For most of my teenage life I believed you could experience only one of two things:
Being Pretty Or Having Acne
My struggle with acne started in primary school. At a time where kids my age were obsessed with making daisy chains, I was fixated on dragging my mum down to Boots to buy me endless bottles of Clearasil.
“ It’s just apart of growing up” my mum told me.
The other parts of “growing up” weren’t exactly relevant to my life at this point. As a pre-teen it felt like the girls around me were going up bra sizes and starting their periods, the only sign of impending adulthood were the spots that covered my face.
To this day I can recount the stomach dropping feeling I experienced when a girl in my high school changing room asked if I had chicken pox on my back whilst getting dressed after P.E. I changed in the toilets from then on.
Body acne unlike the acne I had on my face, could be hidden under clothing. Even in summer I’d bake in long sleeve tops in order to prevent people seeing my back. Every time I took my shirt off it felt like I was revealing a deep dark secret. It reminded me a lot of that episode of Doctor Who , where Donna, the Doctor’s assistant gets a massive stag beetle stuck to her back. I resonated greatly with that episode. The spots on my back were painful too , so much I’d often wake up with blood stains on my pyjamas.
Acne on my face hurt just as much as the judgemental looks I received from people. If I covered it with makeup, I was only told it would make my skin worst. Whereas if I went bare faced; because I woke up too late to put makeup on before school or I didn’t want to put on makeup that day I was met with people urging me to take “pride in my appearance”
Acne and being pretty were completely separate concepts in my mind at this point. There wasn’t a correlation , that someone could suffer from acne and still be a beautiful person inside and out.
You couldn’t have a spot on your check ( because your period was due next week) and still be attractive. There was no amount of foundation that could make textured skin look pretty.
Having acne can be an extremely isolating experience. Even tough surprisingly most people suffer from some form of it at one point in their lives. It has taken several years of challenging the idea that I need clear skin to be attractive. We are often our harshest critic. I’d spend hours standing in front of mirror criticising my skin. Whereas I’d always feel inclined to remind my friends how beautiful they were no matter what they looked like.
Sometimes enough is enough. Sometimes you just have to roll with it. The pimple on your cheek from eating too much ice-cream doesn’t stop the fact that; you were eating an ice cream because summer’s nearly here, that you were sat in a park with some of your closest friends, that you could hear children laughing on the swings or that you could feel the warmth of the sun on your skin.
I am the happiest person on earth when I have a 99 in my hand and the chocolate sauce around my mouth is way more interesting than a temporary spot on my cheek.
Nor can my acne confine the things I experience into a box. Those experiences make me feel beautiful. Acne does not make you any less of person, if anything it was increased my ability to relate and empathise with others.
I’ve finally started to embrace my natural skin more; my skin is a part of me but certainly doesn’t define who I am. This summer I plan on wearing off the shoulder tops and no makeup and this time around acne will not play such a huge part in a life.
I am beautiful and I have acne. And there is a connection.
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