Anna (name changed) has just learned that she is a Soft Summer. She expected Soft Autumn. She is 30 years old.
Anna heads home, reads the document that explains the color analyzed clothes/cosmetic/hair/jewelry that harmonize most beautifully with her natural coloring, looks at her clothes, and sees that nothing is as flattering as it could be. Just like everyone else after a PCA. She looks at the pictures of what her hair color should be and starts buying the new makeup.
None of it feels right. She does not see the gray brown taupe in her palette. Her mother always said she was a redhead. Her husband calls her his Coppertone girl and yet, I suggested that Soft Summer skin is not flattered by traditional bronzers. Suddenly it all feels wrong. In her own words, she feels like a bird that fallen out of its nest. She knows she is making it be hard when it is supposed to make her life easier, but how to relax into it?
Confirm the result
I can be wrong. Anyone can be wrong anytime, doing anything. I usually, but not always, go with my first impression. A new set of eyes, a new day, and I might see something else.
We went ahead and did the drapes again.
For a second draping, I always have someone sit in who is not a colour expert but is sensitive to the optical effects. Everyone can tell when you look better, but not everyone is visually perceptive enough to watch a face blur and focus, or the eyes and teeth yellow and whiten. I try not to talk much because I usually see what I saw the first time. Soft Summer was confirmed.
The tangle is mostly between the 2 best Seasons. Nobody can see their own face that objectively, including me and mine, which is why a makeup purchase decision is so often wrong if you test it on your face. The confusion Anna felt was valid, in that she felt the shadows around the eyes were less visible in the Soft Autumn drapes. You have to be careful here. The yellow is canceling some of the purple in the shadows, just as we choose yellow concealer. To cancel those shadows though, we had to jaundice the entire complexion.
Look at the whole face. It should not be yellow at all. Even a trace of yellow gives the effect of dullness, the features seem a bit erased. Neither should there be a greyness in the face, where the drape is pulling colour out of the skin, but be careful here too. In its milder form, that chalkiness can give the clearing the skin impression. The crispest, freshest, healthiest skin was in Soft Summer. That perfect, delicate, aristocratic bone structure definition that Soft Summer does ultimately well was clear.
It was as though I told her she had been switched at birth. Her identity, her safety net of what it meant to be Anna, was pulled out from under her.
Expect to need time
Start with knowing what to never look at in stores again. That alone will exclude so many distractions that the right items will become more obvious. Look at the item and think about why you should not buy it. Try to talk yourself out of it.
Match your Colour Book the best you can. Do not be distraught if the precise fog brown is not obvious. Do not try to classify every garment you see to its Season. You are already looking a zillion percent better than you used to. Your eye is learning. The Book does the mixing and matching for you. Remember your principles for how to combine the colours (these are sent to clients after a PCA).
Accept that you will keep making better and better decisions. The effect will get stronger. I get that doing your job is hard enough. This is like asking you to do your job and learn a new computer system. Don’t worry. You now understand where you came from and you know where you’re going. This is empowerment beyond describing. The branches can’t help but grow when the roots are this strong.
You will make a few mistakes. In your first windsurfing class, the guy in the water most is the one trying the hardest, progressing the fastest, working on moving to the edge of the technique. Mistakes are good. Allow them to be good. This is how we learn.
Leave the hair to last
Hair is the hardest to get right, hardest to adjust to quickly, and often the most sensitive (and least objective) self-acceptance feature. Get used to the clothes and makeup first and your brain will be much more compliant when you correct the hair color. Do it in small steps and your mind will say, OK, fine, she’s done this before and I survived. If you did a big hair adjustment on day 1, your mind would say, Wrong, off, can’t be right, looks weird, change it back, need to go find someone and pester them till they confirm that I looked better before, get me to a phone, I’ll see a different colorist, can’t be, can’t be, can’t be.
As a child, the hair was a warm toffee blonde. Nevermind. Anna has different skin now and that hair might not work at all. Today, she is the pine cone highlight (should she choose to have them), rather than the wheat field. Her natural base, just visible at the temple below, is not very dark, a medium ash brown. Her eyebrow is light-medium ash brown. Letting the red fade till she can go back to her natural base color, with those watery grey-green eyes, would be like looking into a misty forest.
Breaking emotional ties
You cannot get rid of your color luggage that fast. Letting go of the past is shaky for all of us. I always saw myself as…needs to be uprooted but it is dug in deep. Doing something different is always destabilizing, even if it is driving a new way to work. You cannot hold your balance and your position.
Release who your parents expected. Never look back over your shoulder again. You are not her anymore. You can choose what she has that you want to keep. Allow the calm, strong feeling of finding, and speaking, in your own true voice.
Learning to repel the marketing all around us is part of the journey. A much more difficult question, that may take a lifetime to answer, is whether we intentionally, but subconsciously, sabotage ourselves. As women, we seem awfully good at undermining our full potential in beauty, as well as in personal strength, more than we could just blame on our marketing culture. Everyone who saw Anna commented on the beauty in her face, and in her person. We women are better at cataloguing our faults. Inadequacies that nobody else sees becomes our security blanket.
If it were given to you at this moment to become everything you could be, how many would take it? The words of Marianne Williamson are repeated so often to let us marvel at the truth of them. It is our not our darkness that we are afraid of. It is our light. (To know the full passage, read it here).
It is that fear which must be entered. PCA is not for everyone. It takes a courage that you did not expect would be asked of you. Your view of the world will be challenged. The responsibility to make it as you want it to be will feel forced on you, unless you choose to see it as Opportunity.
Anna will be treated differently as she separates from her past and realizes that she may have to step up to how beautiful the world sees her to be. It will take about a year.
This is what I saw. Go back and look at her eye.
…the whole experience has given me peace. Not initially, obviously, but upon reflection, I feel at peace. It was like meeting myself for the first time. Or finding out something major about myself, that caused me to have to reintroduce myself to myself if that makes any sense. And now that the fog has settled, the muted and dulled fog : ), I am relaxed at meeting the new me. And I enjoy to know myself that much better. This was another, fairly large piece of the puzzle I found in me. There are less questions. Less self doubt and I feel like I can forge ahead now, equipped with a better sense of self. I have been enjoying the last few weeks, walking into stores and looking for the real me in there somewhere. And when it is not there, I don’t compromise anymore. It’ll be fun. It’ll continue to give me direction, as now I know the destination. There are lots of ways to get there, but I will always arrive at the same place. Within my palette. Whereas before, I had no direction, no sense of self, little confidence, and depended on second opinions a lot. I am getting there. It will take time. But I feel much better already.