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How the Fashion Industry's Beauty Standards Affected My Struggle With Skin-Picking

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Ever since I was a little girl, I wanted nothing more than to be in the fashion industry. I would sketch for hours on end and taught myself how to sew alongside my best friend. I thought being in this hypersexualized, hyper-beautified industry was my ultimate goal, but I was so incredibly wrong.

Even though I loved the clothes that went down the runway at fashion week. Even though I idolized the work of designers such as McQueen, Galliano and Channel, and the work of photographers like Annie Leibovitz, Tim Walker, Bill Cunningham and Terry Richardson, I felt this deep incompleteness and inadequacy within myself when I looked at their work. This inadequacy had nothing to do with my ability or talent, but everything to do with how I viewed my physical appearance.

Growing up in the digital age of mass produced dysmorphia and modified bodies gave me an extremely unhealthy view of myself. Because of the images I saw in magazines and on television, I thought no one in the world looked like me or went through my struggles. I thought no one else pulled out their hair or picked at their skin. I believed if I didn’t have long flowing hair just like Lindsay Lohan or Xtina, then I wasn’t beautiful. As a child and teenager, I was constantly hounded with images of Paris Hilton, Kim Kardashian, Adriana Lima, Tyra Banks, Heidi Klum and countless overly photoshopped images of female celebrities. I felt ashamed of the way I looked. I felt no one would ever love a girl who had bald spots and scarred skin.

I remember crying to my mother in the mornings before school, begging her to let me stay home because my skin was so raw and bumpy from picking. I pleaded with her to let me wear makeup or in later years to shave my head and wear wigs because I just couldn’t stand the thought of having short hair. The famous women I was forced to worship didn’t have pixie cuts or bumpy skin. I became increasingly depressed.

By the time I got into the Fashion Institute of Technology, I was so stressed out and so focused on keeping up appearances, I would wake up before my roommates just to put on enough makeup to cover the damage I had done. I began not sleeping. I would stay up all night picking because I was so stressed and ashamed of the way I looked. I turned to my roots, the TLC Foundation for BFRBs, for help.

In my mind, there was this overwhelming pressure to look like a Vogue model 24/7. I became so obsessed with pretending to fit in because of my struggles with trichotillomania and excoriation disorder. I had professors at FIT who would berate students because of their weight or their physical appearance. I felt absolutely horrified and afraid people would shun me because I didn’t look like Kim K, Miley or Jennifer Lawrence.

I ended up transferring schools because I felt like such an outsider. I went into a period of depression and pulled and picked so severely, my face hurt to move due to the sores. I began diving in wholeheartedly into the body positivity movement and advocating alongside TLC to raise awareness for BFRBs.

It wasn’t until recently I have started to feel comfortable with my body and have accepted my struggle with BFRBs. I have come to the conclusion that everyone is different and no one really looks the way they do in magazines or on television. In the past six years, thanks in part to the body positivity movement, people have begun to speak out about the harsh effects of photoshop and detrimental beauty standards. I am one of those people. I now see I am allowed to inhabit a role and appearance outside the traditional view thanks to a rise in more accurately portrayed females who do not fit into the typical beauty standards.

Films and television such as “Mad Max: Fury Road,” “Stranger Things” and “The Mindy Project” are all portraying more accurate depictions of women that serve as role models to others. There are now celebrities such as Lorde, Mindy Kaling and Amber Rose who embrace their flaws and let other women know it’s perfectly acceptable to rock cystic acne or a shaved head.

Olivia Munn has come out and admitted in news articles that she pulls out her eyelashes and wears false ones every day. Sophie Turner from “Game of Thrones” admitted in an article that she used to have trichotillomania as a child. It is because of women like these and stories published alongside the TLC Foundation for BFRBs that I have come to love myself with or without makeup, with or without hair. I hope other men and women can come to see they are not defined by their BFRBs or outward appearance, but by what they do and who they are.

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Image via Thinkstock.

Originally published: October 20, 2016
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