Anthony (24) is a skin-positive influencer from the Dominican Republic. He speaks about his journey with self-discovery and self-acceptance.
Ever since I was 14, I’ve had acne. Back then, I couldn’t find products to help my skin. When I couldn’t find things to help my skin, I realized that I had acne-prone skin. At the time, I just wanted to get rid of my acne, and I wasn’t into skin positivity. I hoped that my acne was just going to go away, and then I could forget about it. But by the time I turned 16, my acne still remained. I looked around, and my friends didn’t have it anymore. I started to worry and panic. To help me accept my skin type, I had to start following accounts that preached skin positivity. When I saw people believing in their worth despite their acne, that helped me do the same.
Anthony describes some of the many barriers he’s faced on his journey with self-acceptance.
I was born and raised in the Dominican Republic, and over here, people don’t really have acne so being one of the few people that did was one of my main insecurities growing up. Another reason why I felt separate from others is because I’m a gay man. There’s a lot of beauty standards within the gay community that made me feel excluded too. Once I was able to accept being gay, I was then confronted with the beauty standards of the LGBTQ community. And with acne, they were really hard for me to attain. It was hard. Coming to terms with who I was had been very difficult. I was still in the process of accepting myself. And when I first started going on dates, it felt like the community didn’t even accept me. That was a very harsh reality for me, and it wounded the perception that I had of my skin even deeper.
I was dealing with judgment from both sides. Because the Dominican Republic is still a catholic country, people still have a lot of conservative opinions and judgments over here. There’s a lot of Machismo. Because of that, I was very conflicted at a very young age about my sexuality. Since I was little, I had witnessed the way people from my community were treated. As a boy, I grew up understanding that liking another boy was not okay and totally unacceptable. When I started seeing that I had feelings for men and not women, I remember trying to fight that feeling. And at the same time, I had acne. I thought to myself - “I already have acne. My sexuality cannot be something else that excludes me. I cannot be more out of place than I already am.”
I didn’t think that I could ever be beautiful or fit in.
I didn’t know what to do. I just started going to church because that’s what I had been taught. That’s what my loved ones were telling me to do. But one day, I inevitably had to realize - “this is who I am,” and eventually, I even learned to accept that.
That’s a very difficult thing to do when you live in a country that has some machista thinking. The standards of beauty for men here are very strict. You have to behave a certain way, you have to dress a certain way, you have to be assertive, and you cannot have certain mannerisms. Well, I am not aggressive, and it was difficult to find the image that I wanted to portray. But at the end of the day, I just started being myself.
I want to be seen as myself, not an image.
I don’t want to wear certain clothes or act a certain way just to be attractive to other people. I just decided that I was going to wear whatever I wanted to wear and look however I wanted to look. I realized that presenting a forced image to others isn’t real. However, I still know a lot people who try to fit into the mold of an “attractive man.” I actually used to be surrounded by people who were firm believers of that mold.
When I was in primary and secondary school, I didn’t really get to choose my friend group. All that I had available to me were the people around me. There wasn’t much to choose from. When I was in the closet, I just surrounded myself with straight people. I didn’t know any gay guys in my school - there were none. The only advice they would give me was just like –
“Go to church.”
“Get rid of that.”
When you have that experience so young, you feel like you need to change yourself. But once I got to college, I was able to find a diverse group of people who embraced my differences. That helped me embrace myself and feel good in my skin. I was able to be around people who didn’t put me down. These people celebrated who I was.
I began to embrace myself even more when I got my first boyfriend. Being gay no longer felt like a secret. I was actually in a relationship with someone where I could have cute moments. It felt like being in love. I didn’t feel like a problem. When I understood that being in love with someone that I adore was possible for me, that was the turning point of me feeling okay with being gay.
Talking to my friends was also a big thing for me. I used to have a lot of questions about my sexuality and about who I was. Being able to vent to someone about those feelings and having a supportive group of friends has really helped me. I’m very grateful for that. I used to be in a dark place with dark feelings. But when I spoke to my friends, I saw that I was not the only one going through certain things.
A lot has changed with me. I’m more confident. Before, I didn’t believe in myself at all. I’m so much more confident when I do things. I feel good in my skin now. For the longest time, I wanted to be someone else. I didn’t like my body or the way I was. I tried to act differently. I tried to avoid myself, but now I welcome him. Now, that I’ve gotten older, I am better at looking at myself in the mirror.
I still have acne-prone skin, and I still break out, but the freedom that comes with accepting and loving yourself is just…I don’t have words for it.
The happiness that comes with embracing yourself is so indescribable. You have to be with yourself for your entire existence, so living without liking what you see in the mirror is not the way to go. Everything takes time, and we do it step by step, but we can all undertake the journey of accepting ourselves.