The Acne Scars.

This week I wanted to focus on scars and the stories that they tell. From my perspective I have a lot of scars, most notably on my face. My scars tell of the battle of 10 years or so of cystic hormonal acne. I have just recently turned 22 and over the last few months I have been trying to be more accepting ofmy scars. My acne has really calmed down from what it used to be with small outbreaks now and again, which compared to how my face use to be is a lot easier to deal with. The scars are a lasting effect. I know some of the will fade over time but I also know that I will never have that ‘clear’ and ‘flawless’ skin that I have dreamed of having. I have accepted that and also realised that if I only ever find my happiness in a socially constructed ideal of beauty then I am never going to be happy.

My scars remind me of how far I have come. Acne did not only affect my face. It affected my body physically and mentally. Due to my acne not being something that I could control, I learnt to have control over other aspects of my life most significantly my weight.  It also affected my mentality on how I saw myself and how I interacted with other people. I spoke incredibly negatively about myself because I felt like I wasn’t allowed to accept myself because I did not fit to a certain standard. Being the older sister I did not really set a good example of loving yourself because I could not love myself. My mindset has got a lot better over the past year, with low moments from time to time. It is all a process and it is all about growing in acceptance too.

It seems crazy that my life has been so controlled due to having acne . Growing up people were not always so accepting and some people were so damn cruel with what they said. One of the cruellest ways that people treat people is with their words. If you look online at some of the videos people have made who have dealt with criticism due to having acne it is so disheartening.  To call someone disgusting or ugly because they do not have flawless skin is just unbelievable but some people believe it is their right. If people would actually take time to think about how that person feels who is dealing with it. First and foremost cystic acne is incredibly painful even to touch the skin to treat it can be agony. Secondly, that person knows that people can see it. It does not need to be pointed out to them. Also the staring, what it with that? People with acne are not dirty, most of the time a lot of money and time is spent in trying to treat it.

It can be a dark path that acne suffers can go down to treat their acne. I mean a lot of the tablets that are given can treat to an extent but also can cause lasting effects internally. I was on tablets for seven years without any real change, some of them did make me ill. I missed quite few school days, not that I would complain too much. The major issue is that when I was taking all these tablets, half the time I had no idea what was in them. I stopped taking them, I didn’t want to keep pumping my body with goodness knows what, to just have perfect skin. I learnt that dairy was not beneficial for my skin so I found alternatives. I also found that water based products and a good face mask was more beneficial for my skin, as it is too sensitive to a lot of the acne products out there. My skin has healed slowly but it is so much better than what it has ever been.

Sometimes we need a reality check on why we do things. Is it actually for our benefit or it is more for the benefit of others to be accepted? I am not against getting treatment whether that be pharmaceutical or herbal. However, if you are just using products/treatments to be accepted, then you are not being fair on yourself. For example when I was going off to university I did not want to be known/defined as the girl with hormonal acne. I decided to use this high end brand to get rid of it, only for it to inflame my acne and burn my skin. Instead of going to uni with flawless skin I went with really red, bumpy and painful acne. It was a massive fail but it was also a really important lesson,  to be careful with not only what I used on my face, but, also what I allowing myself to be defined by. Some of the friends I made uni were some of the most encouraging and loving people I have ever met. Who would allow me to be who I was and my acne was not even in that equation.  To them it did not matter because their friendship was based more on beauty.

In this society it is crazy what people do to fit in. I mean you only have to look at YouTube.  In reality we forget how important it is to be an individual. I am currently reading Megan Jayne Crabbe’s ‘Body Positive Power’. She looked statistically at how many women fit the ideal body type and it only came to 5%of women.  I think we can waste a lot of time worrying about looking and being a certain way instead of pursuing what we truly love. I know this is a truth about my life and something that I endeavour to change on a daily basis.

In some cases, having acne does not allow that person to accept themselves. They see themselves as ugly, disgusting and any other word they can use to disfigure themselves. If you have a friend or family member who is really struggling with acne or another insecurity, keep speaking love and life into them. Like all things, there needs to come a time of acceptance. If that person knows they are loved for who they are and are known for what they do, focus comes off of that insecurity and begins to be put into a greater purpose.

I just wanted to finish with some of things I wished I knew/understood when I was younger…

  • Insecurities do not define you. They are a part of you whether that be short term or long term. Do not belittle yourself. You are a strong and talented individual, find purpose in that.

