I’m Fed Up Of Skinny Shaming & Strangers Assuming That Because Of My Weight I Have It Easy

More recently I’ve heartedly written about bigger subjects such as the pressures of being summer body ready and my disappointments with the media’s lack of care when addressing mental health. I’ve previously touched on how upsetting I’ve found unsolicited acne advice over the years but although I have plenty to say on this topic I’ve shied away from it. That was until I put up a poll on my Instagram stories asking anyone of a slimmer build if they’d experienced skinny shaming and whether or not it bothered them. I received an unexpected high number of messages in response with some real horror stories that I really related to. This encouraged me and gave me the confidence to speak up about all the reasons why I hate skinny shaming.

I have some horror stories of my own. In my early twenties I reluctantly, and somewhat self consciously, visited a popular high street chain for a bra fitting. Upon the sales assistant’s arrival into the cubicle I was met with chuckling and inappropriate jokes about how I was so thin she’d need to find a miniature tape measure because hers would mummify me by wrapping around me several times over. I was lightly poked in the ribs to emphasise how bony I was when my band size was being measured. For the record, I wear a band size 32. It was utterly humiliating, I don’t know how I didn’t burst into tears but underneath all of that I was angry because I couldn’t imagine being treated the same way had I been someone with a more curvaceous figure. Please correct me if I’m wrong, but I still can’t envision someone being told they’d need an extra large tape measure because it wouldn’t wrap around them, or poked and called doughy which is essentially the higher weight equivalent of what I was told. Either way it’s grossly inappropriate and sadly I have so many stories similar to this from over the years.

One reason I’ve always felt uncomfortable in bra fittings is that being slim can go hand in hand with comments about not being feminine enough or being less of a girl due to lack of curves. At school there was horrible taunt that went around that the B of B cup of bra sizing stood for “barely” which I’ve since learnt is nonsense but this negatively stayed with me throughout my most body-conscious teen years. To this day I won’t wear V necked clothing and at present I feel most comfortable with my collarbones firmly hidden behind higher necklines. One response I received via my Instagram stories was that someone’s male partner had been subjected to comments that they weren’t manly or built enough due to their figure so it seems neither gender is immune.

In the last couple of months in my workplace I experienced one comment in particular about my figure which left me lost for words and unsure how to respond. It’s a comment that yet again I think you’d never get away with if addressing someone with a larger build to their face yet I still seem to publicly be on the receiving end of weight comments like the butt of a sour joke. There’s regularly cake available in our staff room. A woman I can’t recall ever speaking to and who I doubt even knows my name took a pop at my weight resulting in me feeling exasperated. She was offered a slice of cake, the same as I was holding, and declined saying all she had to do was look at it for it go straight to her thighs. This was finished off with pointing at me stating how “we can’t all look like that, and have it as easy as her”. Whilst the first half of this statement could be taken as a backhanded compliment it was the latter half that bothered me because this woman knows nothing of my circumstances yet made this flippant comment. It seems I’m not alone with feeling this way about such comments as again via my Instagram inbox I received messages stating frustrations about these assumptions when individuals had struggles of their own such as physical and mental health conditions including IBS and anxiety to name a few examples. Another thing that rubs me up the wrong way about comments like this woman’s is that being slim doesn’t always equate to being healthy or feeling comfortable in your own skin. Equally it isn’t always “easy” to gain weight or as simple as eating more.

Then there’s the food comments that inevitably come which can leave me feeling unsettled. If you don’t eat that’s noted, often with raised eyebrows as if this explains everything, and if you do you can expect quips about where on earth you put it all. I don’t like comments relating to food or weight regardless of people’s size, I think it’s a really sensitive topic with the potential to cause a lot of upset. Growing up as a skinny teenager who had a major growth spurt one summer leaving me all arms and legs until I filled out, I received comments like “you’re so anorexic” as though this was a trivial compliment which I think is horrendously dangerous. Talk about skating on thin ice, what if I had actually been struggling with an eating disorder, how on earth would this have made me feel any better?

My conclusion will come as no surprise. I wish we’d all stick to the same rules, if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all and let’s stop making assumptions based on people’s appearances without knowing their stories. If it’s a comment about a person’s appearance that could be taken negatively that they can’t fix in less than 15 seconds I don’t think it should be said. After all, we are all so much more than what we look like so it can’t be that hard to find something nice to say instead.

Sensitive Comments Welcome

The Media’s Reports Regarding Mental Health Are Damaging MY Mental Health. In The Face Of Simone Biles’ Announcement, What Happened to #bekind?

