Ask The Therapist: “I have really bad acne and the only thing I feel is hatred and embarrassment for myself…I hate going out.”

In 2016, the number of people estimated to be suffering from mental health issues like depression and anxiety amounted to roughly 1.1 billion. Since then, numbers have likely continued to rise. Moreover, studies have also shown women especially on average are a) more likely to suffer from mental health issues, and b) less likely to talk about them. The taboo in Pakistan surrounding depression and anxiety disorders only serve to aggravate the individuals suffering even more. For the women who cannot seek out full time therapy, we’ve enlisted the help of a trained therapist. You sent us in your questions – here are the answers!

“I have started to hate myself to a great extent and I have no idea how to escape this. A year back I was a really happy person, but then got really bad acne. I know and try to persuade myself every day that it doesn’t define me but in the end there’s not a single day I don’t end up crying and feeling sad. I’ve visited several dermatologists, but no help. I feel that everyone’s pointing and making fun of my skin. There was a time I didn’t leave my house for two months just because I was embarrassed of myself. I still hate going out and meeting even the closest of people because I believe I am unbearably ugly. I can’t share my feelings with anyone as I have no friends who are trustworthy. Being an only child, my parents are very concerned about me – even a tiny bit of sadness on my face makes them worried and I can’t risk making them sad. It’s been a year I haven’t stepped outside my house without makeup as I am not brave enough. The only feeling I have is hatred and embarrassment for myself. It’s so bad that it has started to impact my studies and other aspects of life slap. Please tell me how to start living again and be happy rather than just putting up a happy face.”

Shahrukh’s Response:

Dear Anon,

I can really feel your struggle, and I know how much of a toll acne or any skin related issues can take in terms of one’s mental health. There are a lot of dimensions to this issue, so let’s go and explore this further and see if we can help you find the grounding that you’re looking for.

The Strive For Perfection: Skin Edition

Whether it’s acne, dark circles, dullness, uneven skin tone, or anything really, our first response is to “fix” it. None of us are strangers to the campaign of perfect skin – and how can we not be? We have endless lines of acne products being advertised all around us, we have airbrushed models in magazines and above all, there is no one telling us that it’s okay to have imperfect skin. Now, this narrative is fed in from every angle – family, friends, media, and even ourselves. So, what can really be done about this? The answer is both simple and extremely challenging: being kinder to yourself. I know. It’s not that simple, and I know it’s not simple. Though sometimes, more often than not, our bodies do not fit in with the images we see in magazines. Whether it’s our bodies or our skin, the reality is that imperfection is part of who we are. The strive for perfection is a never-ending and exhausting journey, one that can also become quite toxic and tarnish the relationship we have with ourselves, our bodies and in a lot of cases, even food. We hold ourselves to such impossible standards, and how is that fair? It isn’t, is it? Perhaps it’s time we create some level of acceptance and kindness towards our bodies, and recognize that they’re doing their best, and that we are okay just as we are. 

I really feel your pain so much, Anon and I’m sorry that you’re hurting so much over this. It can be so tough, and I want you to know that you are not alone in this. There are hundreds and thousands of others who experience feelings similar to yours, and I include myself here. Just know that you are okay just as you are, even if you don’t believe that right now.

Grounding Yourself

There are some things that you can do for yourself during this time, Anon:

  • Being mindful of social media content: I cannot stress this enough when I say that it’s important to filter out the content you consume on social media. If you’re on Instagram, create an account that might be separate from yours that is just catered towards positive and supportive content. Look for body and skin positive influencers, look for things that are more comforting and help you stay clear of the comparison trap that most of us fall into. 
  • Practicing Mindful Self-Compassion exercises: sometimes we forget that we are worthy of compassion, love and acceptance regardless of who we are and especially when it comes to what we look like. There are several resources online, where you can practice different exercises/guided meditations. See which ones work best and try to practice them as regularly as you can, and at your own pace.
  • Counselling: counselling can be a great way of exploring the challenges that you’re facing. You can speak to your counsellor, who will be there to hold space for you as you explore whatever you’re experiencing.  
  • Focusing on qualities unrelated to your appearance: sometimes we get so caught up in appearance that we forget that we are more than just the skin on our bodies. Try connecting with the inner parts of yourself, qualities that are not appearance-based. Maybe even compliment some of those parts. An example could be: “I am kind, I am caring, I am resilient, I am a fighter…” and so on.

Anon, what you’re going through is so painful, and I hear and feel that. I hope that you are able to recognise your worth, focusing away from the lens of perfection. You are worthy of love, you are enough and you are perfect just as you are – internally and externally. I wish you all the best on your journey towards grounding and healing. Best of luck and stay in your power!

The above article is written by Shahrukh Shahbaz Malik who is trained in humanistic integrative counselling at CPDD in the UK and currently has her own private practice in Karachi. The views expressed in this article are those of one expert. They do not necessarily represent the views of Mashion, nor do they represent the complete picture of the topic at hand. This article is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for medical diagnosis or treatment.

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