I have recently come to the terrifying and liberating conclusion that I have adult acne. It’s not a huge deal and I know there are countless worse problems I could be afflicted with, but until you get the right perspective you can’t see things that way, and for a long time I ruined my life over something as small (or big) as a pimple.

I couldn’t help myself. Every time I looked in the mirror all I saw were the ways I wasn’t perfect, and that usually consisted of a zit ruining what every other woman had – a flawless complexion. All I saw was skin that wasn’t smooth, hair that wasn’t shiny and soft, eyebrows that weren’t, and would never be, perfectly arched. And for too long I wrapped my self-worth in those ways. I would look in the mirror, or at a photo, and see a pimple on my chin, a new line on my forehead, a mess of hair, and fall into a funk.

You know the funk I’m talking about. I named it the ‘I feel ugly’ funk. The one where I don’t want to go anywhere, do anything, see anyone, because I feel worthless. Ugly. And I’d spend my weekends indoors instead of going out, in a mood instead of being happy.

Sometimes it wasn’t that intense. Sometimes it was just a low level of steady hate that coursed through me as I went about daily life. A constant throb when I noticed a beautiful woman on the street, caught my reflection in a street window, passed a billboard with another reminder that I was not a Victoria’s Secret model. And I got used to that throb. Learned to live with it. Learned to wake up and hate who I was, what I saw, when I looked in the mirror. When I thought about myself.

And the worst part about these funks, these moments of self hate, was I couldn’t tell anyone about them. Because telling someone you don’t feel good because you feel ugly seems, well, vain. Trying to explain to someone that you don’t want to go out because you don’t feel deserving of going out, of being seen, is pathetic. So I never said anything. Instead, I was just sullen or bitchy or not myself.

When I think back to all those wasted hours, days, weeks of my life feeling unworthy, unlovable, I want to cry. I want to go back in time and slap some sense into the young girl I was. How little I appreciated her. How much pressure I put on her. How much time I wasted of her life not enjoying it.

Well, no more of that anymore. Since writing the book, especially the chapter on beauty, I feel freed of my image. In fact, this weekend my husband took a candid photo of me and even though when I saw it I still felt a small pang of self-judgement, still noticed the little pouch that’s formed on my stomach and the largeness of my hands in this specific photo, I was able to override those feelings. I was able to let the photo go and forget about it. I was able to move on and not hate myself for the rest of the day.

It took almost four years of experimenting on these funks, these unworthy feelings, and trying new ways to kick out the discomfort and ingrained feelings of inferiority, but I finally did it. I finally stopped caring so much about what I look like, what people think I look like, what I will look like if I don’t sleep on silk pillowcases or drink eight cups of water a day. For the first time in almost four years, I can go out with a pimple, live with a pimple, and not care.

If you also feel this way, if you want to learn how to kick out the worst thoughts about yourself, if you want to be able to understand what I precious and beautiful person you are, please pre-order The Book of Moods. And if you’re still undecided here is a trailer from one of the chapters that I think sums up what the ‘I Feel Ugly’ mood is all about.

Lauren Martin
Founder of Words of Women

Comments(2)

  1. Sarah Crane

    I love Hilary’s illustrations and it’s so fun to see one of your stories illustrated. It lends a beautiful amount of humor and nuance in the small details.

  2. Lauren Holton

    The way you describe “a low level of steady hate that coursed through me as I went about daily life” and “A constant throb” of never feeling beautiful enough, resonates so much. I’ve never been able to articulate it. But my heart drops the same way. Thank you for sharing!

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The Book of Moods
How I Turned My Worst Emotions Into My Best Life

"A funny, moving memoir filled with so many a-ha moments that I had a hard time putting it down. A real asset for anyone on the quest for better emotion regulation and inner peace."

―Laurie Santos, Professor of Psychology at Yale University and Host of The Happiness Lab podcast
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