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RIZVI: Acne can teach us valuable lessons

Column: Reali-Tea with Rania

Rania Rizvi is a Rutgers Business School and School of Arts and Sciences sophomore majoring in supply chain management and journalism and media studies. Her column, "Reali-Tea with Rania," runs on alternate Wednesdays.
Rania Rizvi is a Rutgers Business School and School of Arts and Sciences sophomore majoring in supply chain management and journalism and media studies. Her column, "Reali-Tea with Rania," runs on alternate Wednesdays.

In a society run by plastic-filled social media influencers and with perfection as the expectation, having acne feels like having a degenerative ailment.

It is almost impossible to not get sucked into the toxic cycle of self-obsession, dysphoric self-image and feeling like you are just plain ugly with these bumps on your face. 

But perhaps worse than the physical discomfort that comes with acne is the psychological impacts.

Acne is notorious for bringing on a daunting onslaught of mental health issues. Approximately 25.2 percent of acne patients also suffer from “psychiatric morbidity” (i.e. a mental health disorder) and are at greater risk for depression than those who do not, according to a study published in the British Journal of Dermatology

What was once a marker of the transition of childhood into coming of age has become a psychologically damaging experience, especially for young adults. Millions suffering from acne dysmorphia, also known as body dysmorphic disorder (BDD), fall victim to chronically low self-esteem, anxiety and depression.

From close friends to family members, body and acne dysmorphia have wreaked havoc on the hearts and minds of many. While feelings of insecurity are normal, it is imperative that we do not let them control us or our mental well-being. Therefore, it is about time that we, as a generation, reclaim our bodies and our mental health and stop letting corporate agendas profit off of insecurity (i.e. the $16 billion plastic surgery industry). 

As someone who has suffered from acne, I have also fallen victim to these traps. But, through my tumultuous journey with acne and self-image, I learned that I must reframe the negative approach I have been programmed to associate with my acne and find the silver lining, no matter how difficult it may be, for my own sake. 

Here are four life-changing things I learned from having acne: 

1. Acne can be a great tool for improving one’s overall health 

Science says the skin is our largest organ. Therefore, it only makes sense that it is easily affected by environmental and dietary changes. 

Oftentimes, it can be daunting to figure out the root cause of every single blemish since we are constantly changing our diets and surroundings. 

Acne can improve greatly from diet and lifestyle changes (i.e. sleeping regularly and exercising). This, along with using tools backed by science such as Chinese facial mapping, allows us to regain our power and solve the issue effectively.

2. Practice persistence 

From being dry and cracked in the wintertime to becoming prone to redness and oiliness in the summer, skin is ever-changing. Consequently, many people, myself included, find that the routines that once worked for them fail to produce results months later. 

Social media gives us the distorted truth that we can buy a pill or a tea blend and make our deepest insecurities disappear. 

But in reality, there is no such thing as an all-across-the-board cure. What works for some may not work for others. 

Like many things in life, adaptability is our strongest asset. Be willing to experiment, and more importantly, be willing to fail. As the cliche goes: “If at first you do not succeed, try, try again.” 

3. Express gratitude for all progress, big or small

When I first started my acne medication, I was more disappointed than pleased. I kept hoping that I was going to wake up one day and everything would just disappear. 

I quickly realized that this is a surefire way to perpetuate my unhappiness. So I reframed my mindset and learned to celebrate the small things — when one mark would seem a little lighter, when I went out without makeup or took a selfie that I thought was nice. 

This mindset began to translate into other areas of my life. When I run into rough patches, I try to look for that bit of good, no matter how small. 

Ultimately, there is no such thing as an overnight success. Anything worthwhile takes time. 

4. Forgive yourself

Too many of us are too hard on ourselves. We feel as though anything bad happens to us must be due to something we did.

Dysmorphia is characterized by becoming obsessed with appearances and ritualistically focusing on the perceived flaw, according to the Mayo Clinic

This ritualism is inherently rooted in that feeling of “responsibility.” We feel that if we are not constantly ruminating about it — whether it be our insecurities or our careers or other issues that we seem to have no control over — then the guilt of inaction will eat us alive. 

But like acne and other traumas alike, sometimes bad things just happen. 

We need to learn to realize that beating ourselves up, as innate as it is, will only further us from our goals. 

College happens. Life happens. Forgive yourself for being human. 

Rania Rizvi is a Rutgers Business School and School of Arts and Sciences sophomore majoring in supply chain management and journalism and media studies. Her column, "Reali-Tea with Rania," runs on alternate Wednesdays.


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