Earlier this week I saw a tweet from a largely unpopular British journalist regarding the Olympic athlete Simone Biles’ decision to pull out of events in a bid to protect her mental health. She was criticised for letting her teammates, country and fans down along with being called a quitter. Her actions were described by that same journalist with a large following as anything but brave and heroic.

I’m not a fan of sport, I haven’t followed the Olympics and whilst I’m aware of Simone Biles as a medalled gymnast that’s as far as my knowledge of her goes. But for me, the point I wish to make, is that this both is and isn’t about her. If she’d withdrawn from the competition because she was experiencing a niggling feeling that something wasn’t right physically, we wouldn’t be having this conversation. I wouldn’t be writing this post. She highly likely wouldn’t be slated for an injury. I can’t imagine headlines would blame her reading that it was her fault and that she’d let people down all for being someone who can, like all of us, get hurt. She removed herself from further Olympic events after experiencing a niggling feeling that something wasn’t right mentally and by some was thrown under a bus.

I go through phases of being angry, disappointed and upset regarding the media’s response to some mental health stories but mostly I’m exhausted by it all. In the world of fame if people speak up whilst in a difficult place they’re making themselves vulnerable to these concerning, and in my opinion, morally wrong headlines which can be dangerous. By invalidating those who stand up for their mental health and calling them “quitters” it sends the wrong message that we shouldn’t prioritise ourselves and instead keep going with a stiff upper lip, until what we hit breaking point?

This is where the double standard kicks in. If they don’t speak up, are pushed over the edge and we lose them the internet blows up with stories questioning why they didn’t seek help, branding it a national tragedy with attempts at positivity and support encouraging anyone struggling to say something which can feel like insincere hot air. Take the Olympics out of the equation all together for a second and I think it shows immense strength of character to stand up and say that something isn’t ok whilst feeling far from 100% knowing there’s an high chance of receiving media backlash. Remove celebrity status and the media altogether and I firmly believe that anyone opening up about mental health concerns is showing bravery.

With every couple of years that go by as headlines like this pop up I can’t help but wonder when the lesson will finally be learnt. In 2020 the world lost Caroline Flack and the media was noted as playing a part and being responsible for the decline of her mental health. Much like my lack of interest in sport, I don’t follow reality television and didn’t watch any programmes she was involved with but I still felt upset by her loss. I am still upset by what is happening all these months later. Shortly after her passing the hashtag #bekind gained momentum. It was originally created by a mother who lost her son to suicide and wanted to stand up to online trolling. Whilst the hashtag has reached millions of individuals over social media platforms and I whole heartedly agree with it’s message I think this week’s online treatment of Simone Biles goes to show that over a year later on the whole that we still aren’t being kind. The words are out there but it feels like the message isn’t being understood despite being as clear as one of the last posts Caroline Flack ever shared.

The situation is bad enough but when you add the global pandemic we’ve all been faced with in the last 18 months to me it just feels even worse. The pandemic has caused loses for us all whether they be small or large and I think we’ll be seeing the effects of this for many years to come. We’ve lost normal routines, social interaction, physical contact, loved ones, a sense of security, jobs, homes and in some cases a complete sense of purpose. Covid made me realise why solitary confinement is used in prisons as the ultimate punishment as the repercussions of being sat in the same 4 walls and living alone without work to show up for gradually crept up on me often leaving me feeling not myself. I’ve seen and heard a lot more people expressing anxious tendencies about the world reopening after us being shut away for so long and low feelings from what became our new normal. As Covid has affected each and every one of us for many this means we understandably aren’t as tough and resilient as we perhaps were prior to the outbreak. Within my social circle I’ve noticed people seem more open to these conversations now than ever before. I think that’s because there’s been a sense of united struggling and it often got too tiresome saying everything was fine when we all knew nothing was normal.

In light of this I think we need the message of #bekind more than ever before.

Unsolicited Acne Advice & Why I Am Done Apologising For My Skin

Anyone with acne I’m sure will agree with the pain that is unsolicited advice or unwanted attention because of their skin. I honestly don’t know what compels people to dish it out as some comments are downright insensitive. I appreciate they’re trying to help but I find it really difficult the number of people that make the condition of my skin their business. Particularly as acne varies so much from person to person and it can be incredibly complicated to overcome.

For me personally it isn’t as simple as some of the suggestions I’ve had in the past from strangers, friends and family. Ultimately no one would ever choose to have acne hence me trying topical prescriptions, diet changes, supplements, birth control and lengthy antibiotic treatments whilst riding an emotional roller coaster spanning 6 years and I still don’t have clear skin. It’s so complex and far from easy which people don’t seem to understand – all the things I’ve tried to clear my skin can be found here and I’m still trying.

