Interview with: LEANN
Recorded June, 2018
Interviewer: Emma Millett
E : Emma Millett
L : Leann
E: How often do you wear makeup?
L: I wear Mascara everyday, but sometimes I forget.
E: Okay. So sometimes none?
E:Okay. And do you ever wear more than Mascara?
E: Okay. Just Mascara. How old were you when you started wearing makeup?
E: You were 14. And how much did you wear when you first started wearing makeup?
L: Mascara, and I put eyeliner on – way too heavily.
E: *laughs* Yeah, I’ve been there before too. Have you ever worn more than Mascara?
L: I went through a phase of trying to figure out I shadow.. It was bad. I mean, I had dance concerts so I had to wear some makeup, but I didn’t like it. I wear concealer when I have zits.
E: Okay. So you wear concealer and Mascara. Why do you not wear makeup?
L: Um, because I don’t think that it makes you more beautiful. I feel like it hides a lot of things. E: Okay, explain more.
L: Um, I’ve noticed that some girls that wear a lot of makeup are a lot of times really insecure even when they’re wearing it, that it doesn’t fix anything. So when I have imperfections, I just kind of accept it.
E: Okay. How do you think if would affect you if you decided to wear makeup to cover them up?
L: Um, I’d probably feel less comfortable. For example, in dating, if I were to go swimming or something and my makeup came off, I’d feel more uncomfortable with who I am. Whereas if I just don’t wear it, then it doesn’t cause any issues. Like, that’s just what I look like and they know that, you know, there’s nothing being hidden. There’s nothing to reveal. When I don’t wear makeup I feel real. And when I do wear makeup I’m constantly concerned about if it’s staying on or if people think it looks weird. Occasionally I used to put lipstick on.
E: So I’m guessing that when you get your picture taken, typically you aren’t wearing very much more than mascara.
L: Yeah, not usually.
E: So how did you feel just now without any at all?
L: It did feel a little weird. Just because I’m used to having mascara on. My eyelashes are so blonde, you can barely see them. So I’m used to at least something, so my eyes aren’t sunken into my head. But it wasn’t too bad. A little bit uncomfortable.
E: How often do you typically go in public without any makeup at all?
L: Uh… once a month. And usually my mascara’s waterproof, so it just stays on, even if I don’t want it to.
E: Do you feel noticeably different going out without any mascara at all versus going out just on a normal day when you’re wearing mascara.
L: Oh yeah. Yeah.
E: Okay. Explain that to me.
L: I feel a little bit like people can notice more, like “Okay, she didn’t try today.” Even though it’s not really that big of a difference, to me it’s a difference.
E: Have you gotten comments before on your face by people who have noticed when you’re not wearing mascara?
L: No, they notice when I wear more. Which is very rare. Anytime I have, they’re like, “oh, you have stuff on your face.”
E: How then do you feel knowing that these photos will be posted publicly even though you aren’t wearing any makeup?
E: It doesn’t bother you?
L: No. Because it’s pretty much how I look everyday anyway. And I trust that you’re a good enough photographer but I don’t look terrible.
E: *laughs* Well, and that’s one of the interesting things about this project too, as a photographer, I have to try to find the balance with the editing, because there’s a difference between making the image look good and making the person look good. I think too many photographers spend too much time editing the people and I feel like that kind of contributes to this problem that we have in society where women especially feel like they can’t be seen unless they almost don’t look like themselves, or unless they look almost photoshopped, and I don’t like that my industry contributes to that problem so often.
L: *laughs* Yeah.
E: So, just a couple more questions. How would you rate your self esteem on a scale of 1 to 10?
L: Lately it’s been about an eight or nine.
E: Okay, so high!
L: But in the past I think it was more of like five or six.
E: Okay. So what changed?
L: Well, I noticed that I started recognizing things that did or didn’t make me happy.
E: Things about yourself or things that you were doing?
L: Things I was doing. I was trying really, really hard to be outdoorsy and want to go rock climbing all the time. I realized that I didn’t like it, so I stopped. And then I realized that the typical…way of doing things.. I’m planning a wedding right now and it’s been interesting to see that there’s this “normal” way to do things, where you get engaged and then you take [a certain amount of time] to plan it. For me, I’m like, “You know what, I’m getting married. I’m just going to get married on August 3rd, if you want to be there, you can.” And the way I planned it has been different. Even my wedding dress isn’t typical at all. It’s not floor length, it’s more of like a beach dress. I just feel like I used to care so much about what other people were thinking and the way that I did things and I realized that it just wasn’t making me happy. I was stressed out all the time and I was anxious and depressed. And then once I started just doing things that made me happy and I felt comfortable, and didn’t care as much about appearances, I started being happier and less depressed and anxious.
E: So what did you start caring more about then? Like all the investment you were putting into appearances, did it go somewhere else?
