It’s news to no one that the holiday season is hella stressful. Don’t get me wrong– there is boundless fun to be had. I’m stacking party invites to the ceiling and I can hardly think of a better time of year to scoop up free fizzy drinks, tiny food and chortle merrily whilst wearing casual sequins and antlers.

But the constant partying and gift buying and endless loops of the same ten songs can get you down after awhile. But nothing, and I mean nothing, gets people down more than holiday travel. It can seem as if the whole world is going exactly where you are at exactly that same moment. Long lines at the airport and the stop-and-frisk tactics of the TSA have you irritated before you even get inside the dry, recycled air palace that is an airplane. Dehydrated and puffy, you stumble off of the plane, greet your relatives and immediately seek to wrap your taste buds in the creamy comfort of a spiked eggnog. Shoot. You deserve it, girl!

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I have always, for as long as I can remember, been bothered by my face. When I was young, elementary school-aged, my chin was the problem. It was little and pointy and I always felt that it looked like an afterthought, like I had been rolling around in the womb and going through the pre-birth checklist, “Head: lips, eyes, ears, nose….oh wait…CHIN!” and then it appeared, popped on at the very last minute.

I became aware of the crookedness of my teeth since age nine and soon after, stopped smiling with my mouth open until I got the ultimate suburban accessory– braces. Years later, my teeth came back to haunt me in the form of a Virginia Museum of Fine Arts Fall 1996 brochure. I remember my classmates coming screaming into the cafeteria, waving orange and purple letter-sized pamphlets. “Kerri!! Kerrrrrriiiiiiii! Is this youuuuuuuuu?!!!” And it was. On the cover, I’m talking the entire cover, was 8 year old me, teeth-besnaggled and on full display. At the sensitive age of 11, this was the ultimate humiliation.

I grew into my face and my teeth, assisted by nearly 5 years of braces, straightened themselves out. I battled acne all through my teenage years and ran a constant battle with the blemishes and hyper-pigmentation that that acne left behind. I, fortunately, had great skincare and boy, did I have makeup. Makeup helped me to FINALLY feel pretty. I was never one to glop it on but it did have a certain placebo effect for me. I had a good face underneath it all but with my magical makeup, I could banish the dark circles that had always plagued me, I could give myself some eyebrows (any shape I wanted!) and I could make people believe that I was beautiful.

But recently, I spent some time with a friend who has known and seen me in nearly every state imaginable, from pukey ill to black-tie ready. I hadn’t put my makeup on yet and he said unprompted, “You know, you’re not really one of those girls who needs makeup. I don’t mind it, but you look pretty good already.”

That struck me. So last week, I went to work without makeup. Intentionally. I was fully dressed and about to do my face and then, I stopped. I looked at myself in the mirror. Really looked. My skin was soft and smooth. I’d started using BeautiControl’s new Instant Radiance Beauty Balm (full review forthcoming) so my skin was actually kind of glowing. I was there and that was me and I was happy and healthy. I looked at myself in the mirror and I finally felt alright.

Kerri, 4 years old.

Four year old me, the thumb sucking Olympian.

Kerri, The Clents and Kendra

My godfather, Clenton, having a DC day with, from left, 10 year old me, my godbrother “Little” Clent, and my sister Kendra.

No makeup.

Me at 29. No makeup, no filter, no editing and apparently, no earrings.