Say cheese!

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"Ok, now let's get a jumping one!"

I'm a natural shutterbug from behind the camera. Much to my friends' dismay, I’m constantly snapping away pics in order to capture all our fun moments together. I’m used to the complaints and groans, and have no problem ignoring them. The issue comes in when one of my friends wants to take a picture of me. I’m pretty darn comfortable behind the lens, but me, front and center? That’s a different story.

A picture of me means people will be looking at my face. I’ve had a lifelong battle with acne and all my closest girlfriends have absolutely flawless skin. Most of the time I’m fine with it (I think they’re absolutely beautiful and I love them!) but when our cheeks are scrunched together in pictures plastered all over Facebook and Instagram, it becomes painfully obvious which one of us is not so pretty.  

The summer after my sophomore year in college, I interned outside my home state and my boyfriend worked a few thousand miles away. We only got to see each other once during those three months so we depended on texts and phone calls. He used to ask me to Skype all the time, but I always found reasons not to. My roommates are already asleep and I don’t want to wake them up…The camera on my laptop is broken…I dropped my computer in the pool… The truth was that I was mortified for him to see me. I had a particularly bad breakout that summer and I seriously hated to walk outside the house or to even look in the mirror. Pictures were absolutely out of the question.

I spent June, July, and August hiding from the world, avoiding any kind of picture and watching the Bachelorette with my roommate,—wondering when I would have Ashley Hebert’s flawless skin. When I had to leave my apartment, I spent endless hours in front of the mirror applying every last ounce of cover up that my face could handle.(I made a lot of CVS runs that summer.

What was it for? What was I so afraid of? Was I afraid that people would see a pimple on my face and run away? That they would stop thinking I was pretty? Yes, that’s exactly what I thought and worse.I imagined that people  never thought I was any kind of beautiful to begin with. That I had nothing to offer. I thought that if people could see the real me, under the mountains and mountains of makeup, they wouldn’t want to associate with me.

I devalued myself.I denigrated my self worth and value to some physical standard I set and resolved that I did not meet. I thought that the only thing I could offer my friends, co-workers, boyfriend, and the world was my physical beauty. I was making assumptions about what beauty meant and about my friends’ opinions. One night, my boyfriend finally confronted me about my reluctance to use Skype and my seeming disinterest in seeing him. After exhausting all my excuses, I was finally and uncomfortably honest with him. I explained that I was ashamed of my physical appearance; afraid that if he saw me, he would think I was ugly, realize I wasn’t attractive, and ultimately leave. To my incredible surprise, he laughed! He was so relieved that he hadn’t done something wrong. He told me how beautiful he thought I was and how much he missed seeing me. I was so caught up in my own anxieties that it did not occur to me that he was feeling rejected. My fear of being rejected led me to self sabotage and caused me to push him away -- the very thing I was afraid of.

That’s when I started to question my perspective. I started to pull the veil from my eyes that poisoned my sense of self and I was able to see clearly that my friends  saw more in me than the funfetti craters and zits that never ceased to greet me in the morning.

Talking openly and honestly about one of my deepest insecurities was incredibly difficult. It required a lot of humility and vulnerability. My friends and my boyfriend kept loving me. Don’t get me wrong, these initial conversations didn’t quite flick a switch in my mind that changed my perspective forever. It took me a long time to believe my boyfriend, to keep believing my friends.. It’s still sometimes a daily battle to not to hate the way I look and hold fast to the idea that I am so much more than a pimple! Little by little, I’m accepting myself and learning not to compare myself to friends or stars on The Bachelorette. I also am taking active steps to stay healthy. I’m seeing a dermatologist regularly and I’m learning to trust my friends more. My friends were there for me even when I couldn’t see their support through my self doubt. When they tell me how great I look, I believe them. I accept their compliments and it  makes me feel confident, which actually does make me more beautiful! So the next time my friend grabs the camera and puts me in the limelight, I’ll follow her directions happily!

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