Many, myself included, have ventured down the winding, sometimes scary, sometimes hard, road to developing a positive relationship with our skin.
- Perhaps you’re someone who doesn’t think much (or at all) about your relationship with your skin.
- Maybe you’ve developed a stress-free, radiant relationship with your skin.
- Perhaps, when you think about your skin the only thoughts that come up could best be illustrated by dark, looming clouds —never far from view and always presenting the possibility of raining on your parade.
- Possibly it’s not that dire – instead when you think about your skin (and your relationship with it) conjures up a general sense of discomfort and unease.
Either way – bringing the discussion of skin positivity to the forefront of our consciousness is something we can all benefit from. It encourages us to examine thought patterns, ideas (especially limiting beliefs), and habitual behaviour.
So what exactly is skin positivity? Everyone will define it a bit differently, and you’ll likely develop your own definition. For me, skin positivity is less of a “what” and more of a how”.
- HOW being skin positive makes me feel
- HOW being skin positive guides my thoughts about my own skin (as well as the skin of others)
- HOW being skin positive plays out in my behaviour – both personally and professionally.
If you’ve explored conversations around “body positivity”, you’ve probably heard the notion that “every body is a good body”.
I like to equate that to skin positivity too – “everyone’s skin is good skin”… or more to the point “your skin is good skin!”
Now you might be thinking “woh woh woh. I was following you up until you said my skin is good skin! In fact, it’s not good skin at all! My skin has (insert symptom, concern, disorder, or “unappealing trait” here)….”
But that’s where I’d lovingly interrupt you 😉
“Good” in this context doesn’t equal the societal or cultural belief that “good skin” is “clear skin,” “sexy skin,” “youthful skin,” etc.
Skin, in its own right, is good! It’s worthy… as in it has worth. Our skin works hard for us! Even if we don’t appreciate it, even if we try to hinder its efforts, even if we abuse it, or hurl criticisms at it, our skin keeps working for us! Like a faithful, dutiful ally.
It works hard as part of our immune system, it works hard as part of our detox pathways, it works hard to keep our “insides” inside, and it works hard as a communication portal to tell us when something is “off” with an internal system.
So skin positivity starts with appreciating just how amazing all the things our skin does for us are. It also begins with giving our skin a break from negative self-talk, shaming, blaming, and judgement.
For those who have already begun to read between the lines, giving our skin a break also means giving ourselves a break from negative self-talk, shaming, blaming, and judgement.
One mindset reframing exercise that has helped me in the past is this: think about how you would feel about your skin if you lived on a deserted island where nobody ever saw your skin, you didn’t have a mirror, and you were too busy picking fruit to eat to be feeling, picking or rubbing your face with your fingers.
You might not think about your skin at all – other than to wash it off in the ocean every once and a while, and protect it from injury.
I know there might be a voice in your head that’s playing devils advocate and whispering “But I don’t live on a desert island! People do see my face, and I do have mirrors to see it for myself.”
If other people don’t like what they see, how much does that matter to you? It might matter a lot. But I challenge you to think about whether you judge, shame, or ridicule any of the following …
- A frazzled mom who’s overwhelmed and doing the best she can
- A friend who’s had a long week battling with demons from her past and needs some serious downtime
- An overworked spouse who keeps a positive attitude despite their gruelling day (or night) job
You likely wouldn’t! Instead, you might say, “Of course I wouldn’t judge, shame or ridicule them! Everyone has off days. Everyone is doing the best they can. Everyone deserves a break.” In all the scenarios above, you’d likely give those folks a break for their appearance as well! For example:
- The mom: Hair looking frazzled? No biggie, the kids are cared for.
- The friend: Hunkering down in sweatpants and a beloved (yet cheesy) cat shirt? Bring it on! It’s been a long week (and who doesn’t love a cheesy cat shirt?!).
- The spouse: Skipped a morning shave to instead sleep in on their day off? Totally understandable – tall, dark, and hairy is a thing right?.. If not, maybe it should be lol.
Compassion for the mom, the friend and the spouse comes easily right? Now the real challenge is to extend that compassion to our own appearance…. to our own skin… to our own bodies.
When we begin to internalize positive reframes, we start to lift the pressure off ourselves (and our skin).
Now you might now be thinking “so I’m just supposed to stop looking after my skin and throw caution to the wind?”
Nope 😉 .
Part of cherishing your skin is treating it like one of your closest friends – by supporting it. Just like you’d support a friend and cheer her on in her endeavors to embody the highest good for herself, the same can be said for our skin – supporting it and wanting the best for it comes when we respect it as something that’s worthy in its own right and deserving of care despite what it does or doesn’t look like.
Taking this approach means not thinking of your skin as a “work in progress” or something to be “worked on”.
This gets a bit nuanced as we can have a desire to clear acne, eczema, rosacea or more while remaining skin positive.
Let’s look at an example. Being skin positive while having acne can look like this:
- You love your skin for all it does for you.
- You feel for your skin similarly to how you feel for a loved one (empathy, understanding, patience, as well as a natural curiosity to know them better as your relationship grows over time).
- You treat your skin with respect and compassion (meaning you have positive thoughts and feelings about your skin and never berate it with harsh criticism, unrealistic expectations, or go to war with it).
- You take care of your skin as an act of supporting it – not an act of force, hostility, or aggression. You know that being pushy or bossy with your skin isn’t being supportive.
- You take each day at a time by extending understanding to your skin that it is working hard for you.
What you’ll notice is missing from the above example is things like…
- stressing about what your skin looks right now (or what it looked like in the past, or what it could look like in the future).
- attaching self-worth or “skin-worth” to the appearance of your skin
- hurdling passive aggressive, negative or mean insults at your skin via thinly veiled messages of “inspiration,” “motivation” or “encouragement.” Motivation doesn’t need to come from discomfort and encouragement should never come with strings attached that make us feel “less than,” dirty, ugly, or worthless.
Now you might be wondering what the best thing you can do to support your skin is now.
What one thing bridges the gap between skin positivity and skin care?
In my opinion, the best thing you can do right now is to turn the concepts discussed here over in your mind – talk about them, journal about them, marinate in them, develop them further. See how you can adopt a more skin positive approach to the relationship you have with your skin.
Think of this mindset work as an immunization that’s essential to not falling ill to societal pressures, expectations and self-sabotaging defeatist thinking.
Pressures, expectations and self-sabotaging thinking run the gamut (and could be a whole email series on their own), but one example of what a “mindset immunization” protects us against is myths and misconceptions perpetuated by the traditional beauty industry.
For example, beauty industry likes to convince us that sebaceous filaments are blackheads – essentially taking something completely natural, normal, and nothing to worry about and turning it into something we’re supposed to lose sleep over, coverup, and scour the earth to find a “solution” for. You’ve likely heard me rant on this subject before 😉 ).
This is a big reason why I think talking about skin positivity is so important – it affects our self-esteem, our self-worth, and our mental health.
Now I’d like to turn it over to you – what are your thoughts on skin positivity and the skin positivity movement (or the body positivity movement as a whole). Share your thoughts and join in on the discussion with other Radiant Rebels here.
Until next time, love deeply and scrub gently.