Boys, Breasts and Self-Esteem

The lovely Mara @ Medicinal Marzipan is hosting Teen Week: Words that Heal, which “is an annual blog series that occurs the last week of March, where bloggers use their sites speak out about their experiences with body image, sexuality, and self-esteem during their teen years.” Please check it out to read all of the other lovely posts.

How does one talk about their teen years? With a fun anecdote? Or something apt while being deeply informative and moving?

Let’s talk about how I looked forward to being a teenage because it meant boys and breasts – something I didn’t exactly have in grade school. Most ten year old girls aren’t thinking about dating, and even fewer seem to care about their cup size. But I did; and it consumed me. I remember thinking how I’d finally date, and all those boys who were jerks to me would be sorry. With my big, bouncing breasts, I’d finally be beautiful and my childhood would just be an unpleasant dream.

But when my teen years arrived, the only thing puberty graced me with was a face full of acne and period cramps that should’ve led me to the nearest hospital. By high school, I’d pretty much come to the conclusion that boys hated me and I wasn’t dating anyone any time soon – if ever. My body remained stubborn, as I sneaked into my cousin’s room to admire my make-shift bust in her full-length mirror. “Do high school girls still stuff?” I wondered, as I layered on two sets of bras, stuffed them with socks and put on my stretchiest shirt to admire my false, new bosom. I’d look great as a C cup…

But the Universe enjoyed rubbing salt into my wounds as my younger cousin seemed to be developing at a much faster rate. She went from a string-bean to a busty teen in under a year, regaling me with stories of the boys she was dating, or kissing (or whatever). My self-confidence settled in the red when she confessed that her and her friends were making fun of how small my breasts were.

Everything came crashing down; I hated my life. Why couldn’t I be beautiful and curvy? Why did I have to be so skinny and unattractive? I thought back to my friend, someone considered very attractive by her friends, who was curvy and bubbly. I seemed to only sink deeper into my depression, wondering who (or what) I had pissed off in a past life to end up with the one I’ve got now.

The conflict with my body – and what I wanted my body to look like – marred my young adult years as everyone seemed to be blossoming and I felt stunted. How can I be sixteen and some lady is telling me that I look nine!? How can these fifteen year olds not believe that I’m only a year older than them?

Rinse, wash and repeat – and you’ve got my life.

And that’s it.

Am I in a better place now that I’m older? No, not really. Many of the patterns I’ve created or experienced in high school are still repeating themselves today; cycles I don’t know how to break. I have a lot of problems, and I need a lot of therapy. But, my understanding and emotional relationship to some of these problems are evolving, changing or at least being challenged. I have an awareness of myself that didn’t exist back then, and I’m super grateful for that.

Age Ain’t Nothing But A Number. Kinda.

What is age?

This is an interesting question for me because I’m very much against age gaps in dating. I don’t even have age gaps in my friendships – all of my closest friends are within two to three years of me.

Flickr credit to: c a r a m e l

Part of the reason why I’m taking the question on is because I found two posts that discusses age and our expectations:

1. Power + Grace of: aging

2. A Burden of Expectations 

My addiction to the conversation around age is because I look really young. I’ve been getting the “you have a baby face” thing since I was sixteen. At least. When I was a sophomore in high school, people were telling me I looked twelve.

Self-Esteem: -1

Ouch is putting it mildly as I basically went through the rest of puberty being told how young I looked. I remember being at a relative’s house, standing next to my cousin who is four years younger than me (and significantly more attractive) and being told that she looks older, and I look younger.

Self-Esteem: -2 

It doesn’t help that I blamed my rail-thin figure as the leading cause for this nonsense. Many adult women – most well into their 40s – complimented me, telling me that I should be happy because when I’m older (re: their age) I’ll be happy. This comment seems to blatantly ignore how much of one’s self-esteem is tied up in how one looks – particularly to others. Having a high pitched voice and a face plastered with acne doesn’t help either.

