The Good Years In 8th grade, I had a best friend who was outrageously jealous of my complexion. She wasn’t a sufferer of acne or anything else that damages the skin (and self-confidence right along with it, albeit) but she simply claimed I had the skin of a Barbie Doll and longed to know my secrets. Well sadly for my friend, my religious regimen of cheap makeup, lack of sunscreen, and medicine cabinet empty of magical face wash was of no help in her pursuit of a glowing complexion. Somehow, for reasons I cannot even fathom now, my skin was exceptionally soft and clear without any help of mine. I didn’t even really think about my skin; I took it for granted, existentially so.
…How I Miss You, Junior High Walking into freshman year, my weekly schedule became filled to the brim with activities: school work, softball practice, club meetings, church services, family plans, social events, and so on. I was constantly moving, and constantly setting extremely high achievement standards for myself in every aspect of my life. In addition to my high standards came a high-stress level, and with a high-stress level, a not-so-glowy complexion (read, terrible complexion). Black heads, white heads, redness- it all jumped on my face at once. I wanted to shove my face in a bag and stare at my 8th-grade yearbook picture until I willed my old skin back onto my body.
I am now a junior in college, and throughout all of high school and college thus far, I never remedied my acne. Rather, it continuously got worse. Last year, my moderate-persistent pustules turned into severe cysts, and I spent all of summer 2016 just trying to manage my skin enough to feel comfortable looking in a mirror, let alone facing anyone in public. I wanted to cry constantly-I turned my skin into my whole being, letting it define my value above anything else. I was consumed by it, spending all my time wishing it would go away and hating myself for not getting it under control. After several months of this I had subconsciously formed these beliefs:
1. My skin significantly defines my essential worth as a person 2. Nobody accepts me. 3. Everyone only notices my skin; I am not beautiful anymore.
The Fix: it’s not what you think In September 2016, I met a wonderful guy who challenged those beliefs - a guy who doesn’t look at me and see my acne, who incessantly tells me I am invaluable, who stares at me without makeup in all my cystic-faced glory and still calls me beautiful with all the awe in the world captured in his eyes. In September 2016, I realized that more than my need to eradicate the symptomatic cause of my self-deprecation, I needed to eradicate the poison in my mind that told me acne defines me. I started literally looking in the mirror every morning and saying:
I am not my skin. I am not my skin. I am not my skin.
I started posting pictures on Instagram of my face without makeup, challenging the lies in my mind that told me I wasn’t worth being seen in that condition. I started believing it every time someone called me beautiful instead of assuming they were staring at my breakouts. I started writing lists of things that are inwardly beautiful about me instead of focusing on what was outwardly unaccepted by much of beauty culture.
I spent months focusing on reconciling all of the broken ideas in my mind that had clung to me when my acne journey began and started accepting myself as I was. Active acne, pock scars, hyperpigmentation- It’s just a part of my body, not who I am. Now, with a renewed mind, I have revisited the dermatologist and begun my healing process but this time, I’m not waiting for a clear skin to deliver my self-worth.