I woke up the next day hair-free (after a hair removal treatment) and in horror.
I had a beard of pimples, reader. Worse even, I looked like I had been attacked by a swarm of bees.
I felt saddened and dismayed and supremely angry at myself and the person who had administered the hair removal treatment. I made a complaint but received no response. I felt utterly helpless again. I stayed in my house for two weeks knowing that if I left my house I would need to wear make-up. I only exposed myself to visit a skin care clinic and get food, which was agonizing to do. All I could think about was whether they were as shocked as I was looking at my skin. Whether they felt as sorry for me as I felt for me.
You’ll be surprised to read that leaving my house without makeup and having my skin for all to see was not completely horrible. I know I have said so much about the pain of my experience, but from this experience, I was surprised to find that there was also learning. What this situation forced me to do was to notice the thoughts that pervade my mind when I expose my flaws. This insight helped me to notice the seriousness of my negative self-talk. I would never say these things to someone else, so why would I say them to myself, I wondered. I decided enough was enough. And in making this decision, I was finally able to accept my situation in its entirety. Yes, I have bad adult acne.
Somehow, even in my embarrassment, I found a freedom. If people can see me at my worst and still be kind, then perhaps I can endure this. I decided to take some risks and hang with friends with no make-up on. Facing myself and allowing others to face me gave me the opportunity to experience something different than my previous experiences. My previous experiences had become expectations, which were now being tested.
My friends were extremely caring and understanding in ways that I knew were genuine. It did not feel as if anything had changed between us. This was so monumental to me. It helped me to see that I could be loved even if I feel I am at my worst. But it took me taking the risk to see what their reaction would be. And because of their acceptance, I began to become more accepting of myself, flaws and all.
This experience was about me learning how to be more accepting of my whole self, not just the fact that I had acne. To me, my adult acne was just an outward indication of a bigger inner problem of weak self-esteem. It led me to ask myself, “How can I take care of myself when I don’t like myself?” Humans are complex so of course, my acne was not the sole cause of my low self-regard. I had a lot of reasons to feel the way I felt about myself, and my acne was a trigger for a deeper conflict within myself. In realizing this, I knew that even if I did one day get clear skin, that would not change the real issue underneath the superficial symptom. It was clear that my journey toward getting clear skin was really a journey about feeling better about me on the inside as well as the outside. In knowing that, everything changed.