Self-Esteem: -3 

Since I’ve started blogging, I’ve gotten the chance to meet a variety of people within the “Generation Y” sphere; from my age to those in their early 30s. And I’ve met the gamut: people my age who seem to be flourishing in their careers, relationships, blogs, or possessing such a wealth of information about a wide variety of topics I thought they were much older. I’ve met people older than me who seem to be in the same place as me emotionally, as we all struggle through this abyss called Life (or Hell – depending on who you asked). And there as just as many people in between.

The same thread seems to run through many of these people: We have no idea what we’re doing.

Currently, I only have three large focuses that take up a majority of my attention, and I’m trying to enjoy the process instead of longing for the finished product. And sometimes I think age is about that – longing for the finished product.

I recently found a post about the “perks” of dating older men, and the “reasons” they gave for it pertained to issues of being a finished product. A finished product is something (re: someone) that’s accomplished or experienced in certain things in life, so they “know” already.

This places an unseen burden on those of a specific age to have all the answers, to be at a specific point in our lives when this is simply not the case. Our life experiences can only pertain to our age when we discuss issues of pop culture: what movies we grew up on, the music we both loved and loathed, the latest fashion trends. And even then – it varies so wildly, as I’ve met many people my age who long for the 80s, 70s and 60s; eras we haven’t personally experienced.

To me, age is important, but it doesn’t pre-determine who we are, what we know or where we come from.

What do you think about age? 

Acne Acceptance : Expanding the Body Acceptance Discussion

Confession: I have acne.

Credit to: BeautyCareLines.com

I’ve had it since I was fourteen, and it hasn’t really gone away since. Acne is a fascinating topic because it is predominantly overlooked when discussing body image. This is probably because acne is seen as transient, something that happens when you’re a teenager and goes away as you get older. Even though having acne increases depression and suicidal attempts. But unlike some other beauty standard fallacies (like strict body type standards), lots of normal men and women have clear skin too. So with acne, comes the “Why me?” question.

Acne is predominantly genetic, but the myths surrounding acne, particularly the idea that diet links to acne, can make it difficult to transition into a healthier state of mind. This isn’t to say that you can’t control your acne to some extent; not picking your face, pulling your hair back, and regularly washing your pillow sheets can do wonders in meditating acne breakouts. But I’m also an advocate for not living in the future – meaning, don’t wait until you have something before you can let yourself be happy. There’s no reason to wait to have clear skin, before you can be healthy and whole.

But the skin care industry is a multibillion dollar operation, averaging at 43 billion dollars in the US, for a reason. The skin care industry offers hundreds of different methods and antidotes to the acne dilemma. And just by typing “acne” into a search, you’ll get millions of hits from teens and young adults looking for ways to clear their skin, or express acne harassment from peers.

Everywhere companies like ProActiv and Neutrogena who use young, white, women to show how happy they are washing their face, and having clean skin – it seems like a call to arms. Add the fact that unlike other body image problems, acne is something that still manages to skip some women and men. Again – the “why me?” presents itself.

Problems are compounded when real life starts to sink in. Such as yesterday, my grandmother told me how bad my skin looked, how many break-outs I had. I break-out every day, but she said that this time it was worse. I wanted to die; I’ve been using Biore scrub and cleanser for over two months now and my skin still wasn’t improving?

Today, I looked at my Biore and wondered if I should throw it out. When I go to the store, I hover in the skin care section, wondering what regiment I can use to finally get rid of my scars, my pimples, my painful cysts. But, it seems like money down the drain. Wouldn’t I be better off not worrying about it at all? If acne is based on genetics, I might never have clear skin. And is that really the worse thing to ever happen to me?

By and large, I definitely think acne acceptance needs more discussion. It’s a problem that goes unaddressed, and is easily dismissed by pretty much everyone. Which is, of course, insanely problematic.

 

Do you have acne? Were you or your friends/family ever teased about it?

How do you handle your acne now?