"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've gotten used to the complaints and groans, and have no problem ignoring them. The issue comes in when one of them 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 it seems all my closest girlfriends have absolutely flawless skin. Most of the time this isn’t a problem (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, but for the rest of the summer, we depended on texts and phone calls. He used to ask me to Skype all the time, but I always found reasons that I couldn’t. 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 (not to mention perfectly toned arms, boobs, and butt). Any time 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). And for what?
What was I so afraid of? That people would see a pimple on my face and run away? That they would stop thinking I was pretty? …Yup. That’s actually exactly what I thought. Or worse—that they 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) that they wouldn’t want to associate with me.
I was devaluing myself, thinking that the only thing I had to offer the world—my friends, co-workers, boyfriend—was my physical beauty. I also was making assumptions about my friends’ opinions that weren’t necessarily true. It turns out that they saw more in me than the funfetti craters and zits that never ceased to greet me in the morning. One night when we were talking on the phone, my boyfriend finally confronted me about why we hadn’t Skyped in two months. After exhausting all my excuses and hemming and hawing, I finally got uncomfortably honest with him. I told him that I was ashamed that he’d see me and think I was ugly. That he would realize I actually wasn’t that attractive, change his mind, and ultimately leave me. (Talk about a hard conversation!) To my incredible surprise and relief, he laughed! He laughed! He said that he was so relieved that he hadn’t done something wrong, and that he didn’t think I was ugly at all! He told me how beautiful he thought I was, and how much he missed actually seeing me. Whew!
That was definitely a tough one. Talking openly and honestly about one of my deepest insecurities. And guess what? He didn’t leave me. He just kept on loving me. Don’t get me wrong-it took me a long time to believe him. It still is hard for me not to hate the way I look. But 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 and more. When they tell me how great I look…I believe them. This makes me feel more 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 actually be able to follow her directions happily!