Do you ever get caught up in finding just the right product?
The miracle one, the one that will turn your skin plump and glowy, the one that
properly nourishes without breaking you out,
the one that hydrates even the driest of patches. I do, and honestly, I think we all do.
Sometimes it’s because we’re a bit bored with our skincare and we want to play
around, sometimes it’s because there’s something missing
and we’re open to adding another product to our bathroom lineup.
Other times, though, it’s because our skin is driving us ever so slightly round the bend in what it needs.
When it’s the latter, boy, can you go through bottles and jars finding the right combo or single product to get your skin to cooperate.
You try an activated ingredients this, an oil based that, and that’s where things can get tricky if you’re cycling through product after product, brand after brand to find your little hero combo.
At the start of summer, my skin was ace.
Bright, plump, full of colour, and pretty much all the stuff that makes you rather confident.
Right until July rolled around and I was flat out of budget to restock my then current skincare products.
So, I made due with some leftovers, which my skin wasn’t too happy about since it seemed to undo every lick of nourishment my previous skincare routine had treated me to.
Fast forward to a few weeks later and I was finally able to splurge on some decent skincare products once more.
Except, I didn’t go back to the skincare that was doing such a wonderful job before.
Instead, I went with a different brand I’d liked in the past, but it just didn’t seem to suit my skin any longer and I was left with rather dull and parched skin.
So, what’s a girl to do but invest in some more skincare.
Instead of going to the initial products that worked so well before, I, of course, tried yet another new product—a rich balm-based moisturiser (I know, I know, it’s enough to want to facepalm half a dozen times over).
But, it worked and my skin finally became less dry.
Skip to about a week a half later, and besides nourishing my dry skin it started to create a few other things that weren’t as welcome; a breakout, the kind I normally don’t have to contend with.
And it didn’t register that my new moisturiser was the one to blame.
I fussed about health.
Fussed about diet.
Fussed about stress.
Fussed about fussing.
Worried about how on earth I’d get rid of the acne and whether it would leave any scars.
Granted, the breakouts weren’t actually that bad, they were just quite noticeable, but it sunk my confidence to the ground.
I made less eye contact, my body language turned inward, and my hair became a shield. More so, my lack of confidence and my avoidance behaviour were building up the mother of self-directed shame and anger.
I was utterly disappointed with myself.
I was letting a bit of acne direct my entire self-worth as if a few spots cancelled out every single ability I had, every single merit, every single skill I had toiled away at reduced to nothing.
Finally, it did register that my new moisturiser was the culprit, so I aborted its use and switched to high-quality jojoba oil and shazam, a week and a half later my acne breakout was gone.
Now all I had to contend with was intensely dry skin whenever I used a blend of oils that wasn’t simply jojoba and a bit of a lost joy to experiment with new products. Which pretty much sucked all the fun out of skincare.
Most of us experience adventurous periods, product fails, and misuse, as well as a bit of stumbling with our health, sleep, and diet.
But what truly came to the surface during my August experience wasn’t a cautionary tale of trying out new products.
That would be rather absurd and would take some of the adventure and love out of skincare.
Life gets messy, you learn from it, and you aim to do better.
No, what came to the surface was just how low my self-esteem could get, how damaging it could be to my social interactions, how insecure my body language could get when I thought something was marring my ‘perceived beauty’.
Granted I’m no stranger to low self-esteem, a bit of acne didn’t suddenly introduce the concept to my mental landscape, but it did give me another reason to fully lean into feelings of worthlessness.
It felt like such an entirely silly thing to place my confidence on, true it wasn’t the only thing at the time that bashed my confidence to bits, but for weeks it added to its decimation.
We all go through doubts and dislikes when it comes to our bodies.
We’re inundated on a daily basis with preconceived notions of what beauty is, what health is, what your life should be like.
Perfectly tiled, perfectly coded, perfectly sorted into themes and ‘positive vibes’.
Telling you that this what #beauty looks like, this is what #healthyeating looks like, this is what the #perfectlife looks like, etc ad infinitum.
