Remember the first time you looked into the bathroom mirror and saw that giant bright-red third eyeball in the middle of your face, pulsating like a reactor core in the spasms of a nuclear meltdown. In reality, it was no bigger than a pinhead. But in your mind's eye it was Mount Zitna, a pimple so large you imagined the crew of the space shuttle staring down and pointing at it from outer space.
You knew touching it would only make it worse. But you touched it anyway. You couldn't help yourself. First you touched, then you picked, then you squeezed until tears welled up. The next thing you knew that tiny red dot had turned into an oozing, greasy, volcanic eruption. You kept squeezing until the minuscule blemish morphed into a gaping scab that left a lifelong scar.
Let the self-loathing begin!
Back then how could you have known that the sprouting of your first zit would mark a turning point in your life? From the first pick, your self-esteem ascended from a hidden chamber deep in your subconscious where it had been lurking through all of those years of being a carefree kid. It's eighth grade and your self-consciousness arrived in all its pubescent glory, splattered on the bathroom mirror.
As you frantically searched your mom's makeup cabinet for a "cover-up" to mask the self-inflicted damage, little did you realize you were experiencing your first moments as a fully self-aware human in a world of petty juries and judges. Every decision made from this first pick forward, whether you thought about it or not, would be guided by your need to be accepted, to be liked, to be be loved by someone. Anyone. Everyone.
The legend of Mount Zitna and the eruption of one's self-awareness is a timeless tale. Today we hear the same stories, about the next crop of pimply 8th graders struggling with insecurity, trying to find a place to fit in on the asphalt playground of life, panicked over every tiny blemish, perceived or otherwise.
The need to feel accepted and liked by others for everything from our appearance to our opinions is magnified by the online world in which we live. The self-consciousness that formed in junior high still lurks in the recesses of our emotional well being and is exploited by every Instagram post, Facebook comment and the number of "likes" we collect. Even when we're well established in grownup land, earning a solid living, raising kids and thriving on the Humanity Relativity Scale, we can't stop picking, and picking and picking.
In those moments, in front of the mirror or mobile screen, when being "liked" is lacking, the void is filled by insecurity. When insecurity prevails, two nasty mindsets often occur. We either begin to feel sorry for ourselves, and wallow in the drowning pool of self-doubt. Or we are driven to overcompensate by unleashing the full power of our egos to create massive aura bursts of self-importance. Both directions ultimately have the potential to embroil our lives with a host of perpetual habits that grow into mountainous obsessions.
The more we dig into the vulnerability of our Mount Zitna, the more we expose ourselves to the risks of self-sabotage, loneliness, depression and addiction. These self-inflicted patterns are like viruses, not only afflicting your face, but also the essence of your soul.
So how can you stop picking and keep the emotional bacteria out of our pores? How can you look into the mirror and see your self-worth shining through, regardless of the verdicts, real or imagined? It's not easy. Change of perception does not occur suddenly one morning like it might in a Penny Marshall movie. But change it can. Change it must. Below are three psychological "hygiene" tips to help you shift perspective and heal those blemishes without leaving any scars:
1.) INVEST IN A DEEPER CLEANSER -- Aspire to heal deeper than just the surface. Seek solutions that address your core. Look within and identify all the magnificent and valuable traits that exist inside of you. Focus your social energy on people who genuinely appreciate digging below the superficial.
2.) MAKE YOUR HANDS MORE USEFUL -- Choose to spend less time on self-flagellation and more time on lending yours hands to those in need. The less energy you spend narcissistically obsessing about yourself, the more energy you will have to serve loved ones, neighbors, friends, and strangers.
3.) LOVE BEING SEEN -- No one is stronger and more powerful than the person willing to be fully seen. Own your imperfections and they will no longer be exploitable. Realize that your blemishes bear the unbreakable gift of bravery.
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