Lately I’ve been thinking about the long process about truly feeling comfortable in your own skin – flaws and all. That struggle for perfection that will never be won, and the freedom you get when you fully accept who you are.
I’ve struggled with fitting in my whole life.
I was always the crazy child running around wanting to play, dance, fight, laugh, and do whatever the boys were doing because I had more fun doing real things than sitting still gossiping with the girls at school.
When I was around 11 years old I was told by my school mates that I was “too skinny”. Until then I’d never really thought much about my exterior- good or bad, I always thought it’s just me. Kids at school said I was gross and asked if I even ate food- I would go home to my mum and blame her for not feeding me enough so I tried to eat double portions to feel accepted. But it didn’t work for long- I couldn’t sit still at the dinner table and I would play my favourite songs and dance around between each bite… I started surfing and found carefree love for the ocean- it always seemed to wash away my worries… I loved life too much for opinions to slow me down.
When I got to high school new problems started to come up… Puberty. First I started getting one or two pimples on occasion when I ate a lot of sugar the day before and I had to put tinted zinc to try and hide them but let’s just say the kids were ruthless. Boys especially. They loved pointing them out and gawking at my pimples as if they were some sort of contagious disease. Of course, we were young and at the most awkward time of our life – confused about why we had to worry so much now, unsure about how to deal with these horrible feelings that everyone is judging you with each glance in your direction.
In the next couple of years it only got worse, I don’t remember any time where I did not have a big red zit somewhere on my face. My forehead was covered in small whiteheads and I began to develop more cystic acne along my cheeks and sometimes my chin. I felt gross and even though some of my peers were going through the same thing, I still felt alienated and alone. I tried to smile as if I didn’t care about the colony of angry red spots on my cheeks…I caked oily make-up on my face every day for 2 and a half years.
I tried lots of home remedies; honey masks, Aloe Vera, toothpaste, tea tree oil, different types of cleansers and exfoliators. I changed my diet, cutting out sugar and dairy products – eating as cleanly as possible… I felt frustrated because they worked once or twice but nothing cleared it completely. Stress from school work, surfing results, being the skinny girl who was as flat as a chessboard made everything worse. And worrying about whether my face would ever clear up only made my skin worse. I didn’t have the strength to not touch the spots – I wanted them gone as soon as possible, not thinking about how they would leave scars.
Looking back, I was attacking my skin- it was the enemy. I let it control my life and I think mentally I made it a much bigger issue then it was, feeling so self-absorbed that I was unaware of all the wonderful things that I got to experience with my surfing. I started taking antibiotics when I was 15 years old, hoping it would help and tried to focus on my surfing.
I began to travel for competitions and I felt relieved to get out of the bubble where appearance was everything. Ironically this was when I started some modelling for Billabong and explored a whole new part of the surfing world. I had the same feeling all over again- sitting in hair and make-up just hoping they wouldn’t say how bad my skin was that day.
The antibiotics weren’t working and the acne was beginning to leave scars. At 16 my mum and I went back to the doctor and asked what we could do next. There was a treatment called Roaccataine but with excessive sun exposure from surfing meant this was not an option. The other option was to control my hormone spikes with a mild form of the pill. After 4 months my skin started to clear and left me feeling happy and relieved. Finally I could free my skin and let it truly breathe, I felt refreshed and from then on I’ve let it do its own thing- not over cleansing and blocking it with different products- just finding the right balance for me.
At the same time, my body started to change, my metabolism started to slow down, and for the first time in my life, I started to put on weight. I became aware of ‘squishy areas’ that were once just skinny muscle and bone! I was kind of happy, I mean this is all I’ve ever wanted since I was a little girl- to be normal! But with this new growth came yet another challenge – stretch marks on my thighs and my butt. Now what could I do? I cleaned my diet even further, started doing more fitness work outs on top of my surf training and strength conditioning.
It’s made me happy to fuel myself with fruit and veggies. I feel more in tune with my body and I eat when I’m hungry but stop when I’m full- making sure I’ve got energy to burn when working out and training.
Self-control is an ongoing process, but as I grow older I know what my body needs and I think that whole awareness has given me more reassurance that I can be happy as long as I’m healthy and active. Genetically, I’ll always have the skinny legs from my mother’s side and my father’s side just is more susceptible to stretch marks…
I feel like I’m coming full circle on my 17 years on this earth and in this body- learning to accept things about myself and to feel grateful to be healthy, I’m still learning to stop comparing myself with others – comparison is the thief of joy. I am who I am and every squish, acne and chicken pox scar, stretch mark and every dimple of cellulite just makes Pacha, Pacha.
I think if you are happy and healthy, doing what you love and bringing happiness to others- whatever ‘flaws’ you may have fade into insignificance. And I’ve learnt that nature will never judge you; playing in the ocean, adventuring in the forest, dancing in the rain will always make you feel fully alive and remind you of who you truly are.