I love Dorothy Dalton’s blog.  It’s always well-researched, challenging and thought-provoking. Yesterday’s post was no exception.  Dorothy trawled the research into the connection between women’s career advancement and whether or not they wear make-up.

And yes, apparently, there is a strong link. A study reported in the Times, suggested that ‘…64 per cent of directors considered women who wore make-up look more professional and 18 per cent of directors said that women who do not wear make-up “look like they can’t be bothered to make an effort”’.

Pushing buttons

Dorothy’s post pushed buttons for me, and I found myself getting shrill – sorry Dorothy! It’s not the make-up per se, you understand. Done well, it can look terrific, and if it makes you feel good, that’s great. I’ve personally seen enough badly applied make-up to leave me wishing the wearers had made a little less ‘effort’.  It’s a matter of skill. And for me, of preference. Especially preference.

So what particularly wound me up? It wasn’t so much the study as the comments of image consultant Claire Soper, who told Dorothy that women who wear no make-up may be inadvertently sending a signal that they are “disorganised, uninterested and unable to cope.”  To cope with what, exactly?

The jar by the door (again)

Stories abound of anorexia and bulimia in teenagers.  From a young age, children, and especially girls, seem to learn to regard themselves as physically deficient, whatever the objective reality.

At a conference last Autumn, I came across a rather gorgeous woman in the cloakroom. She really did look super – great hair, strong features, beautiful suit.  But she was distraught.  She’d come out without her make-up and felt naked.  She was sure everyone would be looking at her disfavourably.  I gently mentioned that I haven’t worn make-up in years (apart from a little lippy).  She hadn’t even noticed.

A dear friend who, in her fifties and without make-up, has the look of the perfect English rose, caved in to constant pressure from colleagues to ‘make an effort’, and reluctantly spent a fortune on expensive make-up, effectively just to conform. It looks pretty, but no better than her own flawless skin.

The alternative argument comes from Naomi Wolf in her book The Beauty Myth. Although some of Wolf’s statistics have been challenged, her overriding message is that as women overcome legal and political obstacles to equality, they are increasingly assailed by a socially-constructed, media-peddled standard of ‘beauty’ against which the vast majority can’t hope to measure up, but against which they are, nevertheless, judged. And no-one judges them more harshly than they themselves. The paint becomes part of the effort to disguise their ‘inadequacy’.

Presence – make-up for the soul

So what’s my real concern about this one? I can’t alter the way people think. That way is a hiding to nothing. But I really do think that the answer lies in our learning to stay connected with our own essence, that part of ourself that knows who we are, what we stand for, and what we can give the World. I’ve learned that when I feel bad about myself, it’s because I’ve lost that connection, and I’m trying unsuccessfully to tune in to someone else’s vibration.

Recover Your Balance encourages you to re-connect with who you are at your core. When you’re balanced and fully present, you can make choices that vibrate with what’s best for you and will bring out your best.  You’ll be able to decide whether you suit that corporate role in which power dressing and battle-ready make-up are all important.  It may well be you do, in which case you’ll play the game on your own terms.

36% of Directors did not say that women who wore make-up look more professional, and a whopping 82% didn’t say that women who don’t wear make-up look as though they can’t be bothered to make an effort. The world is a diverse place, and diversity is what keeps it fresh. So be yourself. That is your first consideration.

The make-up thing for me comes down to a refusal to accept the assertion that a woman is not acceptable unless she is painted.  That’s just the surface. No amount of make-up can disguise low self-esteem. Nor can it paint out a Present soul.  That will always shine through.

Oh, and apparently men are now increasingly wearing make-up, but please don’t tell my sixty-something engineer husband.  I’ll never hear the last of it!

Dorothy Dalton has contributed a guest post to Recover Your Balance.