Jessica Love posted something on her blog earlier today that really spoke to me. It was about insecurities and her own struggles with a particular insecurity. I think it really said something to me because I never would have guessed it. Often times I think most everyone around me is confident and beautiful and strong, never letting an insecurity getting the better of them. But maybe I’m wrong. Maybe there are more people out there like me than I think. I struggle with an insecurity, and just when I think I’m getting over it and stomping on its face, something happens that lets it drag me down again.
This is going to be an honest post. One I’m slightly afraid to write because it’s pretty personal to me. Something I don’t like to talk about, but I think it’s refreshing to read these posts, and maybe, just maybe, it can be refreshing to someone out there who goes through or has gone through something like this.
I have bad skin. There, I’ve said it for all the world to see. It’s just a reality of my life. In high school, I told myself it was okay because I’d grow out of it. But I haven’t yet, and I’m way past the age when it should stop being a problem. Sometimes it’s an outbreak all over my forehead. Sometimes it’s a monster spot on my chin that leaves a scar for several months. Sometimes, it’s an outbreak on my shoulder, leaving me opting for long sleeves rather than expose my skin to the world.
I learned to accept it and live with it. Hey, we all have imperfections. I’d go out without makeup sometimes. I’d let my picture be taken when I had a monster spot without trying to cover it up. But then a little over a year ago, someone said something to me, and I snapped.
“Hey, you should put toothpaste on your acne spots. It would really help your bad skin.”
I know this person wasn’t trying to be mean. She was trying to help. But the mere fact someone took notice enough to try to point out a solution (one I’d already tried, I’ve tried everything) made me start wondering if EVERYONE just stared at my skin when they talked to me. If everyone secretly thought, “Man, this girl needs to get her skin sorted out.” I went home and stared at my skin in the mirror. Every single spot glared at me.
I went through a pretty rough period after that. I started thinking about my skin ALL THE TIME. Literally every day. I started trying new skin care regimes, reading gazillions of articles online, trying new diets that were supposed to help, vitamins, medication from the doctor. And you know what happened? My skin got worse. It got on my neck, and it got on my back. It exploded all over my face. So my stress about it got worse. Repeat.
Around this time, I went to England for several months. And proceeded to have skin allergy issues. Beautiful red splotches all over my skin set off due to something or another in England (I still don’t know what). There was about a month there where I felt beyond insecure due to the combination of my regular old pimple issues and this new allergy. I hit a low point. Yeah, it sucked, but deep down, why did I let my insecurity take ahold of me? It was because I let the thought of people’s perception of me become too important. Because I thought people would look at me and think, “Ugly.”
And yet there was a guy I was seeing in England who thought I was beautiful. We got together when my skin was at the worst it has ever been, when I have never felt more unattractive. And while I would love to say I came to some sudden acceptance of all this on my own, it’s just not true. Seeing myself through someone else’s eyes helped. It really did. I started to see me for me, to see that skin really is just on the surface, and as cheesy as it sounds, that what’s inside is what matters.
I realized I needed to stop obsessing about my skin and focus on what is important in my life. Having acne is not the end of the world. Yeah, it’d be nice to have clear skin, but hey, I just have to accept that I don’t. Things could be worse. I am the way I am. Some people will like that, some won’t.
So, I treated the allergy, I stopped going on weird diets, and I stopped slathering special cleansers and creams on my skin.
And as crazy as this sounds, you want to know what happened when I stopped worrying about my skin? It got better. Not perfect, but much, much better. Some days I still break out, and some days I look at it in the mirror and cringe. But then I move on. Am I cured of my insecurity? No, I don’t think so. I’m sure I’ll have to deal with it again at some point. The important thing is, I think I’ve learned how not to let it consume me. Having some characteristic about yourself that someone might point at, laugh at or talk behind your back about isn’t what is dangerous. It’s letting your insecurity of that happening cripple you. In other words, don’t let the critics get you down, and especially don’t let the possibility of critics get you down.