More than half of my life has been spent struggling with acne.
My grades in school
The quality of friendships and relationships I've had
My confidence or lack there of
My quality of Life was in jeopardy.
Over the years, this condition has done a number on me in ways I never fully realized until recently. Acne is not viewed as a "serious condition", yet it has serious psychosomatic effects on anyone who is experiencing it. Psychosomatic= pertaining to or involving both the mind and the body.
The following are 10+ ways I've personally allowed my acne to dictate my life and how I live it:
1. Upon waking up in the morning, one look in the mirror sets the tone for the rest of the day. The following is likely to happen:
A) You get angry and want desperately to rip your face off and then call out of work because you don't think you can take having your face stared at by your coworkers or be seen by strangers.
B) You become upset and ask yourself, "why me?" and then call out of work.
C) You get annoyed, say "here we go" and grab your "skin regime bag" proceeding to do your face cleansing routine. You then whip out your Grade A [fill in the blank] foundation. At times, it is still obvious you have acne, but you tell yourself, "the bills still have to be paid" and continue getting ready to start your day.
D) You completely ignore the mirror.
One day, I end up giving myself "the talk". I don't know if this is normal or if it's just me, but when it comes to depression, being aggravated, heart break or just overall negativity, it becomes emotionally exhausting and that's enough motivation alone to make me change my perspective and get myself moving. So I gave myself the talk. I looked in the mirror as much as I didn't want to and I was honest with myself. As I glanced over my face and all of its imperfections: the cystic acne along my jaw line, the hyperpigmentation across my forehead, the uneven skin, blackheads, whiteheads. I stated (not verbatim], "Being mad, angry or feeling sorry for myself is not going to make this problem go away. I know that I may have been a bit impatient with the current products I was using and may not have given them the full chance they deserved. I know that certain foods that I may love are not beneficial to my skin (i.e. Burger King/McDonald's french fries). If I'm going to be upset with anyone, I should be upset with myself. I'm hindering me. So today, yes, my skin is at it's worse, but the bills still have to be paid and that's not an excuse to call out of work. When I interviewed for the job, they interviewed me, not my pimples, the credentials on my resume, came from my hard work, not my pimples. When I got hired and made employee of the month, my pimples may have been there, but I did all of the work. If I continue to use my acne condition as an excuse to not live out a full life, before I know it, my life will be over.
It's important to have these self-talks. Those close to you are going to think they're helping you out by telling you, "it's not that bad" or "it's a temporary situation", but the truth is, no one knows if it's temporary. How are you suppose to manage your life if it's not? It takes courage! We owe it to ourselves to be great in life.
2. When random people or those close to you offer their unsolicited advice, you politely say thank you, but inside you hurt. On other days you become very irritated because sometimes you try to forget the condition of your skin. Some days you choose to pretend that nothing is wrong, but then that one person comes along and reminds you, completely killing your fantasy.
I have a lot of experience in customer service. I'm in people's faces daily, hourly and by the minute...and they are in my face. One time a pretty woman with flawless skin who looked to be in her early 30s came in for assistance. Long story short, she ended up giving me her business card. She specialized in microdermabrasion treatments. It was interesting because she asked that I reach out to her so that she can help me with my skin. She mentioned I had the potential to be a model. As if the only reason I'd want to have clear skin was to model. What about just having the courage to live a normal life, get out of the cave and be social? After doing some research on the microdermabrasion process, I learned that it wasn't something I could deal with considering you're peeling the top layer of your skin off to reveal a new layer. With a spray that ejects microcrystals. The process is a bit more in-depth than that, but you get the idea. It sounds super painful and my skin was already jacked up as it was. I wasn't going to take the risk, especially when keloids run in my family. There was another time an older lady from a church I attended pulled me aside and asked me for my phone number because she "had something to share with me". She was so secretive about it, it sort of scared me, but I was also curious. I didn't really know at first that the nature of the conversation was about a skin care product that she had full faith in, but she did eventually mention it. We exchanged phone numbers and she told me to call her. Later that day, we ended up playing phone tag. She left me a message wondering who I was and the nature of my call. At that point, I realized as much as I think that people go home thinking about my skin as much as I do, they don't. She didn't even remember what compelled her to exchange phone numbers with me in the first place! Yet we base our decisions of how we live our lives based on how we think others view us. All of the time spent, the memories lost, cancelled social outings with people because we choose to be (yes, it's a choice) paranoid about what other people think when it plays such an insignificant role in THEIR lives.
3. You have an extensive collection of over-the-counter skincare products, probably because of the type of people listed in #2. Even though you secretly dislike them for making comments about your face, you still went ahead and tried out some of their suggestions.