Over the years without asking and sometimes out of the blue I’ve had products suggested, generally skin care but once this included laundry detergent along with a suggested sheet washing regime from a stranger in a supermarket. I’ve had people suggest I just give up dairy, eggs, caffeine, alcohol, anything. I’ve had a housemate randomly announce if I stopped washing my face with all those products then surely everything would regulate itself and I wouldn’t look like this anymore. Others without being close to me have criticised my diet for being too sugary and unhealthy or that I simply don’t drink enough water or poke my face too often. I’ve lost count of the number of random people who’ve offered miraculous solutions to me. Unsurprisingly unless they’re really out of the box I’ve probably come across them when hopelessly Googling “how to clear acne” or “how to get clear skin” and here we are still without 100% success.

The trouble with unsolicited advice is it can come across as insulting, as though we’re lazy and not trying hard enough to look better or that we’re dirty with poor hygiene for not washing our faces with the Clearasil someone recommended. It can easily make me feel like a failure for not winning the physical war with acne. Part of the problem with unsolicited advice is that unfortunately lots of people think that having a smattering of pimples in your teens, which is very normal, qualifies them to dole out acne advice – it doesn’t. Most normal, considerate people wouldn’t walk up to someone they didn’t know with dandruff and tell them to buy Head and Shoulders because it worked for their sister in law. Just like they wouldn’t approach someone overweight and suggest meal replacement shakes that worked for their twice removed cousin. So why do so many people often make my skin, or acne, their business?

Is it that people are that horrified at the sight of blemishes and scarring that they feel the need to try and impart some wisdom to correct it? Or that they feel sorry for me? It has crossed my mind. Nowadays I can leave the house without make up on which is something that would once have been impossible for me aged 20 and this is not out of vanity it was largely out of self-preservation. Yet if I were to bump into someone I know until very recently I’d feel like I had to apologise for my un-made up face thinking that if I didn’t acknowledge “I looked awful” then they’d do it on my behalf which always hurt that bit more. I’d say sorry for not having air-brush perfect skin when my foundation-mask was removed just in case the shock of my real skin offended them.

It’s been 6 years since the condition of my skin took a nose dive for the worse. The older I’ve got the closer I’ve shifted towards some sort of unwilling acceptance of my acne because I’ve realised as much as I might will it to clear up it may continue to affect me for quite some time as opposed to just “growing out of it”. Honestly I’m tired of carrying around the shame, self-hate, disgust and misery I’ve felt because of my acne. If I can learn to look in the mirror every day at blemishes of all varieties and scarring knowing that it can be upsetting and is something I’d never have chosen but at the same time that I am so much more than the condition of my skin, why can’t those who have to look at for a tiny fraction of time always just bite their tongue and accept it too? It’s my face, if I can learn to live with it then I’d sure as hell hope others can too as opposed to having strangers say things like “she’d be pretty if it weren’t for her face” or relatives saying “oh you’ll look ok when you cover it all up”.

I decided this month that I am done apologising for my skin from here on out? I came to the dramatic realisation that why should I apologise for something that isn’t my fault and for having less than “perfect” skin when I’ve given this everything I’ve got without ever quitting? I will no longer say sorry for having a bare face on days I decide I not to wear make up for whatever reason. I won’t text friends an advanced warning anymore that I couldn’t be bothered to put on foundation and “look like a troll” because I can appreciate now that acne doesn’t make me ugly. Those who cannot accept my skin are people I don’t need in my life and the ones making rude remarks are the ugly ones. I am determined to do my very best to win the emotional war with acne so me verbally insulting my skin will be a thing of the past. To those who said years back “she’d be pretty if it weren’t for her face” I would now be inclined to say that they’d be pretty if it weren’t for their personality as their insults say a lot more about them than me.

My wishes for change are that we all abide by the rule of never commenting on a feature of another person’s appearance unless it is something that can be changed within the space of a minute and that real skin, pores, scars, blemishes, redness and anything that isn’t air brushed are normalised instead of blurred filter edits.

Sensitive comments welcome.

Part 2 – The Cost Of 6 Years Of Adult Acne: The Emotional Price Paid

I recently wrote a post after seeing lots of content generated on Instagram for acne awareness month which I titled Part 1 – The Cost of 6 Years of Adult Acne: The Physical Price Paid which of course only tells half the story of having the skin condition which is where this post comes in. Having acne can be an emotional roller-coaster which is something I wanted to address, especially after seeing Instagram posts from the acne positive movement talking more openly and realising I’ve needed this validation for years. I’m keen to create this kind of content as I wish I’d found articles like this when I first developed acne at the age of 20. I’ve listed all the emotions I personally have felt over the years – not all are negative.

