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As a kid, I loved summer because it meant summer vacation, being outside until it got dark, and and going on vacation to Cape Cod with my family. Now I dread when it starts to get warmer outside and my anxiety is constant from June to September. I believe I have struggled with body dysmorphia since around middle but have never talked about it or really realized how much it interfered with my life until this year.
Body dysmorphia is thought to fall under the category of OCD and some form of anxiety because of its obsessive tendencies and ability to cause emotional distress. Most people have something they are insecure about with their appearance which is normal so I didn’t think something was off in being insecure about my appearance. However, I tend to take my insecurities to the next level and looking back on my early teenage years I now understand my thinking is not normal.
Three of the things that I fixate on about my body are weight, having pale skin, and my freckles. Summer is a nightmare for me because it emphasizes each of these imperfections and it is difficult to escape my anxious thoughts when it’s too hot to wear clothes and makeup that would normally help cover these features and take my mind of them. Social media has really influenced my negative thoughts surrounding my weight and every day is a different thought. Some days I think I’m too and other days I feel I am too heavy and can see my cellulite in the sun. Both of these thoughts influence how I eat each day and involve constant mirror checks to determine if my stomach is too bloated or if I have “chicken legs”.
I come from an Irish background and most of my family has pale skin and a history of skin cancer. Because of this I tend to avoid the sun and when I do go out I get sunburns and freckles. Going back to school after summer vacation always felt difficult for the normal reasons of having homework and being inside all day but for me it was also because all my classmates had a tan. I wanted to fit in and be tan and get compliments about how great I looked but it’s just not healthy or easy for my skin. I remember in high school spending so much of my parent’s money on self-tanners experimenting with one that didn’t look too orange and matched the skin of my classmates. I spent so much time perfecting how to use self-tanner to get an even and natural looking tan and had to apply it nightly before bed so it wouldn’t fade. But then it would start to fade and become patchy and I’d have to scrub it off until my skin was red and irritated and start the process over for a new week. It was exhausting and eventually I stopped but I still am always aware of how my skin looks in the summer months and get self-conscious and upset when I see other people at the beach who can tan so easily and look perfect during those months.
My biggest insecurity, even in non-summer months, are my freckles. Pale skin and freckles often go together and I happen to struggle with both. I often avoid the sun in the summer because yes I am afraid of skin cancer but also because I am afraid of getting more freckles. I have been playing with makeup, specifically foundation, since 7th grade in order to find the perfect way to cover my freckles. I have spent thousands of my parent’s and my own money on every foundation product you can think of. I have actually become really good at makeup over the years because of this and it is now a hobby which is great but it didn’t start in a healthy way. I hate being hot and wearing makeup in the heat makes that feeling so much worse so I tend to not wear it in summer. As a result, you can see my freckles! Which I hate! I don’t know why I hate my freckles so much because I love them on other people but for some reason I think about them all day and how everybody can see them when looking at me. There is something about having flawless skin that is inviting, probably because of the media. I guess I feel like I will never achieve this beauty standard because there’s always brown dots on my face.
I’ve gotten a lot more comfortable in my own skin the last few years but summer always brings out these insecurities and I find myself fixating on them every day in summer. Opening up about these feelings in therapy has been really helpful and exploring this topic is very new to me. Communication is so important in how you are feeling regardless of what that feeling is about!
TurningPointCT.org was developed by young people in Connecticut who are in recovery from mental health and substance use issues. We know what it’s like to feel alone, stressed, worried, sad, and angry. We’ve lived through the ups and downs of self-harm, drugs and alcohol, and the struggle to find help.
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