bought a new eye shadow palette, liner and foundation, which I know was her end goal for commission. But I had also decided that someone who needed a new job, also needed a new look.

Whenever I’ve been in any kind of emotional rut, I’ve always believed that sometimes changing even a tiny thing in your routine can help you feel better. All these makeovers through the years. Haircuts, highlights, dyed colors-which sometimes didn’t pan out so well-new makeup kits, letting a makeup artist introduce me to new application techniques all of this served as a way to reclaim myself. Wielding decision making power over something as simple as buying a new lipstick color no one has kissed on me, or dying my hair three shades darker because I felt like it, restored a sense of control that felt lacking in other areas of my life.

The basic act of choosing something for myself, however superficial makeup or a haircut might seem in terms of the big picture, it’s a relief to always know I can do that when the rest of the world might be spinning along out of my control.