And for a great deal of us, that daily barrage adds to our feelings of inadequacy, of not truly belonging and of a lack of meaning.
We get tricked into believing that the shiny-shiny of perfectly curated Instagram accounts is the high heaven to attain to.
That your fleek as f*ck panelled, mesh leggings will notch up your gym game, that your #avocadotoast will praise your health into nirvana, that this month’s favourite will finally, finally bring you that smooth, baby doll porcelain skin and your worries will evaporate like dew in the morning sun.
Picture perfect construed happiness.
To me, true beauty lies within purpose, within the construct of context, within connection, within being part of something.
It lies in showing up despite fear, despite feelings of inadequacy, despite feeling like a wreck.
It lies in the creation of meaning more than the empty pursuit of happiness and perfection.
You shouldn’t let offhand comments on the size of your belly, on the size of your thighs, arms, bum, breasts, etc based on their own preference, on their culture’s, on what they’ve been told to like.
Hear it enough, see it enough, and any notion of accepting and loving your body right where it’s at fills you with dread, anger, and sadness. We come in all shapes and sizes and it’s so very easy to judge ourselves and others on what we think is beautiful, forgetting that our opinion on other people’s bodies is rather unwarranted.
It’s all just a socially programmed inane mess of living.
Your body, the shape it comes in, the processes it goes through might not fit a conventional standard of beauty. It might not even fit your own standard of beauty.
But, you are beautiful for having a godsdamned body in the first place.
This body that can move, run, dance, make love.
Maybe not always very well, maybe not in the way you had imagined, not in the way you’d like it to be.
This body of yours that can feel and touch.
Maybe not always pleasant things, maybe things you’d rather shut yourself away from, things that make you like to stop trying.
But, you have this body, this body that can reach out, create, and be.
Don’t live your life un-lived because you don’t think you’re good enough because you don’t think you’re pretty enough, healthy enough, or strong enough.
Live. Grow. Be challenged. Learn. Don’t fear fear. Don’t fear anger.
Don’t fear sadness. Don’t run away from the hard things. Acknowledge them.
Show up. Show up when it feels like the hardest thing to do. Show up because your future self will thank you for breaking through stagnation, for breaking through inaction, and for building something that allows you to grow.
keep showing up.
Over and over and over.
What are you truly scared of? To be judged, to not be part of something, to feel less somehow?
Invite your fears and your insecurities to the table.
Look your little monsters in the eye, acknowledge them, and get on with whatever gives meaning to your life, with whatever purpose you want to fulfil.
You don’t have to abandon your fears, nor your insecurities, which can be a scary thing in and of itself, it’s easy after all to define ourselves by the things we think are wrong with us.
You don’t have to chastise yourself for feeling shitty, for having a bad day, for feeling a bit lost.
All of those things that you think are such a hindrance, just acknowledge them, tuck them under your arm, or to the side of you, and get on with your day, your week, your life.
Show your fears you can get things done even when they’re beside you.
You simply get up and face your monsters, however small, however large, however anything that makes them so very, very frightening.
The point isn’t to defeat them, it’s to not let them stop you from making the art you’d like to make, from asking for the raise you’d like to have, from asking out whatever cute human-shaped person you like.
The point is to acknowledge them so they won’t stop you from trying new things, from speaking up, from making yourself heard. It’s so you can feel vulnerable and be all right with that vulnerability.
It’s so you will show up and keep showing up.
Embrace your fears and live.
Here’s a call out to all of you:
We’re all in this together.
When we open up to each other, divisions melt, and conceived solitude and shame have less of a hold on us.
So, please, share your story with us: what kind of body image or perceived beauty inadequacy tears your confidence down and what lifts it ever so high?
Leave a comment or send a reply to [email protected] and share your story, so we can weave them together and share them in our next article.
About the Author
Julie is a writer and illustrator from Antwerp, Belgium where she spends a great
deal of time trying to construct the perfect sentence and rethinking her choice in colours—both in her closet and her illustrations.
You can find her work over on www.juliesmits.com
The Hungry Child is a study of our personal and collective experience of the natural world.