I am terrified to write this.
Actually, let me rephrase: I am terrified to write down my deepest insecurities on virtual paper and then present them to the world.
Everyone has things they don’t like about themselves; this isn’t news. But how often do we hear people tell us their flaws in a loving, accepting way? Pretty much never. I think that’s because even when someone has accepted their flaws, they still don’t really want to shout them out to the public. It might make them feel not good enough.
We have fear to blame for that feeling. Fear of vulnerability, fear that people won’t like us if they really know us, fear that we’re not acceptable just the way we are.
Fear that we don’t belong.
This is bullshit. I think this fear we all have is completely made up inside of our heads, and I don’t think it belongs there. And so it is with this in mind, that I share my fears.
Until recently, I was insecure about my skin. I started getting acne when I was 12 years old. My first pimple was the worst thing that ever happened to me, and I immediately ran to my mom’s makeup to cover it up. It gradually got worse, so I started wearing more makeup.
By the time I entered high school, I had awful, cystic acne covering my entire face. Foundation plus cover-up plus powder was my every day necessity. I played sports and sweating made me feel awful because my mask would run and come off.
People would see what I really looked like.
It wasn’t like it was only in my head, either. I was generally well-liked, but that didn’t stop people from feeling the need to comment on my skin. I vividly remember some boys making fun of me for wearing so much makeup, and even more vividly remember a comment describing my face as having warts all over it. I would pinch myself to try to keep from crying, and I would have to run to the bathroom when tears filled my eyes.
I am still angry when I remember this, but I am working on forgiving it.
I was the girl who would go to summer camp and bring her foundation into the shower. I was deathly afraid of anyone seeing me without my makeup on. Whenever I went back to my room, I would touch up my face. My life subconsciously revolved around my skin, even though I didn’t fully realize it.
I finally saw a dermatologist who gave me pills and creams galore to fix my problem. It worked well enough for me to be utterly devastated when it suddenly stopped working. I was also sick of taking medicine every single day. My acne came back with a vengeance, as if it was angry at me for getting rid of it in the first place.
My skin was the reason I first started eating healthy, and my dieting habits got worse and worse. I cut out every food imaginable, and it quickly turned from being about my skin to being about my entire body being unhealthy. However, I wasn’t unhealthy—I just thought I was.
The funny thing was, the more foods I eliminated, the worse my skin got. Weird rashes would come and go. I was tired and had headaches all of the time—I was miserable. Through all of this, my skin stayed in its horrible condition.
Eventually, I realized I was giving myself an eating disorder, so I decided to stop. I went back to eating anything I wanted, whenever I wanted. It wasn’t easy, but I stuck with it.
Anything I desired went in my mouth, especially if I didn’t think I should have it. I gained a couple pounds, but I stayed relaxed. When my body realized I wasn’t hurting it anymore, everything balanced out. Ironically, my skin improved during this time.
A little while later, I did the same thing with makeup. I didn’t plan it, but one morning I really just woke up, went to the mirror to do my usual routine and realized I was actually just sick of it all. I was fed up with washing my face and putting on makeup to cover every little red spot. I was fed up with having to wear makeup to feel pretty. So I looked at myself… And for the first time in probably eight years, I didn’t put makeup on.
For those who don’t have bad skin, this probably seems a little ridiculous, but it was one of the hardest things I have ever done—maybe even the hardest.
I was scared all day.
I even brought my makeup with me, just in case I couldn’t do it. I don’t know what I thought would happen because it didn’t seem to be a logical feeling. I just felt awful. Every time someone looked at me, I expected them to focus on my skin.
And I also started to have strange thoughts come into my head—thoughts I didn’t know I even ever had. It was like my subconscious fears started to speak up, and I would think things like “Wait, people still like me even though I don’t look pretty,” and “People are being nice to me even though my skin is bad.”
The biggest thing, though? I felt free. I felt like I was finally being truly authentic with everyone in the world, even though they didn’t notice a difference. When a boy asked for my number, it was because he thought I was pretty, it wasn’t because my makeup was pretty. I could sweat, let it dry on my face and not shower.
Everything felt more real to me. And nobody noticed! It was amazing and frustrating at the same time. I felt like my entire world was changing, but no one could tell.
I actually stopped washing my face too, just preferring to be completely done with it. There’s an actual regimen people do called the caveman regimen, but I didn’t even think of it that way at first. I just wanted to be done. It was kind of weird at first, but it was a major stress reliever to not worry about my looks.
My skin went through some weird stages, but after a few weeks it surprisingly looked noticeably better. And now, almost 2 months later, it’s the best it’s been in a long, long time. I’m not even sure if it improved, or if my perspective of it just changed. I think it was a combination of both.
I’m not ashamed of it anymore.
The reason I’m embarrassed to post this is not because of the condition of my skin, but because I can’t believe I placed so much importance on it throughout my life. I hate makeup, too—I’m not one of those girls who loves putting it on and trying out new looks.
The only makeup that has touched my face in the past two months has been mascara, maybe once or twice. I hate putting it on, I hate taking it off, I hate the chemicals, and I hate the entire idea of it. The most interesting part to me is that it’s now hard for me to understand why other people wear it.
My perspective has completely changed.
I’m sharing this because I have discovered, firsthand, that facing our fears will allow us to conquer them. No matter how hard it is—and it will be terribly, excruciatingly hard—it is possible. It could be telling someone that we love them. It could be showing someone what we truly look like. It could be reading what we wrote in public.
It could be sharing our deepest secret. It could be anything, really, as long as it makes us feel painfully vulnerable. Vulnerability becomes addictive; once we realize its power, we will crave it again and again. Just as we are, we are special right now. Not later, not skinnier, not prettier, not better.
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Assistant Editor: Kerrie Shebiel/ Editor: Rachel Nussbaum