Having had acne as long as I can remember, I know first hand the devastating experience it can have on your self esteem. Most people think nothing of leaving the house. They get dressed, slap on some makeup if they want and they are out of the door. For someone with acne it all depends on the state of their skin that day. Imagine your life being run by a skin infection that just won’t leave you, no matter what. It affects you on the outside as well as the inside. In my personal experience the only person to understand you if you have acne is someone else with acne. Only they know how devastating, depressing and isolating it can be.
For me, the first devastating comment on my acne came from a middle school teacher of mine. I met her about 6 years after school. I was about 23 at the time. She looked at me and with disgust commented “Your face is completely spoiled”. Imagine being 23 and someone saying this to you. The disgust on her face was what killed me inside. My day and the days that followed had been ruined. It was a never ending cycle. I got myself up and out of the house, only to be pushed back in by another insensitive comment. Trust me it was not very nice inside the house either, as I got comments there too. For me the worst comments came from family members. Of course they were all under the wonderful guise of “I’m just trying to help”.
From neighbours (who I did not even know existed) to people who came to the door for donations, everyone knew a cure for my acne. Except me of course. Somehow according to people I liked having acne and that’s why I was not going to see a dermatologist or well putting toothpaste on it. Toothpaste seemed to be among the most common solutions. The worst were comments passed by family members, especially when they thought I could not hear. They were discussing about how I may have been passed up for a campus job because of my acne. Never mind that the very next week I got a job offer.
To a young person, male or female, acne is a cruel blow. In a world where we all want to look our best, acne literally crushes you. I waited for years and years to be too old for acne. But that day never came. And I don’t think it ever will. In my twenties I had resigned myself to being single as I thought no one would like me because of my acne. Well, that is the impression I had got for myself seeing the disgust on people’s faces. Not all people to be fair, but trust me, when you have acne, even 2-3 bad opinions can form an impression. Of course there were those who told me I was being vain for feeling bad about acne. What a load of nonsense. Wanting to look good is not a crime.
When I met my now husband, for a while I did not let him see me without makeup, well because according to me he was going to leave the minute he saw my face, sans makeup. He didn’t. He stuck around. And supported me during my worst bout of cystic acne 3 years later.
For people with acne, remember that while these comments and stares can hurt real bad, you really cannot do much about them. Staying indoors and not going out is not the answer. What you can do is work on building a strong sense of self. I had no one to guide me, so I want to share this with you. Even during my worst bout of acne, I never stayed in. I never gave up going out.
What You Can Do
- Acne is not your fault, even if people tell you to stop eating this or stop eating that or wash your face more often. Internalise this “Acne is not my fault”
- Don’t let people who make comments about your acne off easy. They are being rude. Even if it hurts at the time either tell them they are being rude or pass some comment on how they look. Take control of the conversation. Anyway it’s about you.
- Use makeup if it makes you feel good and gives you a boost of confidence.
- People remember how you make them feel. If you are depressed and bring people down, no one will want to be around you. If you smile and are fun to be with, people will automatically want to hang out with you, acne or no acne.
- You have to take control of your feelings. No one else will. As harsh as this may sound, it is very true but also very empowering. If you feel depressed about acne, you alone can get yourself out of it.
To those of you reading this who do not have acne, the nicest thing you can do when you know or meet someone with acne is nothing. Just treat them just like you would anyone else. No comments and no staring at the acne on their face.