I Used To Let My Acne Define Me

Here's how I moved on

I understand that my acne may be temporary, but it still torments me. I wake up pale-faced every day, but when I look in the mirror after washing my face, I see that the harsh redness that accompanies my acne is back. Hoping to see one thing in the mirror and seeing another every day makes this temporary condition feel like it will last forever.

It is easy for me to avoid my acne by not looking in the mirror or taking pictures, but it is impossible to stop others from seeing it. I want them to know that yes, I wash my face, and yes, I am aware that I don’t have porcelain skin. No, I don’t need anyone to remind me that my skin is defective. One dermatologist told me, "Delicate skin means smart brains." That kept me going for awhile.

For a long time, I let my acne stop me from being the confident person I usually am. I didn’t show my true feelings and instead tried to show confidence and happiness in everything I did. But it's hard to do that when I feel the total opposite on the inside. It's hard to do that when I look in the mirror, see my acne, and feel convinced that every single person has lied to me from the day I was born: I am not beautiful, not strong, and certainly not unstoppable.

I used to dread going to family gatherings because I knew that, despite their best intentions, my family would point out my acne no matter how clear I thought my skin looked that day. Before unplanned family get-togethers, I sobbed to my mom that I just wanted to stay home. She didn’t understand why I felt like this, but I just couldn’t come up with the words to explain how much it hurt to be constantly reminded that my face is red, bumpy, and in no way clear — or to be greeted with "we really need to get something for your face." I held the tears in until I was alone the first 1,000 times I heard these comments, but I knew one more too-frank comment about my skin would push me over the edge no matter how many people were watching.

My acne made me weak: I wasn’t human anymore, just a ball of tears. My acne turned me into a hermit crab and forced me to stay in my shell rather than go to the county fair or the ice arena with my friends — both things that a clearer-skinned version of myself would never turn down.

Social media only made things worse, because acne is considered gross and unwanted and therefore almost never shown. Most social media stars, or people with large followings that could easily be looked up to as role models, always appear to have clear skin, even if this might be misleading. I could always post overly edited pictures that hide my real skin, too, but in person no filter would be able to save me.

But now, I don't let these feelings stop me. Following a dark patch of acne and tears, I finally started to see the bright side. After watching many "how to cover acne" makeup tutorials, I watched one by Sara K on YouTube where she made clear that she covers her acne to enhance her beauty — not to make herself beautiful.

Finally, what my mothers and others who cared for me had said to me many times before made sense. Before, these words just made me feel worse, or perhaps I was too stubborn to hear them. I had to hear these words — that acne is temporary, and that anyone that thinks less of me because I have it does not deserve my time.

Now, I see that my acne is, in an odd way, a blessing. It's how my body shows me I'm alive. Every single one of my pimples has a story, whether about a time I got overly stressed or my hormones flared. My acne gives me emotion. When it’s gone, I will have to cry about something like boys or not having enough friends.

I can continue to look at my acne as my enemy or I can look at it for what it is: a piece of my DNA, a piece of my story, a piece of myself that informs how others perceive me. While I can’t control my DNA, I can control my perspective. I can continue to cry and try to hide my acne or I can walk with my head held high, shoulders back, and confidence seeping through my pores.

I have decided that while I wait for my acne to clear up, I will not wear makeup. It’s easy to think girls can fix their imperfections with makeup, but imperfections shouldn't be things we try to fix or even cover up at all: We should embrace them and wear them proudly, because they make us unique. I will now tell anyone who chooses to point out another's imperfections how rude this is. I don’t show up at their house saying they’re too old, too fat, too skinny, too sensitive, or too whatever, so they shouldn't do the same to me or anyone else.

I will probably cry once or twice more about my acne before it is gone. I will take pictures of myself and try my best not to feel bad that people can see the bumps on my forehead and cheeks. I will post that really good close-up my sister took of me but I previously refused to post because it also captured all my pores. I will take pictures and use them regardless of the red pimples accentuated by the flash.

Everything happens for a reason, so there’s a reason why I don’t have clear skin. From now on I will embrace my skin because it is just my shell, my outer layer. I’m going to focus on my personality, because that’s what really matters — that’s who I really am and what I have control over.

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