How It Feels When You Can't Stop Obsessing Over A Tiny Physical Flaw

by Sheena Sharma
Kylah Benes-Trapp

I have hyperpigmentation, a skin condition in which certain patches of skin look darker than the rest. It happens when the skin produces too much melanin, the brown pigment that gives skin color its color.

Hyperpigmentation isn't painful, just annoying from both a cosmetic and aesthetic perspective. For example, I have mismatched lips. The top lip is darker than the bottom one, so I'm always slathering on at least two coats more of lipstick onto the top one. Also, lipstick colors that typically show up as "nude" on a girl with even-colored lips don't look nude on me.

Basically, making my skin look pretty and uniform is a grueling process.

Here are my feet. I was known as "dark toes" in my 9th grade gym dance class because I had significantly darker toes than everyone else in class. Yeah, it wasn't exactly the smartest nickname, but I wasn't exactly dealing with the smartest of people.

I don't dance anymore, but my feet are still exposed in summertime, which makes sandal shopping stressful. I like to wear sandals that cover the dark parts, so thong sandals are usually out of the question.

Now, clearly my hyperpigmentation isn't the worst thing in the world. A lot of people have it a lot worse, and my toes (and elbows, where I also have some discoloration) aren't even a particularly visible part of my body. It's a small flaw, if it can even be called that. But my brain is wired to take small flaws and turn them into fixations and obsessions.

When I mention the things I'm self-conscious about to friends, they tell me they don't think it's that bad.

"Look at the cellulite on my thighs, Sheena!" they'll counter, in their best efforts to console me.

Truth be told, though, I don't think their cellulite is bad. I suppose the grass is always greener on the other side.

My hyperpigmentation is one of my top three biggest insecurities. I realize that one person's insecurity could be someone else's blessing. But that doesn't invalidate my feelings.

As a young girl, I didn't really care about my hyperpigmentation. Maybe it's because I had other things to worry about as an awkward teen, like my ugly AF braces or unreasonably frizzy hair (which is still unreasonably frizzy, BTW). Or maybe I just didn't realize they were "flaws" at all until I grew up.

Dove's ongoing self-esteem project shows that a young girl's self-esteem plummets as she gets older. By the time a girl gets to high school, she's lost most of the self-worth she started out with.

I can't count the number of ads I saw growing up promoting products to de-frizz hair, products to make make my lips pink, glossy and pouty and color-correcting foundations and concealers for perfect skin.

I couldn't help but conclude one thing from those commercials: If I am not blonde and a size zero with silky-smooth hair, rosy pink lips and uniform skin color, then I am not beautiful. Which is why I've spent years worth of oils and lasers and what-have-you trying to get rid of my stupid hyperpigmentation that isn't even that f*cking bad.

That's right, after DIY methods failed, I turned to the pricy, professional option of lasering the areas. Oh, was it painful. Lasering felt like little knives digging tunnels into my skin. Eight sessions later, not only did I still have dark spots (though they weren't as bad as they were to begin with), but I had gone to hell and back and relieved myself of thousands of dollars.

I'm older and wiser now, but I hate that I still let my hyperpigmentation get to me as much as it does.

I hide it as best I can: My wardrobe is limited to certain styles that slyly cover the patches I'm self-conscious about. But I want to unapologetically wear whatever the hell I want. I want to be one of those badass bitches who DGAF about what anyone thinks, and is confident enough to pull off a brown paper bag.

But I'm not a badass bitch. I'm just an insecure girl who's been brainwashed into thinking that I need all those products in the ads to be beautiful, and therefore valuable.

So here I am, living with my "flaws." I know everyone has qualms about their bodies, but I hope some day I can learn to truly be comfortable in the skin I'm in.