When I stopped giving a shit about my zit

By Sarah Muzzillo

It’s been a long week. I’ve gone to bed around 1:30 a.m. and woken up at 8 a.m. for the past five days in a row – thanks to my first ECON midterm. Unsurprisingly, due to immense stress and lack of sleep, I woke up this morning with a brand new friend on my face, and instantly felt an intense wave of dread and shame.

Now I have this to worry about, on top of everything else.

I wonder if I brought my acne medicine home with me…

Gotta make sure I remember to use it tonight.

Damn it.

Throughout middle school, I was “cursed,” like many others, with acne. My parents and my younger brother always had clear skin, but for some reason, my older brother and I got stuck with the short end of the stick. Since I was young, it’s been a source of insecurity for me. Now that I’m older, scars and dark spots remain irremovable, permanent reminders of those awkward years.

When you’re in class or with your friends and look around and see women with flawless, smooth skin, it’s hard not to compare yourself to others. As someone who frequently tries to spread body positivity, I constantly tell my friends: “There’s nothing wrong with you,” “That’s the patriarchy talking,” “You’re beautiful,” etc. But for some reason, I can’t seem to practice what I preach. Why is it so easy and automatic to espouse body confidence, but so hard to embody it myself?

After feeling that wave of dread, I began to think a little deeper. Why do I care so much? I asked myself. Why am I putting so much emotional energy into my appearance, when I have a long, growing list of concerns actually worth worrying about?

As women, we’re taught to put immense stock into how we look. I quickly realized that I’m not concerned about myself, but primarily scared that others will see the volcano on my face and immediately, perhaps unconsciously, judge me.

She should really get some cover up.

That’s disgusting.

Wow, look at that. It’s massive.

The media perpetuates unrealistic body standards and ideals, which cause young girls to internalize a sense of shame for their natural appearance. I remember seeing Proactive commercials, promising me that I, too, could magically obtain clear skin with foolproof creams and moisturizers. (Spoiler alert: Proactive did not “save” me from acne, but only made me feel worse and defective because it didn’t work. My skin cleared up years later because NATURE.)

Multi-million dollar companies have a financial incentive to make consumers feel self-conscious about their looks. They make money off of making girls and women believe that there is something wrong with their appearance, which must be fixed, under the guise of “helping us achieve our beauty goals.”

As I started examining why I was thinking negative thoughts about my skin, I came to the eye-opening conclusion that I was making things more difficult for myself. Like most college students, I have so much on my mind, from grades to internship applications to taking care of myself to balancing extracurriculars. Do I really want to add another point to the ever-growing list of to-dos?

Although I’ll likely still feel dread and shame involving my skin, I’m vowing to make a conscious effort to change my state of mind.

This is the day I promise not to give a shit about my zit.