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What I’m really thinking: the beauty counter girl

When you walk into a department store, I’m the first person you see, surrounded by heavily made-up ladies (and occasionally gents) spritzing cologne, primping eyelashes, applying fatty unguents that boast sensational claims.

Where once I saw skin, I now see flaws: blackheads, dehydration lines, wrinkles and sagging contours. I see my own face the same way. Where once I saw quirkiness, I now see a droopy eyebrow that needs adjusting with makeup; where once I saw rosy cheeks, I see a complexion that needs correcting. My perfectly useful lips should be pinker, plumper and with a cupid’s bow.

Sometimes I hear myself repeating the same old lines about hyaluronic acid plumping out the skin and vitamin C boosting radiance, and think, “Is that the best you can do?” I work in an industry that convinces people to part with their cash in pursuit of a perfection that does not exist. I am betraying my sisterhood. It’s funding my MA – that’s my only justification. That, and I like playing with lipsticks.

As a beauty counter manager, I am often told I break the mould: not plastered in makeup; not patronising clients. I tell them the benefits of products, and I am honest. But I still need that sale – I need the commission to bump up my paltry wages. But what am I really thinking? “Go home and look in the mirror. You’re lovely – none of this matters.” And sometimes I say it.

• Tell us what you’re really thinking at mind@theguardian.com

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