Art: Risja Steeghs
Words: Ana Carney
Before I sat down to write this, I wasn’t sure what to say or how to begin. I was anxious and exceptionally aware of the fact that to most, my so-called ‘problem’ would seem trivial and vain. All I could think about were the more pressing issues of the world and of all the people with more difficult struggles in their lives. But for the duration of this piece, I decided that I would temporarily put these thoughts to one side and talk about something that I don’t usually talk about at all.
I am 21 and I have struggled with acne for about 5 years. I know what you are thinking, acne is a thing of adolescence. Surely my spots must have cleared up by now, right? Wrong. Acne is a long-term skin disease and adults can absolutely suffer from it too. Acne is not merely a couple of spots every now and then, it is painful, it leads to a severe lack in confidence and it is something that thousands of people have to confront on a daily basis.
I went to a skin specialist a few years ago and I was told that I was suffering from Acne Vulgaris. This of course was something that I already knew, but for some reason it sounded so much worse coming from someone else’s mouth; a horrible reminder that not only could I see the spots on my face, but so could the rest of the world. From this point onwards, I saw the disease as part of my identity, a dark cloud which I carried over my head, growing that little bit bigger every time I looked at myself in the mirror.
Dreaming of smooth, flawless skin became part of my daily routine. I hid behind my hair. I hid behind makeup. I would dread talking to new people as I would feel horribly conscious of my own skin, bumpy and clumsily masked with thick layers of foundation. “They are looking at my spots” and “How can I possibly make a good first impression looking like this?” were genuine thoughts that troubled me every single day. Over time I began to feel worthless and my confidence disappeared. I was left a small, timid girl, hiding from the world at all given opportunities. I didn’t want to go out, I didn’t even want to leave the house; my skin became my enemy.
Slowly but surely, I am becoming aware that I am not alone and that my worth is in no way associated with my appearance. I am beginning to realise the extent to which we have been conditioned to think that we have to look a certain way and conform to a particular beauty ideal to be accepted. We are made to believe that our appearance is of utmost importance but we are SO much more than that. We are intelligent. We are strong. We can make a difference. We are more than just our skin.