Self love is everywhere. Pinterest images touting positive affirmations, or gift shops with rose quartz crystals and self-love candles. A quick scroll on Instagram or TikTok and you’ll find influencers projecting self-love advice (whilst sitting in their bathrobe at the latest 5-star hotel that average people like us could never afford…but #selfcare right?). And the whole oversimplified “you just have to love yourself” advice thrown around as if it’s a solution to the complex reasons behind why people are struggling with their self worth in the first place.
I get it. Self love sells. It’s sexy in a way. And while psychologists advocate for self-compassion as a pivotal factor in achieving overall wellbeing and healthy relationships, the path to self-love is definitely not as easy as the cliched advice suggests. In reality factors such as trauma, years of self-criticism and societal expectations make the path to self-love way more complex.
AND THEN layer acne into the equation. When every pimple amplifies unworthiness. When every time you look in the mirror you feel ugly. When every time you see someone’s flawless skin on social media you feel inadequate. So this simple prescription of “just love yourself” often falls short when we’re faced with the constant beating of negative self-talk that comes when we compare our skin to societies standard of beauty.
So the big question is: how do you really love yourself when you have acne?
My 5 NO BS ways to love yourself when you have acne
1. Stop Comparing Yourself to People Online
This is something that is not talked about enough – the impact social media is having on mental health . It’s no coincidence that body image issues, depression and anxiety in younger generations increased during the same period of time that smart phone and social media usage increased [1,2, 3]. Social media allows a space to people to compare their situation to friends and strangers – leaving people feeling inadequate, not good enough or even unattractive.. Then add this with filters and airbrushing used at a single swipe and women are straight down the highway to low self-esteem.
Skin-Love Tip: do a social media audit – unfollow anyone that makes you unconsciously compare your life to theirs and makes you feel crap about yourself – maybe it’s their body (like the toxic #fitspo trend), their wealth or their skin. Just like you wouldn’t surround yourself with people who make you feel like crap in real life, you shouldn’t let your social media be the same. There’s a difference between following someone for inspiration, motivation, or projecting where you want to be and feeling downright SHIT about yourself.
2. Self Love is a Practice Not a Destination
Self love is like a muscle. It doesn’t grow strong after one session, you strengthen it over time. Some days you’re not going to feel great about yourself. You’re going to hate your skin or the way your stomach looks in that dress. And that’s okay. Because you don’t have to like everything about yourself ALL OF THE TIME. Like any relationship, it takes work, patience and compassion. But when you invest in this relationship, it’ll be the best relationship you’ll ever have (I mean it’ll definitely be the longest relationship so it’s one worth nurturing).
3. You don’t have to love your situation in order to love yourself
Do you still love your best friend even though they might have flaws or traumas or have bad things happen to them? Of course you would – you’d be there to support them through it all and love them regardless. But why can’t we do the same with ourselves. Instead we nitpick and criticize every little flaw and fault we see. We are not perfect, no one is perfect. Yet we are striving for a perfection that does not exist. Perfection is not a pre-requisite to loving ourselves.
4. Remember that acne does not define you
Acne is a skin condition, it is not who you are. It does not change you –
As much as it can make you feel like you have to avoid certain activities, cancel plans or hide yourself under layers of make-up, don’t let it. Take back the power. Don’t let your skin stop you from living your best life now. Because I promise you, the more you step out and LIVE LIFE the way it is meant to, the more you will start to care a little less about your skin.
5. Practise Self Gratitude
This is the fluffiest tip I have, but bear with me, it works. Studies show that gratitude can alter the neural pathways in the brain, regulates the immune system and helps reduce conditions like stress, anxiety, and depression .
Literally the brain cannot experience anxiety and gratitude at the same time. People who practised gratitude showed lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol – which also benefits the skin (stress is a HUGE trigger of acne).
Self-Love Tip: every morning or evening write 3 things you’re grateful for. Start small, it doesn’t have to be big… my coffee was great this morning. My hair worked well… my legs are so strong to get me through that workout… The more you practise, the more your brain learns to focus on the positive things in the world.
Self love when you have acne isn’t easy – I mean it’s definitely not as easy as the oversimplified advice suggests. So maybe it’s not self-LOVE we’re striving for (where the image of “LOVE” depicts perfect, fairy tails and complete adoration). Maybe what we’re striving for is self–acceptance. To be a woman who accepts her self for all that she is, through all her mistakes, trials, flaws and imperfections – that is an incredible woman.
If you want the evidence…
2. Social Media Use and Body Image Disorders: Association between Frequency of Comparing One’s Own Physical Appearance to That of People Being Followed on Social Media and Body Dissatisfaction and Drive for Thinness