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I didn’t realize it at the time of my severe acne breakout how much this whole thing with my boyfriend had affected me. I could not pinpoint my breakout to a specific incident. I was not in love with this guy. Our imminent breakup was not upsetting me. There wasn’t anything else ridiculously stressful going on in my life to coincide. I just simply didn’t understand that there could possibly have been an emotional issue problematic enough to contribute significantly to such a horrendous acne attack.

So I threw the idea in the trash can. I sloughed off all suggestions to meditate, keep a gratitude journal, get therapy, anything. All I could see was that my diet at the pub I worked at was not good, so that must have been it.

I got to work on a ridiculous diet, so restrictive, I could never even hope to live a normal life trying to keep it up. I felt so out of control that the only way to keep a handle on my spiralling life was to stress over every tiny detail of my food in order to feel okay. Hmm.. kind of like an eating disorder? That was something I was never about to admit to myself at the time either.

I mean, you’ve probably heard by now that stress can cause acne. This is undisputed. You’ve probably heard how it can cause heart disease, cancer, and all kinds of other horrendous diseases. But when you hear the word ‘stress’, you think of the CEO in his shirt and his tie, crunching numbers late into the night, cracking under the pressure. Since this may not sound like you, you may disregard the idea that your acne is caused by stress.

This is often not the type of stress that causes chronic acne problems. It is actually repressed emotions- things that you’ve hidden from yourself because they are too painful to face. Emotions are technically just chemical reactions in your brain anyway; they circulate throughout your body like electrical currents. Like any harmful chemical, the negative ones that are harboured deep inside us for long periods of time, renewed over and over, will damage the body. And, unfortunately, much more than you would ever think.

So in our cases, our acne is usually our excuse for our self esteem, not the other way around. Our acne legitimizes the way we feel about ourselves, so that we are validated enough to continue feeling that way. It gives us a reason to continue believing that we are not good enough to just be how we are without owing perfection to anyone  – truly believing that when we get clear, all our problems will be solved.

Unless you address these sleeping giants, your problems won’t be solved. Even if you manage to clear your acne through diet and exercise, you’ll find new things to worry about.

The thing is, I’m not trying to say this like I’ve conquered all my problems and that I  really am perfect now and good luck, guys, there’s a long road ahead of you.

Facing your fears about yourself is not easy. It’s kind of confusing, and pretty draining. Meditation is also not exactly the easiest thing to stick to. In fact, I’m very guilty of slacking off on it myself. However, I have done some work on my inner self, I’ve at least realized what’s behind my acne, and I’ve made some peace with the idea that I’m not a perfect human being. This has allowed me to relax my diet a bit and return to the real world without my skin getting bad again.

I do believe these minor resolutions are how I’ve managed to be clear most of the time these days, aside from my relatively healthy diet. But I still have a long way to go. In fact, as I’m sitting here writing this blog article, I’m feeling an attack of low self esteem. I’m fearing that I’m simply not interesting enough to have anyone read my ideas, since there are already other brilliant, kind-hearted, acne-fighting folks on the internet to listen to, like Fran Kerr from High on Health, and Seppo Puusa from Clear for Life. <– (but here I am, facing my fears by linking to them). So it’s also no surprise that I’m having a minor breakout on my chin.

But it’s okay. I’m learning to go with the flow and stave off those feelings of fear – fear that these few little spots are the beginning of the whole thing coming rushing back, to ruin all the hard work that I’ve done to banish it.  I’m learning to take a breath, and realize that it will pass – to take a moment to reflect that even if it did come rushing back, people would still love me, and my life would not be over, and that these spots do not own me. Easier said than done, I know… but I’m working on it 🙂

Which negative emotions are you harbouring deep inside?

Photo by Carlos Portos