My greatest accomplishment so far of 2019 has been my Tedx talk, “ A Tragedy called Perfection”, where I share my struggles with my skin. As you may know, all my life I’ve struggled with my skin. My skin has always caused me issues. From developing a pimple in the third grade to now having psoriasis, my skin has always been my biggest physical insecurity.
I remember throughout my skin journey, I tried nearly every single product. And with each jar of product, came this image of 'perfection', if only I use this cream then I can live this image of perfection and all my problems will go away! Instead, because of my ultra sensitive skin, my skin would get worse and break out.
What did I learn through this process? Of creating my Tedx Talk?
Well, for one, the process of creating this talk took way longer than I expected. This story is so personal. How do I take everything from my life, all my thoughts, feelings and insecurities and compress it in a 16 minute speech? I had ideas after ideas, I had a google doc of almost 75 pages of drafts and ideas. It was truly painful to delete entire paragraphs and pages of my speech to keep it under the 18 minute mark. What do I truly stand for? What is my purpose in life? And how can I share that to help others?
For me, my struggle with my skin is a symptom of a bigger issue internally.
My determination to ‘fix’ my skin so it would appear ‘perfect’ was my obsession with trying to ‘fit in’. Oh, how I desperately wanted to fit in with everyone else-I wanted to have clear skin like those sunkissed girls in their bathing suits. I wanted to look like that image of barbie, have those eyes that seemingly changed color with the environment, long eyelashes, lithe physique. I wanted to fit in to this ‘image’ that society would sell to us.
Because I thought, if I ‘fit in’, then I will be accepted, and if I’m ‘accepted’ then I”ll be ‘loved’ and if I’m 'loved, accepted, respected', well then I will have the courage to be who I am and everyone will love me for that.
But that’s so backwards. Shouldn’t it be the other way around? Instead of struggling to find external acceptance, we need to accept ourselves internally. We should be confident in our own selves regardless of what the external world tells us we should be.
What's The Hardest Lesson I Learned?
Of course, it’s way easier said than done. The hardest thing we’ll have to learn how to do is accept ourselves, fully. And that takes a lifetime, and many elders still struggle with that.
And throughout this year of working on my Tedx talk, I’ve learned to remain true to my roots and the mission of Banish, and of course my own personal mission. Banish is unconventional-we are different. From our freshly made products, to only selling on our website, to even the packaging and pickiness of our ingredients, we’re not like any other skincare brand out there.
We’re vertically integrated and control nearly every process from production to delivery to marketing to customer service. We are the definition of a small business in every sense of the word, we take pride and care of every single product shipped, we truly care about our Banish soldiers and want to learn about them in every way possible. Every day I wake up and look at the orders-I look up our customers, our Banish Soldiers, because I want to know who they are, what they do, what they’re like. I recognize some names on our most loyal Soldiers. I read through every single review.
We want to stay away from pressure to be any brand but who we stand for here at Banish. I’ll never show you aspirational images of you with perfect skin, I’ll never sell you image of poreless, scar-free, wrinkle free skin. I'm straight up: I’ll always tell you that our obsession with our external appearance is a symptom of a bigger issue that no skincare product can ever fix.
For the rest of the year, I want to focus on our mission: how can we spread the word that external beauty doesn’t solve what is hurting underneath?
Join me in spreading the word! It’s not the way you look that matters, it’s the way you feel
I stare at myself in the mirror. Huge big pimple, filled with pus, looking like it’s gonna burst. What do I do? It’s 8:53am, the school bus is coming in two minutes. I quickly wash my face, trying to avoid the big pustule. Damn, it bursts. Now blood is flowing out like a lava explosion oozing out. Where’s my band aid? Put a band aid on my nose. Run out the door. Get on the bus. Yes, I know the kids are staring, why is there a bloody band aid on her face?
Unfortunately, this was more of a usual occurance than a one time event. In the 3rd grade I received my first pimple. When I started developing acne, the once smooth and glossy skin , “or perfect skin” became peppered with marks, pimples, and scars. There’s an anxiety when something PERFECT starts losing its perfection… of course, when the pimples began coming in, this anxiety was so great I needed to find a way to make it PERFECT again. There was no way I could look back in the mirror and see that ugliness reflected back on me.
“If my skin isn’t perfect if it’s full of blemishes, would teachers want to call on me?
What about that cute guy who sits next to me in math class? Would he notice the scars on my face as I turn around to ask him for his homework?”
What I realized was this lack of perfection changed the way I viewed myself-
My parents and I were on a crusade. There was no way we would let my skin get worse.
