It's easy to dismiss feeling self-conscious about acne as plain vanity. But doing so overlooks how acne can contribute to a person's social anxiety.
In reality, self-consciousness in social settings because of your acne has little to do with vanity. A lot of it boils down to feeling comfortable in your own skin.
It gets even more complicated when we're consistently told by media and society that "perfect skin" is achievable — even expected.
As a result, acne can fuel anxiety to the point where it can take a toll on our mental health.
That's why in this post, we'll look at the effects of acne on social anxiety together with some simple things you can try that can help you feel more comfortable in your skin.
Hopefully, knowing more about this can help you improve your psychological health and your overall quality of life.
Acne and Social Anxiety
Let me ask you 3 questions:
- Is it extremely frightening for you to be judged by others?
- Does everyday social interaction make you feel very self-conscious?
- Do you intentionally avoid meeting new people?
Did you answer yes to all 3? If so, think for a moment about how long you've been feeling this way.
If you've been feeling like this for over 6 months and these feelings have started to affect your everyday life—like talking to people at school or work— chances are that you may have developed some sort of social anxiety disorder .
Social anxiety (or social phobia, as it is sometimes called) is more than being awkward or shy.
It's a type of complex phobia that can impair your confidence, mental stability, lifestyle, emotional well-being, and relationships .
If you have acne, you're likely well aware of how it can make you feel uncomfortable in social situations.
The redness, swelling, and pain can make you feel self-conscious and anxious.
It's hard to concentrate on what other people are saying. You then leave the social encounter feeling detached, maybe even isolated.
If this is true for you, know that you're not alone.
So, how can you deal with acne and social anxiety?
Dealing with acne is a given.
It's such a common misconception from people who've never had to deal with acne that people with acne don't take care of their skin.
If you're keeping your skin clean, moisturized, and protected from the sun — on top of acne treatments, then you're at least on the right track for success.
Don't let the rise of complex skin care routines pressure you into using multiple products that might only worsen your skin condition, and burn a hole in your wallet.
I'd like to focus more on the emotional impact of acne in this post. So, if you're struggling with acne and don't know where to start, this post can help.
When dealing with social anxiety, the best course of action is to consult a trained mental health professional. Only they can diagnose a mental health disorder like social anxiety.
No medical test for social anxiety disorder exists. But professionals can diagnose you with social anxiety using the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) .
If that's not immediately accessible, I have some tools to share with you that can help you deal and cope with acne-induced social anxiety in the meantime.
Remind Yourself What Real Skin Looks Like
Much of the insecurity we may feel about acne is fueled by media and society's portrayal of "perfect skin."
You open your phone and go to your chosen social media platform. You see these brand ambassadors, influencers, and even people you know with smooth, poreless, flawless skin.
You then look at the mirror and see your skin. You see every single blackhead, whitehead, pimple, red bump, and pore.
At this point, it doesn't matter if you have mild acne or severe acne—even no acne at all.
Even the tiniest flaw will make you insecure if you compare your skin to what you see online.
You need to remind yourself what actual skin looks like.
Skin imperfections are normal for real skin.
Real skin has pores.
Our skin needs pores.
They make it possible for sweat and oil to escape through the skin, so the surface is moisturized and protected .
If you spend any amount of time under the sun in your lifetime, skin discoloration is normal. Yes, even when you're super religious with sunscreen application.
We’re human. We are not perfect. And striving to achieve perfection will always leave us feeling self-conscious.
Remember: we are perfectly imperfect! : )
Following proper clear skin practices like I teach them inside SkinTalk, you’ll eventually achieve healthy skin.
Remember that healthy skin looks like real skin and not the photoshopped, filtered, and surgically perfected skin we see online.
Know That People Aren't Paying Attention
I bet you're familiar with the feeling of people staring at your acne.
That feeling might even be the reason you can't go out of the house without concealing your pimples.
We can feel like every person we cross paths with notices our acne as much as we do.
But in reality, they don't.
Often, people are too busy dealing with their own things—insecurities, and problems included—to notice us.
And even if they notice and stare at your acne, chances are, they'll forget all about your skin in less than 5 minutes.
Besides, people who will stop and judge you based on your appearance are simply rude and say more about them than you.
About 85% of people between 12- and 24-years old experience at least minor acne, according to the American Academy of Dermatology.
With how almost everyone gets acne, has had personal experience with it, or even knows someone struggling with it, it would be petty to judge someone because of acne.
Don’t let them bring you down, you hear me?
Focus On The Social Experience
Social anxiety can lead you to avoid social gatherings, even with people you love .
It can make you miss out on so many things that could have led to self-discovery, self-growth, and enriched relationships.
And when your social anxiety is acne-induced, you're more likely to cancel plans when you've got a nasty breakout (or even mild ones).
To overcome this, it can help to focus on the experience rather than on your appearance.
Before the event, focus on what's going to happen and why it's important. Try not to focus on how you look and how you feel about yourself.
Think: "We're having a girls' night out because I love my friends and time with them is important to me."
And not: "My pimples are especially big and red today. Everyone will see!"
During the event, be present.
Focus on the conversation you're having.
Notice how great the food tastes.
How relaxing the atmosphere is.
How everyone's having fun.
It can take some practice...
But mindfulness, being fully in the moment, can help keep your mind away from negative thoughts about your skin.
Look At Yourself As A Whole
When we look at the mirror, it's easy to hyper-focus on what we're insecure about. Pores, marks, scars, pimples.
This mirror-sesh might even urge you to pop every pus-filled pimple you have. Even when you're aware that pimple-popping will do you no good.
It's time to take a step back.
Take a little step away from the mirror and look at yourself as a whole.
Instead of focusing on your physical appearance, think of your positive personal attributes.
"I'm hardworking and pretty darn good at my job."
"I'm caring and help my friends whenever I can."
"I can bake the tastiest batch of cookies ever."
It might sound like you’re tooting your own horn...
And in a way you are… And that’s totally fine!
You deserve to feel good about yourself. And when you forget about acne for a second, I’m confident you can find things you can appreciate about yourself.
Repeat after me:
I am more than my acne.
I am more than my skin.
I am a beautiful woman who's capable of so much and I’m worthy of love.
Because you are!
That’s it for this post.
Now, if you’re reading this right now, and you’re suffering with acne even after trying 20+ products, and nothing has put a real dent in your problem…
Then I invite you to sign up for SkinTalk where you receive clear skin advice up to 5 times weekly, packed with actionable tips and tricks that I use on my own skin, as well as on my clients that help us rock it without acne.