The boy in front of me, whose name I do remember but will not share so as not to publicly shame him 27 years later, turned around and stared at me with his eyes squinted in scrutiny. Then he said five words that have never left me.
"What's wrong with your face?"
It was a sentence I had wondered occasionally when I looked in the mirror. But after all, I was only in 4th grade. I didn't look in the mirror all that often yet. Just as now, fashion wasn't exactly my gift. I wore boys jeans and fought my mom when she suggested I wear something cute to church on Sundays. I got dressed in the morning, probably attempted to curl my bangs so they would stand straight up (because you have to fit in SOMEHOW) and then left for school.
But yes, there were times I had wondered- why is my face so red? Why doesn't my skin look like the other girls'? Why? It hadn't bothered me much, likely because I didn't really think about the fact that other people might notice it and, more brutally, judge it.
Until gym class.
After gym class, I assumed everyone noticed it and my lifelong struggle with my skin started. A struggle I think I have only ever admitted to my mom. And more recently, to my husband. Probably my college roommates had some kind of clue, too. We were kind of all into each other's business.
Of course, one's skin doesn't usually improve with age, so the self-conscious thoughts that began to fester when I was 9 began to increase when teenage acne joined the game. When sunburns and sweaty, red faces from sporting events, when scars from injuries entered the picture, it certainly didn't get better. I am ashamed to say it was on my mind way more than I am comfortable admitting.
"I'm a Christian," I would think, "I shouldn't care about this, I should be content, I should think about spiritual things, for goodness sake," was a mantra that I repeated over and over and over. For years. But no amount of repetition or prayer or wishing the thoughts away, no new skin regimen or vitamins did anything. It stayed on my mind.
The bottom line? I was embarrassed...ok, let's be honest, I AM embarrassed to leave the house without makeup on. Without something that covers over the dark spots and the scars and red skin that I've had since I was a child. I don't necessarily need all the other stuff- the mascara and lipstick and perfect hair- but sometimes, on my worst days, I even put foundation on to go to the gym. The gym, people. Where it's going to melt off my face anyway because, let's face it, I am not one of those women who daintily glistens when she works out. I sweat, people.
A few months ago a former colleague began selling a new skin regimen. I clicked on her pictures out of curiosity. Another promise, another failure, right? And really, I NEED to stop caring about this. I'm 36. I should get over it.
But hope began to simmer a little. What if this stuff really does work? What if those before and after pictures are authentic and unfiltered? What if I could stop hating my skin, stop being embarassed, stop thinking about it all the time? What if?
I sat on that thought for a number of months. Trying to talk myself out of caring. Again. Trying to pray for contentment. Again. Trying to look in the mirror less so I wouldn't notice my red, dry, old-looking skin.
At some point, though, in the midst of trying so hard not to care, so hard to redirect my thoughts, so hard to push away the guilt when I failed, something occurred to me.
What if it's alright to care about this?
What if it is not wrong to want this to change a little? That maybe part of the healing in this would be doing something to make it healthier and maybe it's not wrong to want it to look nicer, healed, the way it should look at my age. Maybe it wasn't nonspiritual of me to care. Maybe it was actually spiritual to want to be healed physically in a way that would contribute helpfully to my lifelong battle to truly see myself as God sees me.
So, I am taking a risk here. I am going to post my "before" shot - makeup free. It's awful. I look tired (which, let's be honest) I am. I look weathered and splotchy. I look worn and older than my years. Maybe all moms of toddlers look a little haggard, I don't know. I surely do.
|January 2015 @ 36 Years Old|
Do I also really hope the skin regimen helps? Heck yeah.
But I also hope that saying the words out loud and giving this struggle a chance to change will begin to do a good work long before I would notice significant aesthetic results, anyway.