The See-Saw Of Hope / Disappointment

With every new product purchase or prescription or diet change or lifestyle adjustment came the feeling of hope thinking maybe this could be “the one” to change my life. It still does. More often than not I didn’t get the clear skin I wanted which has dealt some heavy blows of disappointment. If I count up all the things I’ve tried to clear my skin listed from my Part 1 post (one skincare brand is 1 count which is far less than a real total) I’ve stepped onto this seesaw 39 times. It can be exhausting. 3 or 4 out of the 39 provided notable positive results in the last 6 years. The rest came with feeling let down and like there was even more wrong with me as these “cures” were supposed to work.

Bravery & Determination

It takes guts to begin an acne-clearing journey as setbacks often go hand in hand like negative side effects from medication. I’ve had some medications leave me feeling so faint and sick that I had to take 2 weeks off work and a topical treatment that caused areas of my skin to swell, scab and weep painfully for about a week during which time I was constantly on the verge of tears. But it didn’t stop me. It takes serious determination to keep going when 1 thing doesn’t work. I admit this can be fueled by desperation but am choosing to see the positive. I have countless bizarre photos of angles of my face on my phone where one week my skin looked good, before inevitably breaking out again, to remind me it can get better and maybe isn’t always as bad as I think. I still look at the image below of my skin post 8 month antibiotic treatment in 2016. Sometimes it makes me sad that I don’t look like this anymore but it mostly comforts me that I won’t always have acne, that it can and will get better.

Frustration

Frustration is a big one. When I first developed acne I was angry at how unfair it was given I was 20. Nowadays I can get frustrated that I’m 5 / 6 years down the line and still dealing with this. This has particularly affected me this year having embarked on a journey to clear my skin for the 2nd time. As mentioned in Part 1, I’m extremely grateful that in the UK we have the NHS but sometimes its tricky to find a GP who can understand the full impact of acne to ensure we get proper help. I appreciate they’re General Practitioners and not specialists but in the last 6 months I’ve been asked by different GPs if a medication that has cleared my skin so it is around 1/3rd better is “surely good enough?” if I’ve tried drinking more water or using Clearasil knowing I’ve twice been through lengthy antibiotic treatments in the past. I’ve been made to feel as though I’m an inconvenience for wanting to rid myself of my acne. I’ve even been told when medication I’d heavily researched and asked for GP advice on didn’t work “didn’t you think this one would work?”. My 2016 GP experience was brilliant in comparison. I’ve often said I just want someone to understand and fully help me so it can be frustrating when it doesn’t feel like this is happening.

Depression, Anxiety and some sort of acceptance

Both can go hand in hand with acne. When I first got acne the idea of anyone apart from relatives I lived with seeing me without make up terrified me almost to the point of physical pain. This was something I grew out of and I am far less concerned with now. I’ve cried more times than I could count over the state of my skin. I’ve often been sad wondering why this has happened to me because surely if I knew why I could fix it but try to take comfort that it isn’t life threatening, it won’t last forever and that people close to me appreciate me for my personality not whether my skin is clear or not. It sounds cliche – yes I have acne, but I am so much more than the condition of my skin which I’ve learnt to accept.

Shame

I really struggled with this when I first developed acne as I realised it was so misunderstood within society that people often assumed I was dirty. Unsolicited advice, although trying to be helpful, to me implied I was lazy and not trying enough to clear my skin which was ridiculous given the huge list compiled in Part 1. I can now see that if someone chooses to react negatively to me because of the appearance of my bare skin they’re not someone I need in my life. The acne positive community on Instagram is fantastic for rewriting this incorrect assumption and I only wish I’d found them in 2015.

All Encompassing

In 2015/16 acne sadly did dictate a lot of my life in ways that I’m not sure clear-skinned people would ever realise. I obviously avoided photos and where this was impossible I insisted everyone pull silly faces so no one was supposed to look good in the pictures meaning I could cope with the end result. I’d cancel plans if I’d had really bad flare ups and throughout a day my mind would constantly revert back to wondering if my cover-up job was good enough or if people were staring at me. My biggest focus upon finishing university was to clear my skin so that I could graduate without feeling ugly as opposed to celebrating 3 years of academic achievement. The desperation lead to me quitting my favourite foods, I really concerned friends when they realised I’d given up cheese in a bid to have clear skin. This breaks my heart looking back but I could see myself slipping towards this again but in a less obsessive way if I were approaching a big life milestone.

