Everyone is self-conscious about something. But sensitiveness about one’s appearance is likely to be particularly strong in young people. The girl who is a little overweight wishes she were thinner. The boy who is short does everything he can to make himself appear taller. As the saying goes, “The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence.”
It has already been said that starting shortly after the age of twelve there occurred an increasing interest in the way you looked. Before this period, it made more difference to your parents than to you whether your face was clean and your hair combed. But from this time on, you became increasingly self-critical of your appearance.
Because of this change in attitude, everyone with acne is seriously concerned by the way his appearance is being affected. Many an hour is spent squeezing out blackheads. How many times a day do you examine your face in a mirror hoping that it will look better than it did an hour before? Restless nights are passed worrying that a new lesion will appear just before that all-important date. It may even be that not a day goes by without your dreading the thought of going to school or the office. Suppose someone should make a remark about your face or, even worse, talk about your appearance with friends!
Because of what they consider an unsightly appearance, young men and women with acne develop feelings of self-consciousness which are greater than they might have ordinarily. These feelings are so common that you can be sure that everyone with acne has experienced them. Just knowing that self-consciousness occurs in others with and even without acne may be of some consolation to you.
But let us see if we can clarify the problem more by explaining why young people are so sensitive about their appearance. First of all, while it is true that no one likes to have an eruption on the face, not everyone suffers the same amount of self-consciousness from it. It may be compared to the difference in discomfort from an itching skin rash. The itching will drive some people frantic, while others are only slightly disturbed. Generally speaking, the way one reacts to itching, or the amount of self-consciousness that one has with acne, depends on one’s frame of mind. You know that when you are worried and unhappy about something, you are irritable and easily upset by trivial things. These same things would not bother you at all under happier circumstances.
What about this business of being so sensitive? How does one get to be this way? The way you react throughout your life to any given situation, good or bad, depends on the early experiences of your childhood. If you were fortunate enough to have an ideally happy childhood, it is likely that you will not be unduly sensitive. Your reactions to life’s ups and downs will be taken in stride and it will take an awful lot to hurt your feelings. On the other hand, if childhood was a nightmare of fears and unhappiness, the opposite will be true.
Among other things, you will have a tendency to be easily upset and impatient at not immediately having what you want when you want it. Underlying feelings of inferiority and lack of self-confidence will be shown by your self-consciousness, unsureness and over sensitiveness.
Now it is not quite as simple as this. First of all, most of you have had neither completely happy nor completely unhappy childhoods. Perhaps you cannot remember the unpleasant experiences which occurred in your childhood. We try to push unpleasant experiences out of our memory. But in everyone’s childhood, inevitably, there have been many experiences which, at the time they occurred, caused unhappiness.
These even happened in the happiest of homes. Because of these experiences, long forgotten perhaps, everyone has some feelings of self-consciousness. In some they are stronger than in others. None of us is completely free of these feelings, whether we have acne or not.
When you have acne, in a place where everyone can see it, your sensitiveness about the way people react to you is understandably increased. But most of you magnify your own sensitiveness and fail to realize that these same feelings are present in others. You are not aware that people can act in a way that covers up their selfconsciousness. Some of your friends, for example, may always appear to be self-confident and happy. Secretly you envy the way they always seem so sure of themselves. They appear so relaxed and at ease with people, while you are trembling inside. Actually, if you really knew their private thoughts, you would find that they have their troubles, too!
The self-consciousness that almost all young people with acne have about their appearance shows that what others think about them is extremely important. This is true partly because you have been brought up to be overly aware of the reaction others have to what you do. We call it making a good impression. It is one thing to be thoughtful and considerate, but this is entirely different from living your entire life in order to make a good impression.
In the long run, contentment, personal satisfaction and happiness come from within. You must be your own judge and jury. If you are convinced that you have done things to the best of your ability, you will not be so easily hurt by the opinions of others. From such an attitude you can derive a sense of self-confidence that no person or change of fortune can ever take away.
With proper attention your complexion can be cleared. Acne is not something which will always be with you. In fact, with treatment, no evidence may remain to indicate that you ever had acne. But while you are receiving treatment, you need not be miserable. Allowing yourself to be so upset certainly will not help your acne and might possibly aggravate it.
Remember that the only way to go through life is with the conviction that what others think of your appearance doesn’t alter the kind of person you are. Sure, it is pleasant to have everyone admire you. But whether they do or not must not mean the difference between happiness and unhappiness. You cannot rely on the admiration of others to make you feel that life is worth living. If you do, as long as you get this attention you may be on top of the world, but what will happen if it stops? Your confidence in yourself is something which can be with you always.
Try not to be overly critical of your appearance. After all, your acne is only a small part of the whole you. Remember that the self-consciousness you do have is an oversensitiveness or mental exaggeration of how you think you appear to others.