 

  • Just because society says you have to look a certain way. Does not mean you have to. There are so many young men/women who are taking a stand and being confident with their individuality. Choose to find inspiration through them. Not through the artificial, airbrushed type of role model that we have been told to fit in with for so long. It is not real, beauty is found in everyone through their own individuality. I really wish more women/men had been role models when I was in my teenage years but it is with the spread of social media that this has become more. One woman who has been an inspiration from by early teenage years has been Bubzbeauty, she is so inspirational and beautiful inside and out.

 

  • Do be careful with what you use to cover up/remove your insecurities. Make sure you are comfortable with it. For example, just because it is an acne product does not necessarily mean it will work for your skin. All our skins are different. Take your time to discover what works best for you and do not rush the process.

 

  • Wear make-up or do not wear make-up it does not matter. Do what makes you happy and confident. People will have their opinions but as long as you are happy find your contentment in that.

 

  • Smile more. Stop speaking harsh words to yourself. Which I know is not easy to get out of the frame of mind of doing. You are so beautiful regardless of if you meet beauty standards or not. You have this one life. Do not wish it away, wanting to be someone else. Be your own unique self, it will take time but self-love is a process with a beautiful outcome.

Be encouraged that you are never alone. Life can be a struggle and people can be cruel. However, there is so much beauty in the world and there are so many incredibly awesome people in this world too. Don’t allow society to dictate who you are meant to be because society speaks for a small few. You are awesome and beautiful. So own it.

Finding peace.

 

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Sometimes we can really burden ourselves with our past mistakes. We assume that they have to determine our future that they have to be a part of us. That does not have to be the case. I find a lot of freedom within my faith. I do not find it easy to forgive myself, but, when I speak words of truth over my life it helps to bring release over my past mistakes.  Romans 8 is a very popular due to the words of freedom that can be found there.

Romans 8:1-2 Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death.

It is about believing in this truth and holding it over your life. Therefore it is not about living chained to sinful means and ways to bring happiness but living with a new purpose. If you are consistently living in a way that is hurting you or is hurting others, that is not freedom.

Do not get me wrong it is a hard one to grasp. There being no condemnation, when we live in a society which is all for condemnation when someone messes up. In contrast, it shows how loving and gracious God is that even through all our mistakes he never stops loving us and nor does he forsake us.

As you read further into Romans 8 you find greater freedom.

Romans 8:6 The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace.

You gain life and peace because you are able to focus on what is better. You gain freedom from pursuing a life which is more faith filled which leads you to have hope in something better. Life is messy and half the time events that happen do not even make sense. However, my faith gives me hope of something greater. That even in the brokenness of this world you can find love and trustworthy people.

Sometimes we chose to fill our hearts and mind with the wrong things because either we want to be accepted or we just don’t want to surrender our hurt and problems to God. However, when we consistently run after the desires of the world we become so drained. The world just take, take, takes and we either keep up at a cost or we are left with nothing.

It is so easy to be worldly and to seek the desires that everyone else is seeking. We believe that it will fill the hole or be able to fix our problems without having to deal with them.  At the end of the day, would you rather not live in the freedom of what you believe than what everyone else is doing? This is why Jesus emphasises the narrow road.

Matthew 7:14 But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.

As Christians, it can be easy to confuse with what gives purpose and what actually gives life. As you spend more time within God’s word and allow it to speak into your life, you begin to see your priorities. Your life does shift and sometimes that does mean losing friends or interest in what use to give you purpose. Although that can be hard to understand and accept because as humans we like to be comfortable so we cling to what we know. However, it is never for your loss that this happens but for your gain. Sometimes the journey can be a long one but do not give up,

Romans 8:28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.

It can be really hard to surrender our self-interests to God. I struggle with it and I am pretty sure most Christians do. I do believe and have been shown time and time again that it is in the surrendering that beauty and life is found.

If you need to take some time to just surrender past mistakes or any hurt that you have been harbouring then take time to leave it before God. This can take any shape or form.  Whether it be in quiet prayer, talking through it with a trusted friend or in writing. One of the most effective ways I unload my heart is in writing. I have notebooks filled with my emotional breakdowns, my mistakes and my blessings too. It is interesting to look over old entries and see how my faith has progressed or to be encouraged when something isn’t running so smoothly.

I want to finish with some words that have been encouraging to me over the past few weeks.

Lean Back- Capital City Music

“Now I can see your love is better

Then all the others that I’ve seen

I am breathing deep all your goodness

Your loving-kindness to me

I will lean back in the loving arms

Of a beautiful Father

Breathe deep and know that he is good

He’s a love like no other”

 

I have had this song on loop for the past few weeks. The words have been such a blessing when I have felt inadequate or insecure. Learning to rest instead of doing. That it is in God’s grace that there is freedom not in my ideas of how I can earn my salvation.

