seen and unseen


Adjusting to life without makeup feels a lot like walking into a very dark room.

My senses are hyperaware as I constantly scan others reactions to me, scanning my own ‘take’ on how I feel, checking in with what I am perceiving. This gets tiring pretty quickly and it’s only my second day. I’ll have an opportunity to observe more outside of my immediate environment and take mental notes since I have tickets to a jazz performance this evening. (Made these plans before I decided to challenge myself.)

I admit, it’s taking a lot of effort to remain neutral and detached about all of this. It’s difficult when I am more keenly aware of all my choices around my appearance, like what clothes I wear and why I even bought them in the first place. Do I wear jewelry? What about that scarf to tie my colors together? Does it matter what shoes I wear… and why did I buy them in the first place? And I haven’t even gotten to my hair.

(I know, First World problems.)

Truth be told, I was going to have this experience be one of showing up ‘totally different’. I was going to wear only jeans, tees, sweatshirts, and sneakers. No jewelry, not even a wedding ring. Nothing to give anyone material to form an opinion or prejudgment about me. But that would have been reverting to the years I spent as ‘mom to young children’, dressed for practicality and durability, totally invisible to pretty much everyone. Or at least it felt that way… and it wasn’t a good feeling.

The point of this exercise is not to be invisible. It’s to immerse myself in being visible and vulnerable.

In a word: seen.

That means no hiding behind sunglasses and baseball cap when I walk the dog pre-shower, justifying my disguise with sun glare, wind, and bed head. (Well, admittedly, most of these are true but it’s time to come clean about my reasons.)

It requires that I make eye contact with people regardless of the fact that I am without ‘my face’, rather than looking away quickly after acknowledging the other person. (Surely we’ve all heard women always say they have to ‘put on their face’. Many of us have probably used these exact words ourselves!)

I plan to chose my words carefully and not make excuses for my appearance, which I’ve done more times than I can count even when I have ‘my face on’ and am dressed reasonably well but still feel uncomfortable.

And in some ironic twist … it means that I cannot obsess over my posts to this blog and social media — checking all for response. If I am truly committed to showing up, I would be replacing one need for approval with another. While I care and am curious about everyone’s experience with being vulnerable and facing fear, I can’t allow my need for acceptance drive how I show up.

In sum: It’s time to be kinder to, and more accepting of, myself.

Easier said than done.


How have you hidden in plain sight? Let us know in the comments section!


Copyright by Donna Cerame, 2014.

4 thoughts on “seen and unseen

  1. girl i feel you, i was there years ago, paranoid really! now i feel the opposite way. I see peoples reactions on me when i do put makeup on, like night and day sometimes

    1. Sandra–I totally relate…it’s like I’m wearing an invisibility cloak at times when I am barefaced.(Is that even a word? If not, maybe it should be….) Noticing my own observations of others who seem comfortable without makeup has been interesting, too.

  2. Hello Donna, you are so brave and honest. I love you. This is a hard challenge. We don’t realize what stock we put in our masks and the amount we judge other people for their masks (or lack thereof).
    Though I tend to be something of a show-woman, I’ve always hidden in plain sight – not presented my authentic honest self, never said what I really thought to people, put on a showy costume instead of allowing myself to appear honest enough to be volnerable. But I realized recently that hiding behind a mask actually makes bigger problems in the long run (like divorce and depression). One shouuld know, for instance, that if I’m getting hired for a job based on my looks vs. my merits is a very insecure position to be in. You never know exactly what you’re value and worth is to yourself or in the eyes of others.
    In recent years, I’ve shifted the way I present and communicate myself. My clothes no longer are a mask for my mood- but they represent my mood ( note weeks of looking kinda goth ;). I say more of what I mean and put issues right out on the table. I feel more volnerable and have to face my worst insecurities of rejection every day. And people may honestly not like who i am, and i have to be okay with that possibility. But at least I know who my friends are and who i can trust a lot faster now. No need to hang onto or work with anyone else.

    1. Hey Eliza-My experience of you has always and only been one of honesty and authenticity, with a good dose of playfulness. But then, we have interacted in many settings and I am privileged to call you ‘friend’. Your sharing begs the question of how much of our masks are for self protection and safety, altho the answer lies within that question. And while I am tempted to honor your courage for being so honest, it saddens me that we have to even view ourselves as brave to show ourselves. Persevere!

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