Beauty Standards & Eczema
Before we find out who we are, it's important to know who and what we are not. At a young age, we are conditioned and taught to identify with things in society that are far from who and what we are at our core.
Beauty is not skin deep
One of the ways we learn to identify with something we are not is by believing that beauty is skin deep. We tend to believe all there is to us is this physical form we see. Yet, that is so far from the truth. For me, it took many years of dealing with atopic dermatitis, and then seven years of topical steroid withdrawal on top of that, to truly start to see that I am not just this human form. Outside "beauty" is not only in the eye of the beholder but that it just doesn't matter anyway. It is simply an illusion.
Feeling ugly with skin conditions
Throughout much of my younger years, especially as a teenager, I paid more attention to how I looked. What I didn't realize at the time was that it is much more important how I feel. I would go to urgent care and be put on high doses of prednisone to calm my skin down. Aside from the discomfort of rashes, I could not stand the sight of myself and wanted to look "pretty." It ended up causing so much damage to my entire body inside and out. And in the end, while going through TSW, it made me look a lot more "ugly" than I could have ever imagined.
I was afraid to look in the mirror
I became afraid to even look at myself in the mirror. All the trauma with my skin had left me feeling like a monster. I wouldn't even allow those close to me to see me. To this day, I still struggle with the mirror, if I'm completely honest. It is a huge trauma that has left an imprint on me. However, through this process, I have learned that nothing on the outside of us matters if we're not happy and at peace within. While having clear skin can (and often does) improve our self-confidence and sense of self-worth if we aren't in touch with our inner selves and the core of who we are - none of that matters anyway.
Healing is both internally and externally
I've learned more than anything that healing is both an internal and external process. To manifest the "outside" reality we want, we must first work on healing within, which is often not "pretty" in itself. It means digging up all of our traumas. It means looking at all of our "darker" aspects and all the things we are afraid to look at and then shining a light of awareness and acceptance on them.
We are not our eczema
It's not easy work - which is why it's called inner work in the first place. Nevertheless, the more we learn to do this and accept all parts of ourselves, even those we have tried to bury and shun away, the more we can match both our internal and external "worlds" to reflect the true beauty within. Each of us has this beauty, just waiting to shine through. We have to peel back layers of who we are not first, though. The more skin we shed - literally and figuratively in our case – the better we can see who and what we truly are.
This process and journey take courage, bravery, and radical acceptance.
First, it starts with realizing that as the famous poet Rumi once said: "I am not this hair. I am not this skin. I am the soul that lives within."
On an average day, how would you rate your level of anxiety related to atopic dermatitis?