When I was as young as 3, I remember adults with big smiles telling me I was “cute” and “pretty.”
That’s when I first became aware of my appearance, and the responses it drew from other people. It made me uncomfortable sometimes. Even then it seemed untrue to my young ears. I would think, why do they always tell me this?
When I was 5, I remember getting glasses. As I stood with my mother while she talked to my teacher I saw my classmates smiling and giggling in the doorway. Scared I would no longer be the “cute” girl and from then on I would be the “glasses” girl. I walked into my kindergarten classroom with big pink frames sitting on my tiny face, embarrassed.
When I was 12, I remember getting acne. I was the age where I wanted my body to start developing into a young woman’s. But no, at that point in time, all I got was acne. Soon it wasn’t normal acne either.
My face, back, and chest became colonized by this horrible condition. Red, feverish, painful, pulsating bumps erupted everywhere. I learned how to apply foundation so I could cover up my pimples. I hoped it would go away someday. That I wouldn’t always be the “acne” girl.
When I was, older, I didn’t remember getting my self-hatred. It quietly, naturally developed as I did. A deep, dark, potent self-contempt that coiled itself like a snake in the empty recesses inside of me. A loathing that engorged my soul.
This hatred caused me to sob uncontrollably in my room at night, after agonizing glimpses in the mirror. It trickled out like the warm tears filling in my eyes as I would put on makeup each day. A literal and figurative mask. I discovered that I could never be the student that rolled out of bed and went to school — because my ugly skin would not allow exposure. And “letting it go” and “forgetting” was easier said than done. Severe, cystic acne has a way of being unyielding to smiles on your face. Because skin is being pulled, shooting dreadful physical pain into the moments I wanted to forget.
I was jealous of everyone around me. Jealous because their faces were clear, relaxed, happy. While my own face became more and more unrecognizable to me. I could not remember what my face looked like before acne. It was just a constant shifting feature. But constant. It was not like trying to accept my nose, or my skinny body. In our culture, it does not receive any positive light. Only disgust and disdain.
The acne kept me from numerous social gatherings, and from pursuing many activities. And when I was with people, I would do everything I could not to think about how pathetic and ugly I was. I would ask God, why do THEY deserve clear skin? What makes me undeserving?
Most days I would consider myself undeserving of wearing cute clothes because I believed it would draw attention to my ugly face. I couldn’t wear pretty outfits that showed my back and chest because I didn’t earn that beautiful privilege yet.
No form of treatments worked. It could not be solved by normal means. Trust me. Trust. Me. An exhaustive list can be summed up to most typical topicals prescribed by dermatologists, as well as antibiotics and evil Accutane that I could only take for a few days before deciding the further misery would not be worth it.
I wondered if people would ever get to know the real me. I wondered if I would ever know the real me. Hatred convinced me that It was me.
I could not remember a life without the continuous cycle of self-contempt.
It manifested itself in many ways. I inflicted self harm on my body. I would bruise it, I would cut it. And then I began to participate in so many self destructive activities just to drown out my own thoughts. Also by doing so, to create a false sense of comfort and self esteem. I even made an attempt on my life.
The “fearfully and wonderfully made by God” idea seemed to escape me. I just didn’t see how it could be true. My hatred led me to continually deny God’s promises and love to me. I was a Christian, but I just kind of believed that maybe I deserved the pain and misery going on inside of me everyday.
Before I knew it, I was 22. And the acne was as severe as ever.
The most amazing guy wanted to give me his full devotion and Christ-loving heart. And I struggled to conceive the notion. I thought I would be prepared for a man who truly loved my soul and heart, but my endless battle to accept myself pushed him farther away.
One day someone asked me:
How much of your life do you want to be about acne?
I realized: most of my life was about acne. It dictated my thoughts, feelings, and actions in nearly every circumstance. Acne was my life. And I did not want to be giving ANY more of my life to acne. I wanted Jesus Christ to have my life. His perfect life was laid down on the Cross for me, to wash my sins clean, to make me pure through Him.
I thought that in order to find peace, my skin would need to be pure and clean. But it was my sin, my self-hatred, that needed to be cleansed. My heart needed to fully let Jesus into it. Into my self-contempt that I had built up my whole life. THAT’S the only way that I would overcome acne. Not because a drug or a method would cure it, but because if I trusted God’s will and purpose in my life, no matter if my acne went away or not– my spiritual sickness would no longer have dominion over my soul.
I was sick in need of a Healer.
Sort of like the makeup I would use to cover my acne, the hatred was putting makeup over all of the things I desperately needed to give to my Healer. Applying hatred like a foundation– but it would not, could not cover me forever.
I realized the thing I didn’t deserve was Christ’s salvation. But it was given to me, if only as I was willing to accept it. I wasn’t undeserving of being pretty. I was undeserving of a life spent with the most perfect Love, something more perfect than skin could ever be.
His love covers me.