By: Emily Algar, Regular Contributor
Someone once said that the eyes are the windows to the soul, so what could be more important than the frame that surrounds it, the face. For me, my face is my personal part of me. It is the first thing anyone sees when I meet them; it shows my hopes, my dreams, my fears, and my anxieties; it lets the world know if I’m happy or sad and most importantly it allows me to take my innermost thoughts and communicate them to the world whether through my eyes, my mouth, or my facial muscles. In simpler terms, my face is my business card. Yes, it’s not my entirety nor does it convey my depths and intricacies but it is responsible for first impressions.
As a teenager I was blessed with perfect, clear skin. My routine consisted of soap and water. It was easy and when it’s easy you don’t have to think about it. I didn’t think twice about leaving the house without any make-up on. I was pretty happy and comfortable with how I looked, which was a nice respite from being a teenager.
This season of body confidence quickly ended when I hit 20s. I was diagnosed with gluten intolerance, and with this revelation came adult acne. And I’m not talking about the odd pimple, but painful cystic acne on my chin and down my neck, clusters of white pimples across my forehead with, sadly, the potential for scars.
It has left me deeply insecure and incredibly self-conscious. I don’t tend to leave the house without make-up on, and I am constantly scrutinising everyone to see if it’s just me that has bad skin. It’s become emotionally exhausting and upsetting. I look in the mirror and I don’t see me, I just see the acne.
I feel that if only I could sort out my skin I’d be more confident, have more friends, be brave enough to pursue my passions, and be happy enough in myself. Basically sunshine and rainbows would be a regular occurrence and all would right in the world.
I umm’d and ahh’d about writing this post because I felt it completely contradicted what I AM THAT GIRL stands for: that we are all beautyFULL, perfectly imperfect because of scars, because of our imperfections not in spite of them, that our physical shells don’t define us, and it’s what’s inside that matters - all of which I believe in 110%. So what am I doing moaning that I don’t have perfect, crystal clear skin? Doesn’t what I’m saying go against all that this movement is about?
Well yes, but also no. No, because since becoming THAT GIRL I have come to the conclusion that sharing my vulnerabilities and letting my skeletons out to roam free is sometimes desperately needed. Not just for my sanity and mental health but for every girl and woman out there who is bombarded with images of perfect skin, perfect legs, perfect breasts, perfect hair (though only in the culturally appropriate places), perfect teeth, and so on and so forth.
There desperately needs to be a discussion, whether small or large, about the divide between what we see and are told, and what is actually real and more importantly, what is actually possible. We need to know that all those seemingly perfect models and actors on all those magazines and billboards don’t actually look like that, and unless they invent a real-life photo shop machine, neither them or us, are ever going to look like that. No matter how much make-up we buy, lotions we try, exercise we do, or hip clothes we wear, THAT image is completely and utterly unobtainable even for Julia Roberts or Kate Moss. THAT image is merely an illusion conjured up by technological magicians in an open plan office somewhere, and as long as we can remember THAT we will be that much closer to being happier with ourselves and so much more accepting of what our bodies are capable of being.
Emily Algar is an International Relations graduate who has just completed her Masters in International Security. She lives in a small town in Oxfordshire, UK where she writes, listens to music and walks her dogs. Since completing her studies, Emily is trying to figure out where she fits in the world and until she does, she is enjoying the ride.
Image via lucyspearls.com