Loving The Skin You're In - Finding Your Self-Esteem Stride In Your Forties

10/10/2017 13:35

For as long as I can remember I have had problems with my skin - physically and metaphorically speaking.

Physically, I had really bad eczema head to toe, from about 5 years old to 15. It was unsightly, sore; it used to sting and was uncontrollably itchy.

I was one of those children who had to wear cotton mittens to bed or I'd scratch my skin raw and make it bleed, and I couldn't wear jeans because the rash on my legs was so weepy that the material would stick to me, it was truly disgusting.

On a recent impromptu photo shoot, everyone on the shoot commented on how I have "really good skin" and how confident I was in front of the camera. I cannot tell you how much this made me laugh. Imprinted indelibly in my memory is my childhood eczema; and when I look at my skin now I can see every little scar from where the rashes were, and as a knock on effect I have never seen myself as photogenic.

I'm well aware that having eczema isn't the worst thing in the world, but eczema can be oddly insidious and debilitating. And when I was a child my skin became very infected so I was hospitalized twice.

And all of this affected the metaphorical skin I was in. I felt so substandard because I had this horrible skin condition that affected how I looked and felt, and consequently the way I behaved changed significantly, in those formative teenage years.

My self-esteem plummeted for a long time and though I sang and performed from an early age, it was almost a way to mask my lack of self-confidence. I certainly didn't feel confident or good about myself.

I didn't want to be around people as I felt and looked bad, so I would spend a lot of time in my bedroom. Music was my companion and my confidante. Writing poetry and songs filled my days. It was a beautiful escape from reality, and it still is. It has always been my compulsion, passion and my saviour.

I don't think I'm unusual in that a lot of people when they are younger struggle with keeping their self-esteem and self-confidence on an even keel, or at a positive level.

Self-esteem and self-confidence are amongst the most sought after qualities and in my opinion, amongst the most elusive. From my own life experience I feel that whatever our "Achilles heel" is, people, life and circumstance will find it out and dent the way we feel about ourselves.

Coupled with my dreadful skin, I was also bigger than I am now. Something I used to be really self conscious of, not helped by a number of boyfriends who told me my body was not my strong point.

This was also something I wrestled with for many years. It never ceases to amaze me how the physical, mental and emotional parts of us are so intricately intertwined.

But as I have grown older, something has changed. It could be as simple as just accepting myself for who I am, honouring my flaws and importantly not really caring about what other people think and this, I feel, is the true gift of getting older.

Ironically, I am slimmer, stronger and more toned than when I was in my 20s. My skin is pretty good these days too. I do still get panicked when I get outbreaks of eczema, I'm not "cured" - certain food, and pollen and stress can all trigger a rash. But I know it's not disaster. And it seems my self-esteem is a little more level and resilient.

I'm not quite ready to say I'm really confident or have great self-esteem. I know and accept I have really sensitive skin - physically and metaphorically - but that's ok.

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