Pizza Face. Gah, I hate that term.
I was never known as the pretty girl growing up. Middle school was brutal, and so was my skin. I distinctly remember when I began breaking out. It was the summer after fourth grade. It was okay though, because I could hide it under my bangs. That didn’t last too long, as it spread to other parts of my face within the next year. I also remember the first time I wore makeup to hide it. I was going to be meeting my then boyfriend’s dad for the first time, and my mom put it on for me. I started wearing concealer the summer between sixth and seventh grade and there began the downward spiral of my self-image.
It wasn’t enough that I was nerdy and actually had a knack for learning and test-taking, but my body decided I also needed to be teased for having acne. Yay. The words “teacher’s pet” or “suck up” didn’t bother me that much. I knew learning and school was important and I really enjoyed it. “Pizza face” was a little different though. So was a classmate’s example of asexuality in biology. He declared to the class that I would have to reproduce asexually because I was so ugly no one would ever want to mate with me. Luckily, I wasn’t in the class to hear it myself and endure the laughter, but I definitely heard about it later from my friends who were in the class. The teasing my sixth grade boyfriend endured because of me was also too much to swallow at times. I later found out from his sister that the teasing was the main reason he wanted to break up with me.
It wasn’t like I didn’t take care of my skin. I washed my face every morning and night. I went to the dermatologist and tried all the latest acne medications. Nothing worked. I remember that damn Channel 1 commercial for Clearasil. “Be clear. The choice is yours.” We had to watch it everyday, and everyday I would just sink in my chair as I felt the whole class was just staring at me, asking why I wouldn’t just use the Clearasil and get clear skin. I emailed Clearasil. I told them if I really did have a choice, I definitely wouldn’t choose to have acne. Their commercial implied it was my fault and that I was just too lazy to fix my acne.
Makeup became the fix that I needed. It didn’t cover everything all the time, but it helped. I felt I looked better, prettier. What began as just an attempt to fit in turned into an obsession. I was ugly without makeup. And of course, all the tv and magazine ads told me that was true, too! I was surrounded with images and messages about what beauty was, and it certainly wasn’t an acne-ridden teenage girl like me.
Fortunately, in late highschool and college my skin began to clear quite a bit. It’s never been 100% clear, but on good days it was close. Since graduating college, I’ve been working hard to reprogram my brain to learn that makeup does not equal beauty. In fact, I stopped wearing makeup on a regular basis for about the past three years now. My skin even seemed to get even better once I stopped wearing makeup. It has, no doubt, been a struggle though. Undoing the belief that I am only pretty with concealer and powder (and then of course you need the mascara and blush) has not been easy. But there’s something very empowering about going out as yourself, how you really are, and being accepted that way by others and yourself.
Still, the emotional scars remain, and every time a breakout returns I just want to run and hide. Every pimple I get screams at me that I will always be ugly, that I’ll never be pretty. It’s such an emotional battle, and one that I feel unable to share or really explain. Though my skin has been better overall for the past six years, it hasn’t been so good lately. I feel like I’m hitting my head against a brick wall. I don’t even want to leave the house some days. I tried the Murad Acne Complex system, but that didn’t really do anything. I hate that all I can hear when I look in the mirror are the words of kids who (hopefully) didn’t know any better that were said fourteen years ago.
It’s more than just a battle of “Am I pretty?” though. It’s a battle of “Am I worth anything?” When you are continuously surrounded by negativity about yourself, you begin to question your self-worth. But no one’s self-worth should ever be up for question. I’m not really sure what the exact point was in writing all this out. I feel like I just needed to get this off my chest, to remind myself that I am strong and it is just acne. It doesn’t make me any less of a person. If there was a point though, it would be this: Everyone is worth something. No matter how negatively you see yourself or how negatively others treat you, you are still a human being of value, and that matters. No one deserves to live life hiding inside themselves, too afraid of what the world thinks of them to actually experience all they want and all that life has to offer. Life is incredible, mysterious, and short. No matter how hard it is sometimes, don’t let your life be cheated.