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Auntie SparkNotes: How Can I Believe I'm Beautiful?

Auntie SparkNotes: How Can I Believe I'm Beautiful?

Dear Auntie,

I have a skin condition called keratosis pilaris. Basically, I have goose-bump like bumps on my upper arm and thighs. I've had it for years, and there's no cure, just treatment. On top of that, I have arms that are hairier than your average teenage girl's arm. And not little blonde hairs, but a ton of dark hair. I treat my keratosis pillars as best as I can and I dye and trim the hair on my arms, but I'm still super insecure about it. I spent the past two years of high school wearing jeans and hoodies everyday. I've been trying to work through it and not care about what people think (or say, because I've had people comment on it), but I'm still not comfortable with my arms or legs.

There are two situations that are making me freak out because of my insecurity: I'm going on a cruise in the Caribbean with my best friends for a week and I'm starting a new school. On the cruise, well, what am I supposed to wear? I can't go around wearing jeans and long-sleeve shirts all day, and what am I supposed to do when everyone is at the pool and I don't want to take off my cover-up? As for my new school, I have to wear shirts that show my hairy arms, and though there is a jacket, it's hideous. Also, the school is primarily white (as in, 94%), so most of the girls there don't have the whole hairy-arm issue, and I doubt the guys are used to it. Making new friends (and maybe a boyfriend!) is hard enough without having this problem.

I know I need to stop caring so much, but it's hard. I know it's a little unrealistic to think this, but I hate looking at my arms and thighs, so I feel like everyone hates looking at them too. And if they hate looking at them, why would they want to get to know me? Agh, I hate feeling so insecure about this because I'm usually the first one to tell my friends to stop hating on their bodies and that they're beautiful and should stop caring about what people think. I just can't seem to take my own advice... Please help!

Ah yes. And this, you guys, is the problem with platitudes about the importance of feeling beautiful.

For instance: about a year ago, I had a crazy allergic reaction that caused various parts of my body—and particularly my face—to break out in huge, red, itchy hives. Uncontrollably. For months. (On good days, it looked like I'd had a run-in with a dozen hungry mosquitoes. On bad days, I looked like a pizza covered in cysts.) But people being who they are, everyone kept telling me it wasn't that bad, that I was still pretty, that nobody noticed and everything was fine.

Except it wasn't, of course. Because I'm not an idiot, and every reflective surface in my house—not to mention the alarmed looks I got whenever I ventured outside—confirmed that actually, it was that bad. I was hideous by even the most generous standards. And some people, and particularly the ones giving me side-eye in the local Shop Rite, clearly would have much preferred that I keep my Splotchy Red Epidermis of Horrors safely ensconced behind closed doors, and definitely as far away as possible from the cantaloupes.

In that moment, there was no way I was going to convince myself that no, really, I was totally beautiful.
Which is why, instead, I decided that those people giving me the side-eye in Shop Rite could go pee up a rope, because ugly splotchy people still deserve to have cantaloupes if they want them.

And look, Sparkler: I'm actually pretty sure that you're a perfectly lovely-looking lady, that your skin condition is not as noticeable as you think it is, and that potential friends and suitors are not, in fact, reeling away in horror from the sight of your hairy arms. I could even tell you about skirted bathing suits and body makeup and depilatory kits that would help you better conform to our ridiculously unattainable standard of female beauty—and if you want to use those things, if you think they'll make you feel better, then hey, go for it.

But this self-esteem-boosting response ("Noooo, you're beautiful!") to appearance-related insecurities is so, so flawed. It presumes that "beautiful," in all its narrowly-defined, airbrushed, whitewashed glory, is something you need to attain to be publicly presentable. And the moment you beat your insecurities isn't when you've bleached, waxed, and treated yourself to the point where you feel pretty; it's when you have the guts to say, "And so what if I'm not?"... and then go do your thing anyway.

You don't owe the world a pretty face. You could be the most lumpy, bumpy, pockmarked, misshapen, and hirsute sonofabitch ever to walk the earth, and you would still be just as entitled to a chair by the pool, a teeny bikini, and the feel of sunshine on your skin as some girl with creamy skin and shiny hair and thighs the size of matchsticks. Look around you, and you'll notice: an awful lot of people aren't beautiful. Some people aren't even borderline good-looking! Does that make them less worthy of love, happiness, and fruity drinks with little paper umbrellas in them? Do you censure and dismiss other people because they're not physically flawless?

Of course you don't. And there are a million great things about you that have nothing to do with how you look. You know this; your friends do, too. And if somebody thinks your goose-bumpy biceps or body hair make you not worth knowing? Screw 'em, because you do not want to be friends with shallow douchebags anyway. This is your skin. This is your body. Live in it, love it, deck it out in a swimsuit that makes you feel like a rockstar. Take your rightful place in the sun.

And if anyone makes a comment—if anyone so much as looks at you sideways—then raise up the arms you're so insecure about... and give them the finger. Twice.

Do you have body insecurities you're trying to beat? Share your story in the comments!

Topics: Advice
Tags: auntie sparknotes, body image, advice, insecurity, beauty, skincare, body hair

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About the Author

Kat Rosenfield is a writer, illustrator, advice columnist, YA author, and enthusiastic licker of that plastic liner that comes inside a box of Cheez-Its. She loves zombies and cats. She hates zombie cats. Follow her on Twitter or Tumblr @katrosenfield.

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