When I was in my twenties, I got deep, cystic acne all down my face and neck.
After a few years, my skin healed and I put the experience behind me. I wanted to pretend it had never happened and destroyed almost every photo of myself from that time.
I couldn’t bear to look at photos that reminded me of constant pain and insecurity.
When I looked at them, I would feel my shame, my sadness, and my disappointment in myself. I would feel how unattractive I had felt, how unworthy of love I had felt. I would feel regret for having wasted those precious years consumed with self-loathing.
A decade later, I can see that my struggle was like a field of freshly planted seeds. The seeds took root in the darkness of the soil. As time passed, they grew up and out into the light. The more they grew, the more I could see I'd been given a field full of gifts.
I had been given the gift of being forced to find self-worth in something other than my appearance. I had been given the gift of learning the importance of quiet nights of reflection and meditation. I had been given the gift of finding strength in times of trial.
It took me a long time to get the courage to dig up the remaining photos. For better or worse, I’d destroyed the absolute worst of them. Even still, when I looked at them I shuddered at the idea of voluntarily sharing them.
I knew that rejecting this part of my life wasn’t healthy.
One day, I felt a need, a yearning really, to come into wholeness. I put the photos up on this blog and my heart pounded. I didn't know what I was so afraid of. Once I hit publish, a wave of relief swept through me.
By embracing all that I’d gone through, I finally started to feel that I had never done anything wrong. I’m sure that seems obvious, but it was so hard to let go of feeling I’d failed myself and my body. I see now I’d never failed myself, because I’d learned something powerful about self-healing, which was perhaps the best gift of all.
As soon as I had begun learning to love myself, as I was, my skin began to heal and clear up. The correlation became obvious: my continual stress over how I looked was a big factor in keeping the acne going. I had to learn to stop resisting what was happening, to stop hating myself and my skin so much, learn to love myself, and stop tearing myself apart in my mind all the time.
At first, self-love had felt impossible. I didn't know where to begin. How could I love myself when I looked and felt hideous?
The first step was a simple but powerful one: acceptance.
I hated myself and what was happening, and I allowed myself to see that without judgment. I felt what I felt and that's all there was too it. I then started asking myself what made me worthy of love. I did this more, cycling through these two things, acceptance and deepening my self-love, like this endless hug where I kept opening my arms wider and wider and welcoming myself in more and more over the years.
When I put the photos up, I came into awareness that the current me, the one with good, clear skin, was still ashamed and afraid of the old me. To truly heal, I needed to learn to love that person again, from my new vantage point. I had to deepen and expand my self-acceptance.
Here's what I thought about the photos when I dug them up: Oh my god, gross! That is ugly and disgusting. She is gross and unworthy of love. I hate how that person looks and I don't want anyone to see her. I cannot believe she went out in public looking like that.
Letting all of those feelings rise up so they could release was at first scary, but then liberating.
It was like a ball I'd been shoving under water, pretending there was no ball. The deeper I tried to push the ball under water, the more effort it took. Even worse, some part of me was always afraid someone would see what I was hiding, which only deepened my angst.
Without so much energy on resistance, my natural feelings about my old self came through. When I look at the photos, what I see now is a brave person.
A person who taught me about self-love and the beauty of my soul. A person that taught me the importance of compassion, not only for myself, but for others who are struggling in some way.
I still get break outs, but a decade later, my skin looks miraculously different. Through my own experience I have come to not just believe in, but to know the importance of self-love and self-acceptance in health and happiness.
My journey of self-discovery is never ending, and I constantly find myself coming into more wholeness and feelings of love.
This love feels more complete, warm and open than it did when I was younger. It doesn't feel so forced, or like I'm loving me "in spite of things." I don't look at those old pictures and tell myself my imperfection is what makes me perfect. I just look and think, Here is a person with unlimited power and love inside them. Here is a person who climbed their inner mountain, and found a pretty spectacular view from the top.
I wouldn't trade my journey for any other.
The bigger the struggle, the bigger the catalyst to seek and discover your true Self, your inner light, who you are on a soul level. There is nothing more awe inspiring than turning inside and realizing that what you are is as infinite, glorious and magnificent as the birth of a galaxy.
So maybe you feel like I did and think you're pretty effing gross. Maybe it's just your own soul trying to get your attention, trying to get you to wake up, to look at yourself in a new way, to gaze deep inside until you find your inner most point and realize, you are a cosmic mystery of divine perfection.