THE BLOG

Lived In: The Skin You're In

26/11/2015 15:19 GMT | Updated 25/11/2016 10:12 GMT

Society and media put a lot of pressure on people to look a certain way, not just to weigh a certain amount, fit into a certain size and wear all the latest trends, the pressure is so deep rooted it affects all aspects of our lives, including how we treat our skin. The role models we are given will have minimal body fat, perfect hair, "on fleek" make up, and most importantly "flawless", clear skin. This even extends to body modification, you will rarely see a model with a tattoo or anything pierced besides their ears.

Skin is our protective covering, it keeps all our bits and pieces in place, just like the protective covers that keep our all-important phones from damage, but we get to choose what that case looks like, the same should apply to skin. Yet society seems to treat it as a way of rating where you fit in, whether you have stretch marks, scars, cellulite or even a bit of ink. People make assumptions when they see these things, but instead of judging and hiding these marks, we should be proud of them as a representation of the fact we have lived. We have existed. There have been ups and downs, and we have survived. This is regardless of the mark on your skin, skin is a mere tool, another organ that has a job to do so why would life not show on it as it does any other organ?

Scars, moles, birthmarks, stretch marks or skin conditions are rarely acknowledged in the media except to be portrayed negatively because a celebrity left their hotel with no makeup on, or baring all at the beach, how scandalous right? How dare someone in the limelight have a scar from a C-section or an injury, or stretch marks from growing a person inside them, these things that can happen to anyone, how dare famous people experience them too!

Instead of embracing the events that lead to these marks, the media criminalises them. We are all more than aware that photos in magazines are photoshopped so why would we be surprised to see skin in real life not have that perfect dewy glow.

A scar is a story, cellulite is natural, stretch marks are growth, moles are normal, as are birthmarks, even tattoos and piercings represent something about you but they do not define who you are, they are as much a part of you as your hair and eye colour. So why should you be ashamed of them? Your skin helps tell your story.

It is not just the natural differences in skin but the choices we make in regards to our skin, how we display it, how much we show and not allowing ourselves to be held back by stereotypes. Unfortunately people with tattoos are stereotyped, seen as 'rough' or 'uncouth' and sometimes these judgements go as far as preventing us from professional careers. No matter what your skin looks like, it does not stop you from being a successful or hardworking person, whether you are tattooed from top to tail, have scars all over your face or a birthmark.

There are those of us who choose to mark our skins with tattoos, piercings, scarification and other body modifications, this is another way to claim your body as your own and show your story. Your skin can be your canvas and can look how you want it to, think of it as the "tabula rasa" that you can control, even if you don't like the body you were born with, you can transform it to show your story. Choosing to alter your skin or body is not anything to be ashamed of, it's just another way to live your life, another part of the story that is you.

I have been on my own journey to accept the skin I'm in. I am not the first to admit I don't have a perfect body and it has taken me years to be proud of my 'flawed' skin, some of it self-inflicted. Not only do I have vitiligo, I have scars up and down my body from an unhappy childhood. I was ashamed of my skin for most of my adult life, not because of what I went through but the way others looked at me when they saw my scars. This is something I have learnt to accept and as a result of that, I have now decorated them with beautiful art to claim them as a part of who I am, not to hide them, but to make them something I can be proud of.

There are many people with scars who hide them, like I did for years, because of the judgement of society, with names like 'emo' or 'attention seeker' it can be hard to love these parts of your body or even feel comfortable in your skin. Yet with all the body positive messages today, it's time to stand up and accept the body you live with and everything it has been through. If someone comments on your skin, you just tell them that it is what it is, and if they don't like it, they can bugger off, because no one has the right to make you dislike any part of yourself or any choices you have made. Your skin is your on-going story; people can be a part of it or move on.

It might be tough, it might take a long time and it might remind you of some bad times in your life, but your skin is a part of your memories, it is another way to document your life. Forget social media for a moment, your skin is living proof that you have survived and continue to exist.

Be proud of the strong, elastic membrane that surrounds your very being, like a well-deserved fleshy hug.

Originally posted on Polite Riot Movement by Jordan Errington