We probably spent over $20,000 on trying to find a cure for my skin. Ironically, it seemed like the harder I tried, the worse it got. THe more products slathered on, the more my skin began to break out. This was a nasty perpetuating cycle. This became this vicious cycle of trying new products, having my skin negatively react nad break out form it, then trying another product, only to have my skin get worse in the long run.
BUT the inner voices in my head told me my skin needed to be perfect. I plead with myself, “i need to have perfect skin. I need it to look smooth in photos. I need it to raise in my hand in school. I need it to talk to my classmates. I need it so I can look at the cashier in the eyes so they see my EYES, not my skin. PLEASE”
I struggled so much to be perfect, because I thought, If I’m perfect, if I “FIT IN” if I am measured positively by my peers, nobody makes fun of someone who is perfect. that means I AM WORTHY. I BELONG. I’m VALUABLE. IM WORTHY
What I didn’t realize was I was fighting to control the image I would perceive myself back in the mirror. I was fighting for a way to love myself and perfection was the way for me to combat feelings of worthiness. Only if my skin is perfect, then I will have the courage to be myself.
The greatest tragedy was not the fact I had imperfect skin. the greatest tragedy was I was CONSUMED with this ideal of perfection, it occupied my thoughts and time, and in the process, the greatest tragedy was I hid who I really was in this struggle for perfection.
I had to fix myself.
I remember in college, when the acne got really bad-my perfectionism got the worst of me. I developed the freshman 15. So I would obsess over calorie counting and working out. Before heading to the gym for my two hour treadmill session, I layered myself with makeup-concealer, foundation, setting powder, rinse and repeat. Do a light job on the treadmill on that incline so you’re working out but not too much that you’ll sweat all your makeup off-i mean you don’t want people to see what your skin looks like without makeup? The worst nightmare of all was for people to see my real skin.
I was obsessed with trying to control the way I appeared.
It wasn’t until my darkest moment, that something needed to stop. I snapped. I was choking from this pressure.
At 21 years old, in my parents house on a Saturday night, I recorded a video of how I really felt-webcam on, terrible lighting, no makeup, speaking with no script, just talking for 10 minutes. Then upload to save, make sure no one will remember the username, call it ‘daiserz89’ something no one will remember or learn how to spell.
It was a terribly frightening feeling. I didn’t know what was gonna come out of it
Now 7 years later, 700 videos, I have multimilion dollar business, that wouldn’t have happened without that first video. I feel so fulfilled in what I do. Every morning I wake up so excited to work. Why? Because I lean into authenticity, not perfection; and that is the motto of my life every day. This company would never have started if I didn’t take the risk to post that video when I was 21 years old. From this video, it gave me the courage to share who I really was, at my most vulnerable point. And people loved me for that. They started sending me letters, comments, and I developed a following. For the first time I felt accepted for the way I was, flaws and all.
THE COURAGE TO BE AUTHENTICALLY MYSELF.
THATS SO SO SCARY. Copying others is easy, fitting into this ‘ideal’ makes us feel belonged and accepted. But to listen to your inner voice and have that courage to share that with others, and to take that risk of being rejected? Well that is terrifying.
Unfortunately this ‘dismissing our own thoughts to fit in with others’ happens more than we may be aware of. Think about a time: when you went along with something you didn’t feel was you
You felt pressured into doing something that you didn’t want to do
You decided not to speak out on a meeting because you felt pressure to ‘fit in’ with everyone’s opinions
Now my battle with perfection happened 15 years ago. This was also before the days of Instagram and iphones. I cannot fathom the pressure if I experienced what I had experienced today.
The pressure to ‘fit in’ and strive for perfection is at an all time high! This is detrimental to our society
Because of the consequences it has on mental health for young adults. You’ve heard the statistics
The average teen in 2019 spends 6 hrs a day on mobile devices. Much of that is spent on social media, seeing projected perfected images of one’s highlight reels. Likes, comments, followers are an easy yardstick for one’s ‘self worth’. I heard in the club “she has like 250k followers”, which is now a modern day yardstick for how ‘popular’ one is.
Correlation does not equal causation, but there is something permeating in the culture where the pressure to be anyone but yourself is so severe.
→The suicide rate for white children and teens was up 70% between 2006 and 2016, the latest data analysis available from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
And theirrates of depression and suicide have skyrocketed. I’d love to tell you those things are totally unconnected but SDSU psychology professorJean Twenge says, “Much of this deterioration can be traced to their phones.”
We are at risk for losing the next group of leaders, game changers, creative artists, innovators. The #1 leadership skill is creativity. How do young adults have the time to explore themselves and be creative when there is so much screen time spent on external measures of validation? The washington Post says leisure reading is at an all time low. Are young adultsArt, music, reading, writing, building, exploring, drawing or dancing as often as they used to?