At one point, I could've probably started my own business selling off all of my OTC products I collected over time. All I saw were the dollar signs that I invested in my face sitting in my bathroom cabinet and dresser. That alone was enough for me to believe things were getting out of hand. It was also clear that I was never getting to the root of the problem. I ended up tossing a number of products that I was not using.
4. You don't look people in their eyes, you're judged as standoffish, considered flaky and confusing. Deep down this isn't who you are, but depending on how bad your latest breakout turned out to be you feel you don't have a choice but to react accordingly.
I know I'm not alone on this one. I've had plenty of days when my skin was not at its best. So often, I'd cancel on plans with my family, friends or a date. My friends would get upset at times, to the point where they stopped asking. It does get to that point. You try explaining why, but even in explaining it sounds so trivial. It's very difficult for those who are used to having clear skin to truly put themselves in my shoes. Sometimes I didn't have a choice to go out or not and ended up out with others. I would not look them in the eye because I felt as though they were examining my skin while we talked. I then realized, by looking away or down from them, I actually do give them the opportunity to look at my skin because I'm not looking at them! People judge you on how you act. How could I be upset about how people perceived me, if my actions came off unfriendly or reclusive?
5. You only go out at night.
I felt convinced that being out at night was far better than being out in the daytime. I sacrificed days on the beach until sunset with friends or taking my little brother to the park. Not taking long walks around town with my boyfriend or going to family cookouts and gatherings. Those are some of the best moments that you'll never get back again. Our days are numbered. There may not ever be another opportunity to spend time with the people you care about. What's going to be your reasoning for why you couldn't make it to the 4th of July family cookout?
6. You have a love/hate relationship with natural light or all light for that matter.
One minute I think my skin looks manageable. I go outside, happen to catch a glimpse at myself in another mirror and look on in horror. Light is so misleading and so are camera phones! Oh and don't go into Sephora. The lighting is designed for you to buy more makeup. It can be completely depressing.
7.You don't take many selfies. You dread being in front of cameras.
I don't really like being in the front of a camera. It's difficult when your friends love to take them. I spend more time behind the camera, which has helped take the heat off me. Since most people these days are interested in being captured doing the most.
8. You're a slave to your makeup.
There was a period of time when I could wear makeup. My hospitality job at the time required high maintenance everything. I soon became a Sephora fanatic. Easily spending $75-$100+ on makeup at a time. It got to the point where I did not like how I looked when I took the makeup off. I was so accustomed to seeing myself "enhanced". Alarms went off like, "No-No!" This can't be good, it was just as bad as buying products to solve the skin issue, now I'm masking the issue with other kinds of products. I was also spending way more money! What helped me fix this issue, came as an unexpected/unrelated big decision. I decided to go back to college and work as a student employee while finishing up my bachelors. This meant practically no money for the upcoming summer or duration of my time in school. I chose to turn down a manager's position because while negotiating my role, they weren't willing to work with me to allow me to go to classes and work at the same time. That was enough for me to make the change. Long story short, I was forced to cut back on my spending and makeup. In the process, I've learned to accept myself for how I look in plain sight. If I put on make up it will be by my own choice. Not because I believe I have to do it. Learning to love yourself and all of its imperfections takes time. It is a process. I'm not afraid to admit that I am still in the process, but I have come a long long way.
9. The minute your skin improves to your liking, you feel as though you can take over the world. You smile more, you work up the courage to be flirty, you're more social, you laugh. You do a complete 180.
Why can't I feel like this everyday or most of the time? What do I need to do to accomplish this? My perspective on life needed to change. It's one thing to say your going to do something, but putting action behind it is a completely different ball game. My perspective on work and my relationships with people needed to change. I came up with an action plan and it has worked wonders thus far.
10. You don't have a social circle or you're lacking in the friends department. They've given up extending the invitation to do fun things and getting a "No" in return.
Anyone who has lived with the condition for years may not realize how they've allowed ACNE to play the leading role in their lives. What you do, where you go, when you go, your attitude towards yourself, your attitude toward others and how you feel your being perceived are all as a result of this skin condition. You've focused entirely on the physical effects (the surface), but how often have looked at how you're being psychologically impacted by your skin.
If you take anything away from this post it is that you've given yourself an excuse to not live a full life.
As my 7th grade teacher used to make us recite whenever a student gave an excuse for why they didn't turn in their homework:
"Excuses are the tools of the incompetent. Used to build monuments to no one. Those who use them seldom succeed in anything they do." --Anonymous
Which point rings true for you or what would you add? Comment below!