L: Yeah, just finding things that brought me peace. So I stopped saying yes to things that I didn’t want to go to because I felt pressured to go. I don’t feel the need to have a lot of friends. I have a few really good friends. I didn’t feel like I need to marry an all-star, the guy I’m marrying, he’s bald *laughs* and I never imagined that happening but I don’t care about hair. And I think he’s really attractive, and he’s an amazing person. I started caring more about people and how they make me feel. So I spend a lot more time with family than I used to. I just care more about relationships and building that than I do about what I look like or who I’m dating, and what they look like.
E: So, part of what I’m hearing is that what used to be an investment in what you look like is now becoming an investment in what you feel like.
E: And the investment that was in your appearance is now just in yourself, and who you are authentically.
E: So things that you genuinely enjoy doing, or people you genuinely enjoy spending time with because you feel loved when you’re with them.
L: Yeah. Yeah. And especially with social media, I used to post a lot and care people thought and pay way too much attention to it, and I still need to work on not paying attention to what other people are doing so much. But I’ve stopped posting on Instagram about my personal life,and I’ve started telling people in person more often and I’ve seen a big difference in that.
E: Okay, so you’ve changed the communication then! From virtual to-
E: Okay, interesting. So earlier you talked about a change in your self esteem. Was that because you started communicating in person rather than virtually or did you start communicating in person as a result of the change?
L: I think as a result of my self esteem. I recognized that those things were making me sad and that validation online means nothing from people I don’t even care about. And so yeah, I think it was caused by a change.
E: Was there like an experience you had or a moment you had that inspired such a big shift?
L:Yeah. I was engaged a little over a year ago to a guy I worked with and it ended terribly. And we were very public about everything that happened. We posted so many pictures together. Everyone knew every detail of our lives and then he decided to end it and got married really quickly right after. And I was realizing that if I had just not posted anything and only talked to people that cared about me, then I wouldn’t have spiraled into this terrible depression.
E: How did you come to realize that?
L: I mean, part of it was therapy. Another part was just that I was paying more attention to what was affecting me. I was trying to find the cause of my anxiety and all of those feelings. I can’t remember if there was an exact moment, but I do remember moments, multiple moments, of sitting on my phone and being like, “why don’t I feel like I have any friends? Why don’t I feel like anyone actually cares about me?” There was a flood of messages after we ended it. And I was public about it ending too because people needed to know that it wasn’t happening, and people will really supportive for like three days. And then I was like, “wait a second, no one’s actually talking to me anymore and I’m still sad.” And so I was trying to figure out why that was and I realized I hadn’t been building up any relationships.
E: So the relationships themselves were virtual?
E: If it’s okay, I’d like to ask you a little bit more about therapy. I’ve been to therapy for years so I am a huge advocate for it. No one has talked about therapy yet, so if you’re comfortable, I’d like to ask you a few questions about that.
E: So what made you decide to go? Was it a difficult decision to go to therapy?
L: Yeah. So when I was 15, my parents split up and then it was official when I was 16, and they got divorced. And that was really hard. I had to go to therapy with all my sisters, they forced us to go.
L: Yeah. And it was all seven of us. Actually, I think it was just six because the youngest one was really young.
E: You only have sisters?
L: Yeah. All sisters. So we all went in there together and I just remember that he helped me realize something that I hadn’t ever thought about before about my dad and our relationship and how it shifted when I was young, when I was a teenager.
E: For good or bad?
L: He just didn’t know what to do with us when we were teenagers and I had never realized that that had happened, and it really helped me connect why he acted the way that he did and it made so much sense. And I remember that’s the first time I really like had an “Aha” moment with therapy. It was the first time I ever went, and it was forced.
E: Did that epiphany result in any kind of change? Was there a change in your relationship with your dad? Was there a change in your relationship with yourself?
L: Yeah, I was less angry. Because I felt like I was really angry for a minute. But then I started being less angry, and then I didn’t go to therapy for a while after that. I moved away because I wanted to leave home. I didn’t want to be around my family. I moved to Portland, Oregon and then went to culinary school and then after nine months I came home and decided to go on a mission and then when I got home from my mission I was like, “okay, I’m fine, everything’s good.” And then I’m like, “wait, no real life is kicking me.” And I didn’t have any anxiety or depression while I was gone. It was really good, surprisingly. And then I got home and it just all kind of caught up with me, the anxiety.
E: So then what were you feeling when you got home then?
