How To Use Lipstick For Self-Esteem

The summer I worked at a camp I was gripped with a fear that I would relapse in my eating disorder because I wouldn’t be able to get to meetings. I was new to recovery and didn’t think it would be good for my resume to get fired for purging in the camp latrines.  I packed some inspirational tapes to listen to during my free time, hoping that their messages might carry me through.

When the kids were tucked in, I’d crawl into my bunk and put on my Walkman (it was 1993). Pressing play, I’d close my eyes and listen to speakers’ stories of coming back from the brink of dark situations I couldn’t imagine like sleeping on park benches after getting kicked out of the house or waking up in jail.  Somehow each story ended with hope and reconciliation.

My favorite tape was one where this guy Ken from North Carolina described his first year of sobriety.  His story, told through his gorgeous southern accent (his pronunciation of “bar” had roughly 3 syllables), put me to sleep night after night.

I loved Ken’s story because he spoke in great detail about his struggles in the early days of life without alcohol.  He talked about his insomnia, impotence, and shame.  And then he explained how he crawled out of those dark places one inch at a time.

When Ken was desperate for relief from the voices in his head that were forever whispering you’re no good and you don’t deserve a good life his sponsor told him to go buy some lipstick.

What? Ken resisted but his sponsor insisted.

Ken bought a tube of Cover Girl’s finest– he chose Iced Ruby because it was red and sounded like a drink on the rocks.  His sponsor gave him the following instructions: Take this tube of lipstick and write on your mirror Ken, you are wrong.

Why? Ken asked.

His sponsor explained that Ken needed to be reminded that those voices in his head– which he spent the better part of the day believing– were wrong. “Kenny, you think they’re right but they’re wrong. When you believe what they’re saying, you’re wrong. So write it on your mirror. You. Are. Wrong.”

Ken scrawled the message on his mirror.

Every morning, those mean, lying voices woke up before Ken did and they greeted him as soon as he opened his eyes.  By the time he got to the bathroom mirror to brush his teeth, they’d already given his serenity a beat down.

But then he’d see message in all its Iced Ruby glory, and he got a chance– a moment to read the words and stop himself in mid-lie and consider that the voices in his head were wrong.  They were loud, tenacious and seductive sirens, but they were wrong.

These days, I’m dying to buy some lipstick and scrawl on my mirror Christie, you are wrong.

 The only thing stopping me is that my two children will see it and then I’ll come home one day to lipsticked walls and floors and couches.  I can’t take the risk, but I really want to. 

So, I’ll just put my lipstick on my lips and remind myself all day long: Christie, you are wrong, and hope that I’m right about that.

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38 thoughts on “How To Use Lipstick For Self-Esteem

    • Negative thinking is just killing my joy so fast. I can’t take it anymore. It’s so counterproductive, but it’s also like a habit or an old worn blanket. Kind of hard to give it up. Blech.

  1. I love this, and think it’s a brilliant idea. In lieu of writing on your mirror, what if you wrote it in red on a little piece of paper and put it into the clear slot in your wallet where you drivers license goes? Or tape it to your toothbrush?

    • Oh, girl, look at you coming up with new solutions. Maybe I should eat some of those life affirming chocolates you had last week! Then tape the wrapper to my phone, toothbrush and computer!

  2. Does it count if you want to write that on your spouse’s mirror?? Nope. That’s none of my business. My business is ME. But, it can be such a family disease. Thanks for sharing your hope!

    • You’re so right! I am laughing because it would be so funny if I jumped onto my spouse’s inventory. He’d get a kick out of me lipsticking his side of the mirror. By kick, I mean, he might kill me!

  3. I always remind myself that if I spoke about my friends the way I speak about myself, I wouldn’t have any . . . it helps a little. :/ Hugs (and 4-syllable, 3-letter words) to you today from Texas!

    • Yeah! You got that right. I’d never tell my friends they suck because they make mistakes or becuase they are struggling at work after being gone 2 years. NEver never never. But yet that’s the sound track in my head. Let’s change the tape.

      On Wed, Jun 19, 2013 at 10:49 AM, Outlaw Mama

  4. Girl, you are the most talented, most tenacious, most deserving of good things type person that I know. And they will come. I’d stake almost anything on it. The very first post I ever read of yours, I thought to myself, “Wow, this woman is going places.” I’m never wrong.
    One of these days, I’m going to stand up and cheer for you when you find out how wrong you are. You are totally wrong. But I love this post and I could use the message. Since Beckett can’t reach my lipstick yet, I’m writing it on the bathroom mirror.

    • Oh, enjoy those days when B cannot grab your purse and take your gum, your hair brush, and your foundation to create a putty to smear on your granite counters. Trust me, it’s a blessing.

      And thank you for the kind words. I trust you so Ima put my head down and keep plugging away at my job, my mothering, my wifing and my writing. What’s the alternative? Learn to play the pan flute and stand on the street corner?

      On Wed, Jun 19, 2013 at 10:49 AM, Outlaw Mama

  5. I have a sign on the wall in my office that says:

    HOPE
    new day,
    new thoughts,
    new strength.

    I need to read it more often.

    • I am writing that on my printer today. Simple. I like that. I always say to my husband, “clean slate,” and it helps, but hope is such a beautiful word.

      On Wed, Jun 19, 2013 at 11:07 AM, Outlaw Mama

  6. Awesome. The best therapist I ever had said to me, “Listen. YOU. HAVE. YOUR. WIRES. CROSSED.” This reminded me of that.

  7. After I said something particularly mean about myself, my husband said, “I wish you were as nice to yourself as you are to everyone else.” Sometimes, when I’m being mean to myself, I remember what he said and try to cut myself some slack.

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