Adult acne are two words that strike fear in anyone that's struggled with it. To most adults, acne is synonymous with puberty, awkward crushes and teenage years that they don't care to relive. But for the millions of adults that still suffer from moderate to severe adult acne, it can feel like aging backwards and forward at the same time. While I'm not comparing it to much more serious conditions that people suffer from, it can make you feel like an insecure teenager all over again. Only now, you're an insecure teenager in an adult body.
Before my stint with adult acne, I considered myself comfortable in my own skin, no pun intended. I was never the hottest girl in the room nor was I a thigh-gap-having size 2, but I took pride in the fact that I placed my value in what's on "the inside." Until I turned 30, moved to NYC and my usually clear skin was ravaged with pimples.
The worst thing about having acne in New York is that there's nowhere to hide. You're constantly 2 inches away from people's faces on the subway, sidewalks or at the local coffee shop. What's even worse is that trying to cover it with makeup only exacerbates the issue, due to all the smog and dirt in New York mixing with layers of foundation. So, it's pretty much just you and your pustules for all of Manhattan to see.
For the first time in my adult life, I was hyper-aware of every glance and raised eyebrow. It felt like everyone was staring at my inflamed face with sympathy or disgust. I started to imagine the narrative happening in their heads like maybe they were thinking I'd be pretty if I had clear skin or how they were so glad they didn't suffer from the same thing -- 95 per cent of the time, I'm sure I was just projecting my own feelings about the situation onto complete strangers that had more important things than my pimples to worry about. But being consumed by your own thoughts has a way of throwing logic out the window. Slowly, I became one of those "insecure" people I used to turn my nose up at. I started to keep my head down as much as possible and avoided going out unless I had to. The false veil of self-confidence I used to wear like a badge of honor slowly slipped off and I realized that the only reason I had been so comfortable in my own skin before was because I had nothing to feel uncomfortable about -- until now.
It's easy to judge people that inject their lips, suck out their flab or get multiple procedures to look younger. It may be difficult to understand why some people go to such great lengths to enhance their appearance. But before we take to Facebook and Twitter to broadcast our lofty opinions on self-love and confidence, we must realize that we haven't walked in their shoes. It's not easy, especially for women, to live in a society where distorted ideals of beauty are shoved down our throats at every turn.
From magazines to TV shows to every other billboard, we're subliminally conditioned to believe that we're less than ideal if we don't' look like a Kylie Jenner clone. While I'm not saying that it's okay to waste thousands of dollars on cosmetic surgery to look like some kid on a reality show, I'm simply saying that we should try to empathize instead of judging. Before I struggled with acne, if someone told me that they avoided going out because of pimples, I would have launched into an Oprah-style lecture on self-love and confidence. Now I understand that everyone's self-love and confidence journey is different.
Just because one woman is comfortable being a size 8 doesn't mean that another is. While the dangers of crash dieting, cosmetic surgery and other procedures are for another blog post entirely, the point of this one is simple -- don't judge someone else's insecurities when you have no idea what they've been through and what they struggle with on a daily basis. From the girl at work that wears too much makeup to the housewife with a face full of Botox, you only see the part of the story they allow you to see. Trust me, judgmental rants or workplace gossip about them isn't helping them feel any better about themselves. "People's criticisms of my lack of self-confidence are really motivating me to love myself" said no one ever.
My acne is now under control and I'd be lying if I said I'm not relieved. However, I don't regret my struggle with it because it taught me not to judge someone else for their relationship with how they look. My hope is that someday we'll live in a world where we place 100 per cent of our value in what's on the inside, but until that day comes, I hope we can be good to each other and lend a kind word rather than giving a judgmental side-eye about struggles that we don't understand.