My name is Alexia, and I have really nasty eczema all over my body.
My eczema makes my skin dry, flaky, wrinkly and susceptible to oozing various clear liquids and blood. It's all-around pretty objectively gross, especially when you watch me slather tubes of cortisone ointment on myself all day at work.
But truthfully, my eczema is not the end of the world. I mean, there are people who don't have limbs, you know? At the end of the day, my "problem" is really not enough of a problem to warrant any legitimate feelings of insecurity.
Still, it bothers me. I've tried countless creams, topical steroids and combinations of vitamins in an attempt to heal it. I even got a laser treatment once. All of these "solutions" work for a few days, but ultimately my geriatric skin emerges in full force. Sigh. Woe is me.
At this point in my life, whenever I try a new treatment method, I don't go in expecting miracles. I know that any changes will only be temporary. And while you might think this thought process has defeated me, it's actually helped me come to accept my eczema for what it is: just a damn part of me.
I'm certainly not immune to physical insecurities. But these tiny, insignificant "flaws" that we all obsess over -- the gap between your two front teeth, your short nail beds, your small boobs, your hyperpigmentation -- are not worth the stress. And 22 years of dealing with one of those flaws has taught me a thing or two about how to stop being insecure and obsessive over them. Here's what's worked for me.
1. Stop being a narcissist.
We all think the world revolves around us. We all think everyone we interact with is staring intensely at us and formulating a really extensive opinion on us. But GUESS WHAT? THEY'RE NOT.
Literally nobody is thinking about you as much as you are thinking about you. And this is a really good thing. When I tell people I have eczema, they look at me like I just told them I was going to the bathroom. They're all confused, and they wonder why this thing I'm talking about is even worth discussing in the first place.
So the first thing you have to do is stop being so full of yourself! (I'm kidding, but only slightly.)
2. Acknowledge that your flaw is not going to change.
This flaw that makes you want to rip your hair out of your head is not going to change. You can try to spend money on treatments, lighteners, enhancements, braces and whatever else, but the only thing that will happen is that you'll lose hundreds of dollars that could have been spent on more important things, like shopping or going out to dinner with your friends.
Is it worth spending the money to try to fix this flaw? Plenty of people might think it is, and Lord knows there was a time in my life when I thought it was, too. But trying out all of these temporary "solutions" is like living in a perpetual on-again-off-again romantic relationship, where you get your hopes up every time only to be crushed and let down over and over again.
Is that the kind of life you want to live? Trapped in an on-again-off-again relationship that NEVER ends? Living in a constant state of heartbreak? Not me. No thank you.
So the best, most painless thing you can do is just leave your flaw alone.
3. Find the value in your flaw.
The worst of my eczema is on my hands. I freak my cousin out by rubbing my hands all over her arms and making her think my eczema is "contagious" (it's not). I joke to everyone that when I get engaged, those photos where I'm supposed to show my ring off with my hand are gonna look like sh*t. I ask people to guess how old they think I am based on what my hands look like.
In other words, I have found humor in my eczema. That's the value my eczema brings to my life.
What can your flaw do for you? Can you laugh at it? Can you use it to connect with others? Can you use it to embrace your culture? Can you use it to inspire others to get over THEIR flaws? Can you take a badass Instagram picture of it and rack up those followers?
I'm not asking you to love it, because that's really hard. But I am asking you find a way to accept it and make it useful to you somehow. Because when its purpose becomes more than the fact that it just exists, you'll find real value in it.
And who knows? You might even learn to love it naturally.
4. Realize that everyone -- no, seriously, EVERYONE, like even Kylie Jenner and whatever other celebrity we're supposed to worship these days -- has flaws.
This is the one thing that helped me the most.
All the "perfection" you see in advertisements, television shows, movies -- the perfect skin, the perfect bodies, the perfect hair and teeth and eyebrows -- is all fake. I repeat: It's all fake. Do I need to say it again? It's. All. Fake.
When I was in college and learned this concept for the first time (yes, it took me until I was 18 to learn that no famous person looks like that in real life), it rocked me to my core. I double majored in media studies and sociology, which basically means I learned that every single aspect of our culture -- LITERALLY every one -- is controlled by a small subset of people (*cough* white men *cough*) who manipulate everything around us into their version of reality.
That means passive, obedient women with tiny waists, flawless skin, shiny hair, pouty lips, and no body hair. That means emotionless, barbaric men with ripped muscles, perfectly straight teeth, huge dicks and body hair in all the right places.
This is NOT reality. This is a fake reality that a small subset of people wish were reality. But this fake reality is plastered on billboards above major highways and in every movie and television show and commercial on Netflix, Hulu, HBO, and what-have-you, and it's affecting the way we perceive ACTUAL reality.
It's easy to look at an actress in a television show and think that she doesn't have pimples or curly hair that needs de-frizzing. But people behind the scenes spent hours making her skin look flawless and gallons of products to make her curly hair straight and silky smooth. Then, they put up lighting fixtures at exactly the right angles to emphasize her nicer features and de-emphasize less appealing ones. And then, in post-production, they Photoshopped her arms to make them look two inches smaller.
And THEN, a REAL girl who's living in ACTUAL reality sees this actress, spends thousands of dollars on Accutane and Keratin hair treatments, and develops an eating disorder because she's striving to live up to this unachievable, non-existent ideal.
Do you see how everything around you manipulates you into thinking you need to be something that no human being is physically capable of being? Once you really, truly understand how f*cking fake everything is, you will be SO much happier. Trust me.
5. Understand that you are so much more than your flaws.
Women are brought up to believe that the greatest thing we can accomplish is being beautiful. This idea -- the pressure to be beautiful no matter WHAT IT TAKES, even if it means sacrificing money and sanity -- is the source of so many of our insecurities. We believe that once we finally become "beautiful," we will be happy.
However, our culture's impossible-to-achieve beauty standards set women up to fail: You can spend hundreds of dollars and expend all of your mental resources on fixing a flaw, but you will inevitably find something else, and then something else, and then something else that needs fixing. And you will forget that you are striving to emulate a human being who doesn't exist (see: step #4), so you will never, ever be satisfied.
Once you understand that our culture's idea of what's beautiful is not based in actual reality, it becomes easier to give a big f*ck-you to beauty standards altogether and focus on more important things, like your character, your ability to be empathetic towards others and your sense of humor.
Because you are so much more than what you look like. It is only when you truly understand this -- not when you finally become "beautiful" -- that you can achieve real happiness.