In my last blog I indicated that Feat # 7 was to be a “Makeup Makeover.” Again, this activity may not be much of an achievement for most, but, for me, it is both a feat and a first. I have always been a little uncomfortable with things that might be seen as self indulgent – probably my Scottish Presbyterian roots – but my avoidance of such things as makeovers, massages, and the like wasn’t really about extravagance; my anxiety was the true reason for turning down these opportunities in the past.
Many people deal with claustrophobia, but my anxiety ran just a little deeper. Since childhood, I have dealt with enormous fear when anyone enters my personal space, particularly around my face. I was equally as white knuckled gripping the chair in the hair salon as I was at the dentist. I would have to focus all my energy to stay seated, to minimize the trembling, to not simply get up and run. The anxiety was worse than any physical hurt could have been (although, I am pretty sure from what I can remember that childbirth was no picnic either). When other people spoke of the fun of getting a facial or having their makeup professionally done, I dismissed it as “just not my thing,” but the truth is that, for me, it would have been more torturous than luxurious.
I thought that I was the only person who dealt with such an odd anxiety, but, recently, I discovered some research related to peripersonal space (that is the scientific term for the space around our bodies that people consider to be psychologically theirs) and anxiety. Not surprisingly, those individuals who live with anxiety have larger peripersonal spaces than those who do not,¹ especially for the high-risk area around the face. For those with higher anxiety, threats were perceived as closer than was the case for non-anxious subjects, despite the stimuli being the same distance away; anxious individuals had a larger defensive peripersonal space. Maybe I wasn’t the only person sweating it out at the hair salon after all.
As an adult, I have dealt with my anxiety through both medical (I take medication for depression and anxiety) and nonmedical means (I have learned anxiety-reducing strategies such as breathing techniques, visualization and meditation). I still get the occasional tremor when I am sitting in the hairstylist’s chair, but I also find myself able to somewhat enjoy the experience.
So, when I was putting together my list of feats, I decided that I would include one that would celebrate my ability to manage my defensive peripersonal space by having a professional makeup lesson. And, what better time to get tips and tricks for looking my best than as I step over that half century line.
Accompanied by my dear friend Liz, I tentatively approached the reception desk of a local salon and signed up for a little self indulgence. For over an hour, I let the lovely Adriana pamper me. Not only did I have my makeup done, I also had my eyebrows shaped and a mini-facial. Whew!
I am happy to report I only had a couple of moments of anxiety – and that was mostly because my “smoky eyes” made me look more surprised than sultry, suggesting Nora Desmond rather than Gisele Bündchen (I’m ready for my close up Mr. DeMille).
The verdict on my latest feat: interesting to try, and, though likely a not regular occurrence for me in the future, a definite triumph. Now, if I could just learn to relax at the dentist…
Next up: I have no idea what next week will bring. My first surprise feat awaits (and fortunately, I have just the makeup for that).
¹Sambo, C. F., Forster, B., Willams, S. C., & Iannetti, G. D. (2012). To blink or not to blink: Fine cognitive tuning of the defensive peripersonal space. The Journal of Neuroscience, 32(37):12921–12927; doi:10.1523/JNEUROSCI.0607-12.2012