Soumi is a community member and a female leader in STEM who lives in Bangalore, Karnataka, India.
As a child, generally, I did not think about skin. But when I became a woman, the importance of skin started coming into my perspective. Around high school, I started getting pimples. This was very worrying for me because I’m already a very petite and short person. I have a very short height so I didn’t like myself physically. However, I was a very bright student so that really helped my self-esteem.
Even though I excelled at school, I still used to worry about my skin. I would take my mom’s powder and put it over my pimples. I won’t say that I was bullied, but acne caused a lot of chaos in my head. I didn’t accept myself, and I was very haunted by the thought of my appearance. I wondered why God created me with acne on my face. I wondered why God couldn’t have created me with a little beauty. I didn’t understand yet that there actually is no fixed definition of physical beauty. That lack of understanding caused me to have a very hard time in my life, but I felt like my performance in school was my one redeeming quality. I was very studious, and this allowed me to consider the possibilities in life. Even though I had acne, I thought that perhaps I was capable of doing something in life.
I became a software engineer, and I attained a senior position at a young age. But at 27, I began to break out again, and I literally lost my mind. Appearance matters in the corporate world. I was an adult and a professional woman leader, so when I saw junior associates with clear skin, it was very overwhelming and disturbing. When I would go to the office and see everyone neat, clean, and professional, it was very painful. I didn’t understand why my face looked the way it did, and it was so distressing to attend client meetings with acne.
Normally, I never wear makeup, but I used to put on makeup and red lipstick just to boost myself. I used to judge myself so harshly. It made my self-confidence plummet. I got to the point where I used to search the internet for really abrasive home remedies to treat acne. I tried baking soda and lemon juice, and I put that on my face, but it started bleaching my skin. I just thought that once I washed off the solution, my pimples would be gone. That’s what was going on in my head.
I wasn’t okay, but I wasn’t going to the doctor. If you feel sick, you’re supposed to go to the doctor. But when you’re having a skin problem or mental problem, we don’t go to the doctor. Why? We think we can take care of it, but we cannot. I finally decided that I would go to the dermatologist. My dermatologist gave me a lot of things to read, and she literally became one of my closest friends. I asked her - “Why am I a grown woman with acne?”
She looked at me and smiled. Then, she said to me - “Soumi, I am 40-year-old dermatologist, and look at my jaw line.”
That made me feel like acne was normal, and I began to understand that skin just changes. In life, change is normal. Once I accepted that, I had more peace with my skin. Changes can cause us to be insecure but change also allows us to understand more about ourselves. I’ve started to find more things that I love to do like drawing and reading, and regardless of how my skin looks, I enjoy them. If we are disturbed, the stress affects our skin so I might as well enjoy myself anyway - even if I have acne.