As I have continued on my journey I can say with a full heart that I am grateful for my body and grateful for those shifts in perspective that have brought me to this place. I am thankful for motion. I am thankful for real food. I am thankful for the good resources of the earth. You know what else I’m grateful for? My acne.
That’s right. I’m grateful for my acne.
This is actually a difficult thing for me to write about. I have struggled with acne since I was 11 (I’m 30 now). It was a constant source of frustration and embarrassment. I never went anywhere without makeup on. Dance became my sanctuary because the only time I felt beautiful was when I was onstage and the focus was off my complexion. You can imagine how difficult it was when I started gaining weight. The only thing going for me, it sometimes seemed, was dance, my grades, and my (awesome!) sense of humor (ba-dum-dum-ching!).*
I had tried all sorts of “stuff”: over-the counter creams, prescription drugs, online remedies, etc. In high school my mom had the dermatologist put me on birth control, which just made me crazy (stupid pills). Thankfully I avoided Accutane, but only because my older brother had such a horrible experience with it.
I remember once during my freshman year of college looking online for some sort of solution to my skin woes. I was getting desperate and it seemed my doctor couldn’t fix my acne. Maybe some sort of “miracle” treatment online would do the trick.
Then I found it: My acne “miracle” cure.
It wasn’t a drug or a cream. It was a way of life—mostly about diet with some stress topics as well. But the author promised a cure to my acne. Interesting, I thought (with a lot of skepticism).
I showed my mom and she consented to pay the $30 and we downloaded the massive book. The next morning I woke up and found my mom looking through the many printed pages. Apparently she had read through most of it before she went to bed.
“This would probably clear up your acne,” she said (with little excitement). “BUT, there’s no way anyone could live a life like this. It’s just too complex and requires too many weird things.” I don’t remember all the particulars, but I do remember hearing the phrase “cod liver oil.” That was enough for me to blurt out “gross” and move on.
…aaaand there went another $30.
Some years later, when I was beginning my journey into natural living, I came across an article with the statement “why you should be thankful for your acne.” By this point I was nearing my mid 20’s and was sick and tired of feeling like a greasy teenager. In a bitter tone I said sarcastically, “Oh yeah, I am sooo thankful for my acne.” Still desperate for solutions, I continued to read the article. The main point being this (very much paraphrased):
Be thankful for your acne. It’s your body’s way of telling you something isn’t right. Most of us are experiencing ill health due to poor nutrition and unhealthy lifestyles. Some people are “unlucky” enough to not show symptoms, riding some “genetic inheritance” that keeps their skin perfectly clear. Be thankful that your body is sending you a message to change.”
This article didn’t make me stop in my tracks, but I had started my journey… even if I wasn’t aware of it yet. Eventually, step by step, I moved closer and closer to the way our bodies were designed to connect to the world. Changes came in my movement and diet. I started giving up our toxic cleaning supplies for homemade “green” versions. My husband finally convinced me that I was beautiful without my makeup so I gave that up, too (mostly). I tried to listen to my body, move it and energize it.
I’m grateful for my acne because it told me I needed to change.
I just started to “let go” of all those things our society tells us we need. I trusted the wisdom of those who lived before our lives were cluttered with products, fads, and chemicals. (Interestingly enough, so much of the things I now put into my body reflect the wisdom and advice of that ebook I bought those 10 or so years ago. Just goes to show that sometimes we need more time before we are ready to take the necessary steps. I take my cod liver oil every day now.)
Like I said, it’s been a very gradual journey with some major acceleration these past two years. But little by little I transformed. I wish I had the pictures to prove it. I threw out most photos of me between the ages of 19 – 22 because I couldn’t stand the way I looked. Sad, huh? All I have is a handful of photos, most of them professional and touched up. Even then, you can see a difference. Or at least I can. What do you think:
Not too long ago, I was talking to my husband about this whole transformation that I wasn’t really trying to make, but that happened anyway. The words that came out of my mouth surprised me, but got to the core of what I was feeling: “I finally feel like the real me is out. The me that I always felt was inside, but that nobody else could see.”
This is the power of basic health. When we strip away all the clutter, trends, and guilt and then give ourselves time to refocus, go back to basics, and respect the wisdom of the body/nature, that is when the “real me” is able to come out. For someone who always struggled to feel beautiful, for the first time in my life I knew that I was beautiful. (I’m not planning on entering any beauty pageants or anything, but you get the point.) I also realized that there are probably lots of people out there who feel the same way I did: trapped under layers of “not me.”
I’m still on my journey. I am not perfect, and don’t plan on being perfect in this life. But I am trying to keep moving in the right direction. Little by little. There are no easy fixes or instant pills to real health. It’s a process, a challenge, and an act of courage. It’s extremely personal with no “one size fits all” approach. It requires us to be “okay” with being weird. It requires us to slow down and reconnect. But it’s a worthwhile journey full of balance, energy, and joy.
What do you think? I’d love to hear about your journey.
*For the record, despite my body image issues, I really had a happy teenage and young adult life. I was very lucky to be surrounded by people who never made me feel ugly. I was blessed with many friends and opportunities despite bad skin. (And I had plenty of ego to make up for my lack of idealized “beauty.” Ha!)