As we all know, the beauty industry has a high standard in defining “beautiful” that is impossible for us to reach. I’m saying impossible because there’s always going to be something new, even harder to get and it’s limitless. We can’t follow it all the time. It’s an endless battle and it’s exhausting.
The industry sets what pretty faces look like and what doesn’t. Even if there are some changes today, with people saying that “beauty comes in all shapes and sizes”, sadly, those images and standards are already instilled in us. We are vanity beings and it’s hard to ignore that. There’s always going to be that self-consciousness in all of us in any aspect of our lives. And that’s normal. But what makes a difference is how we handle these insecurities so we don’t succumb to it.
I used to hate myself back in the old days because I didn’t like what I see in the mirror. I would always be compared to my sister, my cousins even strangers. I’d received the meanest comments that made me feel, well, UGLY. I have body-conscious issues for as long as I can remember. I learned early on that I was ugly and not as pretty as everyone else. It took years with buckets of tears for me to get through it and it never 100% goes away. To this day, sometimes I still think about it and feel conscious of myself because I never have that “perfect” body, and never will, according to those standards.
As if the body isn’t enough, they attack you on the face. Describing the perfect face and skin. Large eyes, uplifted nose, slim features. Porcelain, clear, spotless skin. Especially in Indonesia (or Asia in general), porcelain pale skin is deemed to be the crème de la crème of all skin appearances. Countless local brands promote these images over and over again. Even nowadays, when they’re trying to be discreet about it, I can still see right through it because it’s what the MARKET wants. They say “radiant” or “brightens”, but the pictures in the ad clearly show “whitening”. There was one time I saw a local feminine wash ad and there’s an excerpt where it said it can “brighten” the area as well. WHAT THE F. It’s selling and that’s all that matters. Business. How sad is that?
I have made it my personal mission that I will never work with any of these brands that support this porcelain image. I am so sick of this to the gut. It’s messing with people’s brains and all they could think of is pale, white skin is the best. And so many people will do whatever it takes to achieve that. From using a foundation that’s 5 shades lighter to more extreme choices such as taking pills, bleaching, injections.
Let me tell you that no matter what you do, people with always find something to nitpick about. I have a light skin tone, quite pale. I’d receive compliments for it but then, people would always comment on the redness and the tiny blemishes I have on my face. “Why is your face so red?” – is the question I received a thousand times. And they made it as if these imperfections are the end of the world. My mom kept pushing me to go to the dermatologist. She never teaches me any proper skincare routine and just threw me to the derms to get me fixed. I did and I regret it dearly. I felt so cheated back then.
FYI, my skin very sensitive to the sun, heat, and pollution. I get sunburn not suntan, and it’s darn painful when I am directly under the sun for a long period of time, even less when the sun is too striking. The only time my face isn’t red is when I wake up in the morning and at home, where it’s most sterile. If there’s a speckle of dust that got caught on my face, it can be itchy and red in an instant. If you ever see me having a random red spot on my face, that’s most likely the reason why. So that’s my basic skin appearance. Adding PMS into the mix? Don’t even say it, we all have our shares about it.
Flashback to when I had a major breakout when I hit 25, I knew I can’t get away with it anymore. I felt I entered a different territory and I had to make a change. Story short, I am where I am now. This isn’t just a mere story about my skincare journey, but rather what I’ve learned along the way.
First thing, I learn to inhale the good and exhale the BS. There’s a difference between a genuine compliment than a snarky, cynic comment. I focus on myself enough to know who actually cares for my wellness and who’s just being a Grinch. I know what I want and I will not let anyone discourage me because of some silly, senseless comments. They do not know me and the problems I have, so they’re not allowed to rain on my parade. Moreover, the biggest enemy is apparently my own thoughts. My previous unpleasant experiences made it really hard and it kept saying I can’t do it. But once I received my first success, I knew it wasn’t impossible. With that, I learn pretty much how to dispel negative vibes.
Second, accepting my skin the way it is and respect its integrity. Knowing that I don’t have “good” skin, I used to give up because, for the longest time, I thought my skin is so sensitive that nothing’s going to work on me. Then when I started to grow dark spots, my mom forced me back into the derms; which I strongly refused. Basically, she said those spots are ugly. I almost believed that until I realize that my late dad’s skin was like that and the genes followed down to me, though none to my siblings. I noticed that my mom doesn’t have any of those dark spots but her skin is full of acne scarring and has an irregular texture. I see the beauty of it, or rather, the balance. We all have imperfections. So, I begin to stop comparing my skin to others because it’s endless and it’s defeating to feel as if I’m less than them. I learned to love my skin in its entirety, freckles and pores included. They give my skin a personality, a character. Come to think of it, I don’t want to fit into the cookie-cutter image anyway. I want to be appreciated for who I am.
I prefer a healthy skin, over flawless skin.
How about that.
Third, thanks to the beauty standard, there’s always going to be someone prettier. And no matter what we do, someone else is going to win. Having the best, most flawless skin is not a competition. And it shouldn’t be the goal anyway. “I want my skin to be like hers”, “her skin is the goal, TDF!”. Make them be your motivation, but don’t make it your sole purpose. Remember, we have our own uniqueness and intricacies. Setting the goal too high will only bring discontentment because we will never be satisfied with the current progress. We’ll overlook and undermine a lot of things just because we’d be so focused on getting to the very top. I know this firsthand back when I tried so hard to be skinny. So I prefer to live for the day and enjoy the ride, because I am going to be on this journey for a long time. Why not appreciate every little stepping stone. Cherish and embrace it.
The last but not the least, everything has its own pace. This is where patience is needed the most. Our skin is different and none is the same. The skin heals and grows at a different rate. If you see your friend started a skincare routine and his/her skin gets better faster than you do, don’t be jealous or disheartened. I know it’s hard, thinking that they’re the lucky ones and we’re not. But when that happens, just look back at where you were and where you are now. I know for sure my skin is prone to hyperpigmentation and whenever I get any PIH and PIE, they will take a long time to heal. Longer than many people I know. It’s more apparent too because of the tone of my skin, more so when my skin is red/heated. I still have post-acne spots that I acquired 4 years ago. They have faded, but not gone completely. BUT, if I hadn’t started a skincare routine, my skin today will most likely look worse. The texture wouldn’t be as smooth, I’d look dull, rough, dehydrated, and yes, those dark spots would multiply even more had I not use sunscreen during the day. Nothing is gone to waste. Don’t just focus on the uglies, give credit to the rest.
After all these years, I realize there are only so much that we can control but most of the time, we can’t. We’re probably not meant to anyway. But we can make the best out of the current situation. Taking proper care of my skin is for me, and not for someone’s satisfaction or approvals. Maybe it started that way in the beginning, but I know that I will never fit into everyone’s image of “beautiful”. And that’s okay. I had spent so much time in my younger years worrying about what others think of me, while sacrificing what I truly want. I’m tired of being too hard on myself. Besides, who the hell are they expecting me to have perfect skin?!
And just because I take great care of my skin, it doesn’t rid me of skin problems completely. I still deal with acne, redness and irritations every now and then. I’m only human, after all.
In the journey of finding myself, I’ve learned that I’m not alone. We’re all different with our own struggles and insecurities. Even the most beautiful people experience self-consciousness one time or another. Life isn’t perfect and it’s beautiful, only if we want to see it.
I don’t strive for perfection, I live for contentment.