Most of us have had the gut sinking, tear your heart in two, anger inducing experience when someone points out or makes a comment about something to do with your appearance – your weight, your choice of clothes, the odd shape of your nose. Or someone posts a terrible picture of you on Facebook.
Or someone makes an off hand comment about your acne.
Usually the person is not saying these things to be mean, and probably doesn’t even think anything of it.
But it happens, and sometimes it can just hit you in the sorest of spots and ruin your entire day. Or week. Or life.
Maybe because you were hoping no one noticed, or that it wasn’t as bad as you thought.
And then they bring it up, and it sinks you down into the ickiest, bottom-of-the-barrel feelings.
I’ll be honest – in all my years of acne, I have actually been lucky enough to have never had anyone make an overt comment about it. Not that they didn’t notice, especially when it was bad, but at least no one rubbed it in by bringing it up uninvited. If they had, I probably would have shrunk into a little ball and cried.
But I’ve, of course, experienced this with other things. Pointed remarks about me being too skinny (my natural build even though I eat plenty). “OMG I can’t believe how skinny you are. Get this girl a burger!”. I have potent memories from high school of a friend’s Dad (who is a doctor) seeming very concerned about how skinny I was, like I was sick and needed medical attention. GRRReeerrrrrrrr.
You may also know that I’ve always been very sensitive about looking young, to the point where it would ruin my whole day if anyone ever made off hand comments about how young I looked (which has happened a lot throughout my life). The people saying it were obviously not trying to offend me and didn’t think anything of their comment, but to me.. well I wanted to punch them in the eye!
I have always been perplexed about why this particular thing was such a intense sore spot for me. Looking young… how bad could that be? But to me, any mere mention of it turned me into a billowing kettle pot of steam, ready to blow my lid.
I mean – gosh, there must be some pretty deep stuff going on in my subconscious that makes me feel that intense when it is mentioned. You’d think if it was that powerful, I’d know right away what it was.
They Want Us to Hate Ourselves
However, a huge enlightening understanding came to me recently when I wrote this article, about society’s objectification of women. I always sort of knew this, but recently I’ve actually come to understand just how much it has personally affected me.
Due to the media that we are exposed to through out lives, we have been brainwashed practically since birth that how we look, and how sexually desirable we are, is the most important thing about us.
This is true for men in many ways (increasingly so), but it’s especially true for women in all ways and has been for a long time. Our entire – absolutely ENTIRE – self worth, is put onto how sexually appealing we are. Our strengths and talents are always put second.
Or at least that’s what advertisers want us to believe. The worse we feel about ourselves, the more money they make. Their message is so ever invading, so powerful, so hurtful, shameful, brutal, and terrible. It has invaded everyone’s psyche down to our very cores and caused an epidemic of shame, poor self esteem, and insecurity.
That’s why someone’s off hand comment about your appearance has the ability to ruin your entire day, or week, or even stick with you for years. It’s not just a mere annoyance, it’s like someone taking a vat of steaming acid and dumping it all over your sense of worth.
Aha! I FINALLY understand – that’s why I want to push someone into a pool when they say I look young. To them, they just think they are saying I look young. “It’s a compliment” they say, with their annoying smirks. “Don’t most people want to look younger?”
Sure, but this isn’t a “wow, you’re 50 but you look 35” kind of thing. I’m a young adult – signs of aging are not really an issue.
So to me, it’s like they are saying I look young like a pre-pubescent child, and believe me – there’s nothing at all in my mind sexually appealing about being a pre-pubescent child. And since society has deep down brainwashed me to believe that most of my worth is how sexually appealing I am, it’s literally like that annoying checkout girl is telling me that I am good for nothing.
Oops. Sorry. Didn’t see that pool there.
This is also the very reason that having acne is not just an annoying skin disturbance. Instead, to most of us, it is a completely soul destroying experience.
So what do you do when someone makes a comment about your appearance that really affects you? How can you get past it and move on, and even actually get stronger from the experience?
Let’s Get Resilient
Well the lovely ladies over at one of my favourite blogs, Beauty Redefined, have uncovered some evidence that shows that ‘resilience’ is the answer.
What is that?
“The resiliency process is the experience of being disrupted by change, opportunities, adversity, stressors or challenges and, after some disorder, accessing personal gifts and strengths to grow stronger through the disruption” (Richardson & Waite, 2002).
So according to them, a disruption is anything that disrupts your comfort zone – not just a rude comment, but anything. Anything that makes us feel self-doubt, hurt, fear, or loss. That includes having a bad skin day, whether someone says something or not.
Disruptions can happen all the time and the emotions from them lead to some kind of a life change. Resilience is the ability to bounce back and even grow from the experience, instead of allowing it to set you back.
How can you cultivate resilience so that you can jump back when someone makes a soul crushing comment about you, your skin, or your body? Or simply when you have yet another breakout?
- Accept the emotion. Let it be there instead of trying to push it away. It’s okay to feel sad or angry, it’s simply part of the human experience. So much more angst comes from trying to not feel the way you do. It’s okay. Let it out – cry if you need to. It’s better than holding it in or pretending to yourself that it didn’t make you upset.
- Step back from the emotion and just take a good look at it as if you were an outsider. Pretend you are someone else looking in on that emotion. Pretend it belongs to a friend instead of you. This will allow you to be compassionate towards yourself while also shedding some perspective on it. Seeing it from this different light might help you realize that the comment didn’t have as much meaning as you gave it and that you still have tons of amazing, AMAZING traits that more than make up for any “flaws” (you don’t think less of a friend for her flaws, do you?). Practising mindfulness, meditation, yoga, etc, will help you with this step.
- Really internalize this realization that so much of our insecurities about our appearance are due to advertisements that want us to hate ourselves. I’m serious about how deep this runs in your head (and all of our heads), even if you don’t think so. Remember that you are not alone – this body shame thing is a struggle of the larger human experience, not just you.
- As Beauty Redefined says, gain confidence to bounce back from body comments by using your body as an instrument, not an object. Make sure you are doing lots of awesome things with your body that reinforce that you are much more than how you look. Stop staring in the mirror and step into how you feel and what you can DO. You can do so much in this life. It’s hard to concentrate on doing and accomplishing amazing things when you are so focused on your looks and skin.
- Practice forgiveness in order to let go of pain of the incident. Bring up the memory of it and concentrate on how it feels in your body. Then say “I forgive you. I’m sorry. I love you” (based on Hawaiian healing practice, Ho’oponopono). Take a deep breath out. Alternatively you can try doing EFT on it. Keep doing these things until the memory doesn’t bring up any emotion for you.
Have you had someone make a comment that really upset you about your skin or something else about your body? How did you bounce back? Share your wisdom with your fellow readers!