THIS MOMENTUM TO STRIVE FOR PERFECTION IS SO GREAT: THIS NEEDS TO STOP. The studies show young adults are unhappier than ever before, and the time spent on screens is higher than ever before. Time spent on the arts is less than ever before, young adults feel pressure for the struggle to be perfect.
As I discovered, the only way to feel fulfillment was to have the courage to be myself. And oh, that’s the hardest thing anyone will have to do. To not only understand who they are fully, but to have the courage to share with the world all their imperfections.
SO where do we start? How do we find out WHO WE ARE? And not only who we are, but how we can have the courage to share who we are to the world? I’m not asking for us to burn our phones. But if each and every one of us can be cognizant of what this semblance for perfection is doing to our mental health and the mental health of those around us, then we can create change, little by little.
So I’ve devised for these 4 tips to help us figure out who we are:
Spend time alone: Too often are we influenced by expectations from family, friends, society. What I love doing is spending time by myself. It may be scary being alone, because it means you need to be comfortable with your thoughts. You have time to think, you have time to observe. One thing I love doing is traveling by myself. Taking a solo trip to europe or the city next door is a great way to make you feel like you can trust and rely on yourself-without any external validation. Even if you don’t travel, having a staycation or just spending time by yourself and learning how to ‘be bored’ is a great way to cope with your thoughts. You have the freedom to be bored? Learn how to be at ease with your own thoughts, spend time to think. Can you remember the last time you were insanely bored out of your mind? Let’s take baby steps. Schedule 30 min few times a week to just think and stare, be bored, sit on a bench and just think. You’d be surprised how uncomfortable you may be...
Change your relationship with social media. Of course everyone says to ‘stay off it’ but that’s way easier said than done-especially when we have the top programmers in the world figuring out how to make us addicted!
Take a risk to post something vulnerable: I challenge you to post or share something that is a bit vulnerable or imperfect about yourself. Maybe you wake up with a pimple-post that. Or a selfie without makeup #nomakeup. The other day, I saw an influencer post a photo of her in the hospital going through her miscarriage. The engagement and support was overwhelming. Sometimes sharing a bit of vulnerability allows us to connect better with those around us. In fact, for our company’s instagram the posts that get the most engagement are the raw, unfiltered, relatable content. If I didn’t take that risk to post that YouTube video, I wouldn’t be on this stage today. You can start small, but practice that muscle to share vulnerability.
you’re feeling overwhelmed, dont be afraid to delete xyz :Delete social media: now I don’t mean going ‘cold turkey’, because of societal pressures/influences.As I mentioned in #1, all we need is to be alone with our thoughts in order to learn who we authentically are. Deleting social media allows us to think in between those times where we normally would scroll ‘waiting for the bus, in line, walking down the street’ it’s amazing how uncomfortable we are without being able to scroll through our phones. Recently I had anxiety during the holidays seeing everyone’s ‘perfect family holiday photos’ it triggered feelings of not belonging, so what did I do? I deleted instagram from my phone for a month. It was very difficult at first, but I realized I didn’t feel the pressure to document and share every moment-I could enjoy that lovely christmas dinner.
Make time for the creative: In creative endeavors, there is no standard for ‘perfect’. It’s all about expressing yourself. Currently, much like leisure reading, engagement in the arts is at an all time low. Engage in something that is more about expression than it is about fitting into a certain standard. Play music, dance your heart away, paint, write, or even… read an actual book. When you spend more time focused on expressing yourself you’ll worry less about trying to ‘fit into’ what the standard should be. There is nothing I love more than getting lost in that ‘flow’, that moment where all time stops and I’m so entranced in my craft. Most recent experience I had was of video editing -I was at a coffee shop working on my video, lost in my craft. I missed phone calls, I didn’t have anything to eat or drink or go to the bathroom. The staff had to come over to tell me the cafe was closing. Make more time for activities that get you in ‘the flow’.
Practice your courage muscle in times of imperfection-take small risks. Practice being authentically you. Take time, to do what you want to do or be who you want to be, regardless of what others say. It doesn’t need to be a huge heroic act of courage; it could be something small, like sharing your opinion in class or in a meeting. It could even be taking the risk to have a hard conversation with a close friend. It’ll feel scary at first, but over time, like with any muscle you’ll be able to lean into yourself. And that’s how you build your intuition. That’s how you know when something doesn’t ‘sit right’ or ‘feel like you’. Even for me, in even applying for this TED talk, i had to use my courage muscle. I had to use that muscle to think of an idea that is mine and take a risk to share my story and my opinions. But without these little exercises of courage, I wouldn’t be here on the red dot today.
So today I challenge you: practice the courage to be authentically you. Strip away from the chains of perfection. As in the cited study of Top Regrets of the dying, The #1 regret is “I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me. “