July 20, 2009
just a thought – physical appearances
It might have been the insane hours, I was working nights. Maybe an allergic reaction to some makeup. It might be that my body at 26 is going through some sort of second adolescence (there are multiple indicators for this) – but in May, I got acne, for the first time in my life. Sure, I had had pimples as a teenager, but never had I seen an entire section of my face break out in them before. It has been consuming my mind ever since, I’ve put enough thought into this – it was bound to become a blog post.
Its on my right jawline and a small spot below my left ear. It was at its worst in early June and is beginning to disappear, slowly. When I am alone, I am desperately aware of these two sections on my face. Its a constant downer whenever I think of it, whenever I see myself in a mirror.
It could be a lot worse, most of my face looks like it always does. I certainly had my insecurities as a younger person but body and face was not one of them. Only recently have I begun to understand the obsession with physical looks and pay attention to it. I never used to notice whether people had good skin or good legs or good ankles or not, and now I do constantly, always comparing my own unfavourably.
By contrast, my social and style confidence is a lot higher than it has ever been. In life and love, wardrobe and business, I have never felt better, so I was amazed how a small bout with acne could challenge my overall confidence so much. I never realized before how completely crippling it must be for people who are already vulnerable to other insecurities or people with bad cases. Acne makes me want to hide in my studio, behind my computer, away from cameras and parties and new people. It sucks the life out of me.
The funny thing is I notice it gets better when I am around other people. I think that’s because, when I am out, I forget about my face. I focus on other people and things to do and places to go and things to see and I stop thinking about it and feeling bad about myself. When I am by myself too much I look at it too much and worry about it and touch it and wash it too much and it gets worse.
Before I go out, as I get ready, I remind myself that no one else really cares about my face that much and neither should I. Its a mild case and a temporary condition and something that almost everybody deals with at least once in a lifetime, I am hardly a case of real suffering here. I don’t wear makeup or anything over it. I just do my best to forget about it because when its out of mind I can get on with having a good life.
Weirdly this experience has given me a level of compassion for other people and their appearance issues I never had before. Fashion people in particular are obsessed with the body/face perfection myth – a lot of us are actively or unwittingly perpetuating it. Even though we can see the man behind the curtain we can still get persuaded by our own performances.
Soon it will be gone. I never expected that this type of mundane experience would change the way I look at myself, others, and besides that my work. I guess appearances do matter – just not as much as how you perceive them does.
Hat tip to the Demoiselles, whose own frank discussions on dealing with the realities of bodies and faces helped me get the guts to try and express my own story.