If you would have looked at my contact list a few months back, you would have found a directory for dermatologists in my phone. I was desperately trying to get rid of acne, along with my anxiety, caused for the same reason.
I have had a history of eight years with unclear skin. I still remember the first time I had a pimple on my face and that, for a 5th grader, was extremely uncomfortable as none of my classmates were undergoing a similar phase. My teacher told me it was rare to see skin outbursts at such a young age. Since then, my self-esteem had only seen a dip. Pictorially, it became a gradually declining graph.
In the next few years, I had a drastic case of acne as there was hardly any space left on my face which did not have pimples or marks of those gone. I was an adolescent, and in retrospect, I feel that the worst of all was not having someone sit down and tell me that it was okay; that I did not need any fixing. I could become a museum artefact with all the gazes I had received in school, at home, in public spaces and slowly, even when I was alone, the ghosts of lingering eyes persisted.
I only started seeing acne as a problem that needed a cure when I was repeatedly told it was an issue.
I was on the receiving end of a lot of sassy, innovative and snarky names, and it so happened that sometimes, I couldn’t choose between laughter or anger as an appropriate response. I resorted to the former though, since anger didn’t seem justified then. I had internalised that acne was an issue and if subjected, I had to take the joke well. Every family gathering suddenly turned into an inspection about what had happened to my face, how I could make it better, and basically filing an FIR about the ghastly incident, followed by deep gasps and pitiful eyes.
Multiple times, I was told and I am still told that, all those comments arose from a place of concern, and that people only wanted to help. But here’s the problem with their “concern”. The advice was instrumental in achieving nada, except instilling perennially decreasing self-confidence and a distressed relation with my skin. Unsolicited counselling is detrimental to the person you want to help. If I wanted recommendations, I would have asked for them. I only started seeing acne as a problem that needed a cure when I was repeatedly told it was an issue.
What was more lamentable was that there was nothing fascinating about my aspirations, my poetry, my musical inclinations anymore; all of it evaporated and got minimised to my appearance, to my subdued attractiveness and my un-fixable face. I approached a lot of dermatologists, tried on all creams and packs, followed desi nuskas (homemade remedies), tried to change my health routine and sometimes, even prayed a little when nothing worked.
It was taxing to go through the entire process everyday, to steer through comments like “Nobody would want to kiss you”, “There should be a book called ‘The Fault in your Face‘”, “Chaand mein bhi daag hote hai (Even the moon is stained)”, “Your face is a like a large pimple”., etc. It was only recently, that I was able to split off from societal pressures of beauty and perfection. I had grown drowsy of wanting to detach myself from my own body. Somebody’s humour had cost me years of not appreciating my distinctness and my individuality which was constituted by my skin and simultaneously, went beyond it.
Also read: Somehow, My Dark Skin Determines My Entire Value As A Person
I was on the receiving end of a lot of sassy, innovative and snarky names, and it so happened that sometimes, I couldn’t choose between laughter or anger as an appropriate response.
I had refrained myself from entering into relationships since I did not want to put the other person in an uneasy position, for a dirty, unclean face would be a turn off. The volume of toxicity towards myself had reached a point where it was wounding my progress in all professional and personal areas. Following which, I knew I could not let any external force weather me down. I had much to offer and people had much to learn.
Knowing that acne isn’t contagious, knowing that changes in diet and workouts do not amount to effective results in all cases, realising that medicines and face packs are not productive, and people could develop acne at any point of time, following methodical care regimes does not necessarily translate into not being prone to acne, it is not always a sign of filthy and impure skincare, and paramountly, people with acne are happy and comfortable with their skin—all of these empowered me to feel more comfortable with my skin.
They do not feel threatened by their appearance, unless you remind them every second about how they need to undergo surgeries, if nothing else yields a solution. After years of verbal hostility, I have found the courage to accept my acne as a part of my character. It is a symbol of my history and a vessel through which I have learnt to decimate conventional understanding of beauty norms. I have come through a long way to unlearn the appearance-reductionist strategies of the society.
Also read: How South Asian Women With Vitiligo Have It Harder
We need to make all spaces appreciative in their approach to people with differences instead of making them uneasy with themselves. There is a myriad of people, especially women, who go through unprecedented angst and apprehension every time they encounter their images, in phones, mirrors, reflections in shiny surfaces or in the gaze of the audience. It is imperative to make each one realise that the boundaries of aesthetics are fluid, all-encompassing and unconstrained in its approach.
Featured Image Source: Style Haul