My name is Melodie Perez. I’m 21 years old. I’m a graduate student at the City College of New York.
I first developed acne at 12 years old, but at 17, it turned cystic due to the stress of applying to college. I had been homeschooled my entire life, it was really hard to manage my stress levels once I started undergraduate studies.
By the time I entered college, my acne was still cystic, and that really took a toll on my self-confidence. I would sit in the back of the class, keep to myself, and head straight home after class. Because I feared people looking at my acne, I chose not to raise my hand.
I did not precipitate in extracurriculars or go out with friends. Instead, I stayed at home and criticized my reflection in the mirror. I didn’t understand why I didn’t look like my friends. I hated being different.
Given this experience, I prefer acne normalization over acne positivity. I feel like acne positivity suggests that people should feel positive about having acing when they may not have the capacity to in that moment. When I woke up with cystic breakouts, I didn’t feel positive; however, I’ve learned now that acne is normal. I understand now that I should not criticize myself about it. I understand that my acne is not going away any time soon. It runs in my family so I have to learn to live with it. And for me, living with acne means normalizing acne.
While I hated being different for a time, I came to understand that beauty only exists because of uniqueness and individuality. If everyone looked the same, no one would be distinguishable. So, even though my skin didn’t look like the rest of my friends, that wasn’t inherently bad. Having acne allowed me to explore myself outside of beauty standards and my physical appearance, and that journey was beautiful. Since then, I have begun to embrace individuality in many aspects. My differences and struggles make me the person that I am today, and I love her.
Overall, my acne also helped me to gain the confidence that I lacked. I had to find confidence in myself because relying on the validation of others was not an option. I had to take a lot of steps on my own. For example, during childhood, I was a very shy person. So much so that I would even write a script before I made a phone call. I was afraid of forgetting what I had to say. I was afraid of being judged. However, I realized that I couldn’t just sit behind closed doors for the rest of my life. I had to learn to go out and do things, even if I thought that others might look at me differently because of my skin. The first time that I committed to living life despite my insecurities hard.
I remember joining my college’s salsa club. As soon as the dancing started, I wanted to go home. I was face-to-face with others, and because of that, I was scared of judgment. However, as time went on, I began to feel more comfortable and confident in my dancing skills. I even forgot about my acne. After that experience, I began to just throw myself into new experiences even if I was nervous at first. I began to do things for myself and live in the moment rather than spend time thinking about what others thought about me. And overall, that has made me so much more content with life.
Yes, there will be days where I wake up and feel bad about my skin, but I do not allow acne to control my life, and I acknowledge that acne does not detract from my self-worth or my beauty.