Gratitude and Empathy

This was something I began to slowly experience with the rest of my body when my face was at its absolute worst in 2016. I was suddenly so relieved and thankful that other areas weren’t causing me grief on this level that it did help to somewhat even out my damaged my self-esteem. Whilst at the time I was made to feel like there was something “wrong” with my face I became less insecure about the rest of my appearance. For example although I had acne thanks to 2 years of braces I was really grateful for my smile and that was something that would stay with me for many years more than my blemishes. Acne made me more considerate to other people’s health journeys that I may previously have never been able to understand.

When To Get Help

It took me a long time to realise what options were available to me when over the counter products weren’t working and I was incredibly unhappy due to my skin. One day I came across the NHS website which outlines their suggested route to speak to a pharmacist, if this doesn’t prove successful book an appointment with a GP to discuss your options where you may be referred to a dermatologist. In 2016 this led to oral medication which helped me dramatically and I still rely on prescribed topical medications at present.

Sensitive comments welcome.

Acne Awareness Month: Why I’m Endlessly Grateful I Found The Acne Positivity Community On Social Media

If you’ve read earlier posts of mine like “things not to say to someone with adult acne” you’ll be familiar with my occasional rants about how real skin conditions aren’t represented in the beauty world and how misleading, upsetting and alienating this can be. Skincare companies using “perfect” faces give us unrealistic expectations of results, ignoring acne altogether makes us feel isolated and labels proclaiming “anti imperfections” can cause us to feel anything but perfect. It may have taken me nearly 6 years but last month I stumbled across the acne-positivity community after setting up an Instagram page for my blog. It has made a huge difference to my life and filled a gap I didn’t quite realise was missing.

La Roche Posay’s Website – I hugely rate their products but really dislike their choice of perfect cover model for their blemish range

I found the first influencer, or “skinfluencer”, via a post from Glamour Magazine who were promoting skin inclusivity and was bowled over. I’ve never seen a beauty magazine advocate skin conditions of any kind yet they regrammed an image of a girl’s skin which was far from beauty standard “perfect”. Her face looked infinitely closer to mine than that of any airbrushed model I’ve ever seen. I visited her account to discover she was documenting her journey on Roaccutane and proudly showing off cysts, scars and blemishes a plenty. It blew my mind even more to see she had 23.7k followers. I checked comments on her posts with extreme trepidation expecting her to be insulted or slated as I’ve had far too many unwelcome insults in person over the years such as “she’d be pretty if it weren’t for her face”. I expected this to be even worse online where its easy for people to troll behind the anonymity of a screen but what I read was anything but. Comments were full of support, praise and thanks from those grateful to see relatable content, to have their skin conditions represented and their journeys more understood than ever before.

It honestly made me quite emotional as I had found a community of strangers amongst whom my skin could be wholeheartedly accepted exactly as it is which is a very rare but comforting sensation. People who know what is is like to go through acne, the hope you pin on further medications, the irritation of unsolicited advice, the feelings of not wanting to leave the house on bad days and so much more. In a short space of time it felt like my lonely blemished bubble had been replaced with acne memes that made me laugh at their witty truths, strangers commenting how products I’d just purchased changed their lives and hoped they did mine, overall support and understanding in bucket loads.

Needless to say I now follow many accounts like the first I found – Nicole – The Blemish Queen. A favourite being Beautiful By Breakfast as I love that her followers are called “cysters”. Their content is so unfiltered, unapologetic and real. Reading posts from others on all aspects of the skin condition has instantly made me feel less alone because lots of elements of their stories echo mine. I’ve been through and continue to go through the emotional ups and downs, the tears at make up not concealing enough, the dietary changes, the prescription side effects, the embarrassment of how acne is misunderstood as dirty and more. I’ve experienced medical professionals who don’t appreciate just what acne can do to a person’s resolve and mental health whereas these beautiful people do and aren’t afraid to share it for the world to see. They’re taking huge steps towards normalising acne in a world where it is often wrongly deemed shameful saying we have nothing to hide. It really does help and its wonderful to see social media being used as a force for good.

When I think back to how acne ruled my life at the age of 20 where my main goal was graduate university without feeling ugly as opposed to celebrating 3 years of academic achievement I only wish I’d found this community sooner and urge anyone in a similar boat to me to seek some sort of solace in the social media circle.

The Instagram tag #acnepositivity has 68.5K posts and #acnecommunity has 65.2K posts at time of writing. Long may it continue.

Things Not To Say To Someone With Adult Acne

I read and related to a brilliant article in Elle magazine in 2014 called “My Skin But Better” by Katie Mulloy. It covered how adult acne can affect a person’s life, things not to say to someone struggling with it and how all encompassing the journey to clear skin can be. The article, which sadly… More