Remember that your past mistakes do not have to determine you. Learn to lean back into the loving presence of God and allow God to make you whole again. Daily seek God’s word and speak his truth over you. Allow it to transform you into the person God wants you to be.

Insecurities do not make you weak!

It’s not always easy to link your insecurities with your faith. Sometimes you can join up with Christian friends or in a church building and insecurities aren’t really talked about. It can be hard to know how to deal with it when sermons are based on mission or on how to build the church. I am quite a shy person so the idea of standing on a street corner handing out leaflets to bring people in, is not my idea of fun. I am happy to share my faith and support the church but there are other means by which I am more comfortable with.

One of the most inspiring talks I have heard on faith and insecurities is by Mark Hall from Casting Crowns. It is a talk which is full of determination and hope. He talks about his battles with dyslexia and ADHD and other struggles he overcame and deals with to be where he is today. He is a man who owns his insecurities and has not only allowed them to develop his faith but also himself as a person. He holds onto the verse found in 2 Corinthians 12:9 ‘But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.’ That is an incredible truth to hold over your life, it is a prayer point to focus on. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ab8flhvMh58

One message you begin to grasp when you the read the Bible, especially the Gospels and also reading other books on putting your faith into action. Is just coming as you are. God does not need you to be the smartest person or the strongest person. Or whatever else you believe you need to be. All your insecurities, your fears and your sins. Bring them all to God as they are, no sugar coating. It is when we realise that it is all by grace we have been saved not by our own strength. Having faith does not mean that your weaknesses and insecurities vanish. It does help you to cope when you realise that your weaknesses and insecurities do not have to define you. I always like the verse in 1 Corinthians 1:27 ‘But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong.’ This verse gives me so much hope because I can come with my brokenness and insecurities and I am just accepted. God can use what I offer and doesn’t expect me to have everything and be able to do everything.

I truly believe that God gives you purpose, in a world that can so easily tear you down for not fitting into a mould. God doesn’t care about moulds, you only have to look at the backgrounds of the disciples. Please, don’t think you have to fake it until make it within your faith. That is not allowing you to be you and that is all God wants you to be.

 

Practical application…

 

A pressure that we feel from society is this ‘act’ of having it altogether. I call it an act because I do not believe that there is one person who truly has it altogether. They can fake it until they make it, but is that really a solution? Another question, is why do we have to have it altogether? It is so pressurising and it is just sad to see the amount of money and energy people waste on trying to have this perfect ‘ideal’. I also do not think we should wallow in our weaknesses and give up trying. No one wants to be an Eeyore.

In our lives it is learning to know our weaknesses, knowing where we need help but also remembering that weaknesses/insecurities make us human. In our weakness we also get to help others, it is so important within our society to learn from other people. Social media is an avenue to find people who are going through similar issues. However, as good as social media can be, it is a concern how quickly it is replacing the means of simple conversation. It is a recurring theme of how people are more willing to talk to people online rather than people around them.

As people we have to learn to be more open with other people. This isn’t something that is easily built into our culture. You only have to look at the British culture which emphasises the stiff upper lip. It is about having to learn acceptance and treating people for who they are. There is a series done by ‘BBC3’ you can find it on Youtube, entitled ‘Things not to say’. It looks at breaking the mould on what people generally think is acceptable to say to other people when it is not.

Weakness does have to be seen as a disadvantage, if we were all good at everything then it would be a pretty boring world. We also would not need to rely on others because we would be like our own god. Learning to be authentic takes time and it is also about making sure that you have the right people around you.

Please, do be careful in who you are willing to share with. Just because people act caring does not mean they have your best interest at heart. There are plenty of loving people in the world so do not be disheartened.

Encourage other people too, I am drawn to people who are just real about life. They are not ashamed of their struggles but they also have a beautiful story of growth.

Enjoy life.  I could write a long list of the weaknesses and insecurities I have. Some of them did use to control life, it was my weaknesses that defined me. Now I choose to focus on what makes me happy and what gives me purpose. I try to always spread love and happiness where I go. To be kind and make people laugh. Though half the time I laugh more at my own jokes. I am also not afraid to talk about my weaknesses if it helps someone else to grow and accept theirs. I no longer wallow in my weaknesses but I do accept it is a part of me.

Your insecurities do not define you.  You are a beautiful and creative person. Always live with hope and determination. Pursuing what you love.