I was having dinner with a four year old the other night. She looked at me, got up real close and whispered, “What are those spots in your face? Did you get a dog bite?”
Talk about shade.
It’s always a little shocking when someone looks at my face too long or says something about my skin. Not shocking as in “how dare you actually acknowledge this!” But a literal shock. Like an electric jolt snapping through my entire body until I’m instantly back to that insecure place where I thought all anyone would ever notice about me was my bad skin.
But it’s just a shock. A singular instant. A quick biting pain. I smiled and said nah. She moved on and so did I. But sitting there thinking back to all the other moments someone looked or pointed or prodded and I receded, receded, receded, I was thrilled to realize…I didn’t care anymore.
Because I used to really care.
I didn’t get acne till college. Maybe it was the stress, the freshmen fifteen, or just the fact that acne doesn’t actually have an age limit. But I got hit suddenly and without warning. They came hard, I fought back, and the wreckage is what I’ve been struggling to manage ever since.
People tell me it’s not “that” noticeable. It could have been worse. And maybe that’s true and to be fair (knock on wood) it has left me well enough alone lately. But people who haven’t had acne don’t get it: once you get those clusters of red, swollen, painful little lumps, and once they give way to deep, dark, peppered little divots and scars, it’s all you notice. I was obsessed and anxious about my skin, insecure about what people saw, what people thought.
When I was in London, a stranger came up to me. She got real close so I knew just what she was looking at. I remember my heart racing, my breaths turning shallow. I wanted her to say anything else, to look anywhere else, but I knew what was coming.
“What are those holes on your face?”
But I didn’t say that. I went in the bathroom and cried. I felt so utterly small in that moment, so completely traumatized and worthless. It sucked. Acne sucks. I would cake on the foundation, the concealer, every new BB cream Sephora shoved in my face. I wanted to fill the holes, even out that damn discoloration. But people would still notice. I would still notice. And I would feel so defeated.
That was years ago.
So yesterday when a small child pointed and prodded, I didn’t cry. I thought about it but I joked about it — and I rolled out of bed the next day and still didn’t touch the makeup drawer. Why? Where did this wave of self-security come from? Let me tell you:
I am dangerously self-obsessed. I think I’m the bees knees. As my little sister would say, I am the number one babe. And I have run out of f’s to give.
People are so turned off by self-confidence. I’m not sure why. It’s like I’m meant to wallow in insecurity, to never be confident because there are so many ways I don’t compare. I should look in a mirror and pick apart my reflection. I used to. But I don’t anymore.
I remember the first time I went to work without makeup. It wasn’t some magical thing where people were like “wow did you do something with your hair?”. Trust me, people noticed. But I didn’t care. I wanted to see my face as more than my scars. I wanted to be comfortable in my own body. I wanted to stop depending on makeup to feel appealing*. I wanted to be more than the embarrassment and frustration and insecurity revolving my stupidly porous face. And that moment, to be right on the nose, is the first time I felt truly comfortable in my skin. (puns on puns on puns).
But I was thinking about all this wondering how exactly I went from crying in the bathroom over the mere acknowledgement of my scars to pulling a Kanye and thinking, you know, I’m pretty rad. And I think I traced it all out:
- Watch the Kardashians. (srsly)
- Find friends who have better things to do then sit around listing flaws.
- Travel the world — and always pack light — and realize your kickass life means there’s too much to do and see to worry about always looking GQ ready.
- Take a picture a day for a year because nothing will make you feel more self-obsessed than needing another photo.
- Stand up for people who post selfies because that is #goals.
- Get at least one bad one haircut. Because a bad haircut means no one, not even you, is going to notice your bad skin.
- Instead of phone calls, facetime everyone. Get used to seeing your reflection at your happiest (i.e. talking to people you love) so that you begin to realize your ugly mug is actually pretty cute.
- Work out — not to be thin but because nothing will make you feel more confident and beautiful than realizing your own strength. That glow up is real.
- Insist on photoshoots. Become obsessed with photo ops. Take literally thousands of pictures of your happiest moments, your best friends, your love, your self because any time you look back at those, no matter how hard your psyche tries to say “omg look at your face” you’re just thinking about how amazing it all was.
- Involve yourself in anything else so that your skin falls way down on the list of “things I care about.”
- Work your angles. Emphasize your assets. Because maybe you won’t ever feel fly under fluorescent light, but you can still figure out what makes you feel like the fire emoji.
- Have a mantra. Think of it all the time (when you’re feeling bad about yourself, when you’re feeling good) so it echoes constantly back at you. Mine? “imma boss a** bish”
- Also, start a blog. It really upped the levels of my self-involvement.
There’s this quote from the movie The Hours. It’s about Virginia Woolf and in it her character says “To look life in the face, always, to look life in the face, and to know it for what it is…at last, to love it for what it is, and then, to put it away…” (tbh, it’s about suicide and it’s a pretty tragic scene. But still!) I think about that line sometimes. Because I don’t think there’s any shame in feeling pain and insecurity and even loathing for our struggles. And I don’t think it’s silly to feel that pain and insecurity and loathing about acne.
Just like I don’t think it’s silly to write an entire blog post about thinking that.
But I also think we must learn to just…put it away. To let it go. To realize we are infinitely more than our flaws and that even our flaws make us braver, stronger, cooler. So ALERT THE MEDIA because I am feeling pretty comfortable and confident and even cool these days. And it’s not because the acne has died down or because I got a boy to love me. My weight fluctuates, my skin still gets blotchy. I sometimes look at these photos and hate myself. But I can also just move on. Because I am so much more than my sometimes-crappy, forever-pitted skin.
So, yeah, when a little girl asks if a dog bit my face it can sting a little. For a moment I’m right back in those moments of insecurity and self-loathing thinking “gosh, why couldn’t I just have completely unremarkable skin?”. But then I can remember I’ve had an epic life and my skin is not a reason for or against that. It’s just a few square inches of my body that I can finally let just do it’s thang. Meanwhile, I’m gonna keep caring about me, taking care of me, because — I’ll say it again — I am a boss ass bish.