To make up or not to make up

Three woman are sitting at their respective vanity’s getting ready for their day after working out at the so cal gym. I am one of them. Small talk ensues.

“Well, at least if I can get my hair partially dried and a bit of make up I’ll be passable for the office.” I say, hoping to learn more about what their days were looking like.

Light banter occurs and then some silence.

The older lady chimes in, “The other day I had a hellish morning and went to work without make up. The whole day everyone kept telling me I looked tired.”

I ask questions about if it was the stress or the lack of make up. Why is it that we feel the need to wear make up?

The younger woman who was artfully applying dark eyeliner and blood red lipstick pipes up with, “I CARE about my appearance, so I like wearing make up.”

Wait – did I not care about my appearance? Clearly the reason that the other woman ‘forgot’ her make up was she was to stressed and out of time to care. The negative reinforcement she received from her colleagues nipped that in the bud.

Conversely, in my office, sales cares and operations not so much – so I could get away with this.

I think about this often in choosing characters used in our training. What am I modeling, if anything? What am I encouraging in terms of cultural schemas for the organization?

When I worked at hCentive and visited HQ in Reston Virginia, I stood in the line at lunch (a choice of Indian and western fare) alongside many accomplished engineers from India that did not even have so much as foundation on. At the same time, my direct report and colleagues we full on divas and even questioned my presentation skills as I was much more of the ‘natural’ so cal look. This was puzzling to me.

I don’t have the answered here but simply beg the question, “how do we handle this in training that is mindful of cultural alignment?” For example, there is some evidence that “self-schemas” which are schemas that variate from the cultural schemas that we may inherit from society based on our own experiences and perceptions, can be inversely correlated to positive self image. As we know, this can impact performance so does it not make sense to consider it? If you are dorky like me you can read the study cited to read about some findings revealing in a study of Korean and Western women.

Jung, J., & Lee, S. (2006). Cross-Cultural Comparisons of Appearance Self-Schema, Body Image, Self-Esteem, and Dieting Behavior Between Korean and U.S. Women. Retrieved from

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.