L: I was feeling really overwhelmed. I’ve actually been engaged twice before this. Which is another point of anxiety. Once right when I got home. I just felt pressure… You find someone nice and you get married. That’s just what happens. And so I found this guy, I had known him in high school. I was like,” well, he’s good enough, like whatever, let’s get married.” And so we started planning and it was not right. I felt it from the beginning, it was just wrong and I was so anxious and I didn’t know who to talk to. I couldn’t talk to my family because I didn’t want them to think that I was not living up to their expectations even though no one told me they expected this from me. And so I broke it off and then decided that I needed to go to therapy because I was having panic attacks all the time. And so I found a therapist and it worked for a little bit. She was new. She had just graduated and she did okay. But I felt like I needed something different.
L: It’s important to be picky.
E: Yeah. Yeah. So I started taking medications. I’ve probably tried eight or nine over the past four years. I actually went to a doctor before I went to a therapist. I was not in a good place, I decided to go to a doctor and they prescribed me one medication, and it wasn’t working, so I went back and tried a different one, and then I was like, “maybe I need therapy.” So I went to therapy and then I stopped taking the medication because I was mad about the medication The therapy was helping a little bit, but then I was getting more anxious so I went back on medication and then I stopped therapy and then the medications weren’t working and so I just went off of everything and tried to fix it myself. Then I found a new therapist and he helped a lot more, but I felt like he was too focused on [spirituality] and I just wanted to think of it scientifically and mentally and logically. And so it was really hard for me because I understood that the gospel brings peace, but sometimes there’s more to it than that. Sometimes there’s something chemically wrong with you. Or sometimes it’s situational and you need to get through that before you can feel better. And I didn’t want to have to read my scriptures every day and pray twice a day and go to every single hour of every meeting because it gave me anxiety.
E: To go because people are telling you that that’s the cure to your problem would be really frustrating.
L: Yeah. And I just, I didn’t think that that was the answer. I can’t remember the order of everything, but I’ve been on and off medications for four years.
E: Are you on now?
L: No. I’ve been off for like nine months I think.
E: Are you in therapy now?
L: No, not right now. And I, um, I feel like for me a lot of the anxiety and depression stemmed from the people I was dating. It would flare up when I was with the wrong person and it would get really bad. *laughs* It’s the worst. It’s terrible. Yeah. But I went to a therapist right after the second engagement and she helped me to really get past a lot of things that were really hard. She would help me realize things about myself and what I was holding as a grudge towards family members or God. She would always just let me figure it out through talking.
E: You mentioned before that you wanted to stay angry. Why? Do you know why that felt more comfortable or if it felt more comfortable?
L: Um, I felt justified in being angry. I was like, “well my parents did this to me, it’s their fault.” It made more sense to be angry than to try to resolve it and I just realized it didn’t hurt anybody but me.
E: I think sometimes I choose to be angry because I feel like it’s just up to me to validate myself. Like I can’t rely on other people to validate me or care, and so I filled that need with my own anger sometimes. Do you feel like your anger served a purpose?
L: It just let me feel something. I felt like I didn’t get any validation from my parents, so I was allowed to be upset. So I was like, “well, but I’m going to feel it really hard. I’ll show you.” *laughs* But it just got to a point where the anger was eating me inside, and just taking more than giving until I realized I needed to let it go if I was going to be happy. I had all these expectations for my parents. I was like, “Well mom needs change and be more attentive to me or get excited for me when good things happen.” Like if I just hold onto that and expect these things from her that she’s not able to give, then I’ll just be angry forever. So the third therapist I went to was the one that helped me to get past a lot of that stuff.
E: How long has it been since you’ve been in therapy?
L: The last time I went was six months ago.
E: So then now what is your approach to life? lf you were to just sum up your approach to life versus what it was before.
L: Just cut out anything that’s toxic or making me sad.
E: How do you know the difference? Because I think that sometimes the biggest challenge is identifying what is actually toxic.
E:. So how do you identify what’s toxic and how do you cut it out?
L: I’ve gotten really good at recognizing when I’m anxious. It just will hit me in my stomach and I’ll feel it pretty intensely.
E: So is that a red flag that something is toxic then, when you’re feeling anxiety.
L: Yeah. And I have to kind of wait it out because sometimes I’m just nervous about something. My anxiety is triggered by anything that is not good for me, and I’ve come to realize that. So as I put more good things into my life, like my family and good relationships, then it makes it easier to notice when something’s toxic. I really don’t know how to explain it.
E: Has it changed your relationship with your anxiety? I mean, maybe you never resented your anxiety but-
L: No, I did.
E: So then is it different now?
L: Yeah. Now I feel like it’s a tool to help me build a better life instead of just letting life happen. When I add good things, I feel peaceful, and when I feel anxious, there’s something wrong. And so it’s kind of a God-given gift that I’ve noticed that’s helped me to make sure I’m on the right path and doing what I’m supposed to. Because if I feel anxious, I know that I need to change something. Immediately. Obviously like observe what’s going on and figure out which thing to change, like not just quit my job. *laughs*
E: Or move to another country.
L: *laughs* Yeah.