Monday, June 20, 2011

Too Ugly for Love

Can you think of something about the way you look that you would change? Maybe you have a pointy nose or large ears.  For some people they spend hours in front of a mirror and pick themselves apart. They stare at their freckles wishing them away and those who can't accept their "flaws" decide to physically alter their appearance either by cosmetic surgery or self inflicted pain.


Blushing Ambers is dedicated to a cause that many people deal with at some level. It's not quite an obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), but the altering of our lifestyle to hide a perceived flaw.  You might not leave the house unless your makeup is done to cover up old acne scars or wear bangs to cover up your forehead. Society teaches us at a young age, what is culturally defined as beautiful. Just recently, BeautifulPeople.com a popular dating site, reportedly deleted 30,000 member accounts stating whom they deemed did not fit their beauty standards and in December booted 5,000 members who "appeared to heavy during the Christmas season".  People glorify images of celebrities and public figures who are skinny, with "flawless" skin, and long hair and call them picture perfect. Truth is, even celebrities may not measure up to these standards unless placed under a knife, the use of harmful chemicals, fad diets or photo altering computer software.  America is a symbol of diversity and the irony lies in the idea that everyone should have the same body type, bone structure and no fat. Unfortunately there are those who will die trying to become the "model" citizen rather than defining their own beauty.

Obsessive thoughts about perceived appearance defects is formally known as Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD). One of the many symptoms of BDD is depression and those who have a BDD often spend hours in the mirror. Although I was never clinically diagnosed as depressed or with having a BDD, I can relate with depression.

In college, I was unhappy with my environment and didn't feel that I fit in because I looked different from other students. I felt that how I looked on the outside made me different on the inside.  I was the only African American in the entire English Department in my cohort. I was like a single cocoa puff in a bowl of milk. I felt the pressure to succeed because I didn't want to be a statistic or stereotyped because of my race or ethnicity. I worked hard to compensate for any academic gaps I had in order to perform at the level of my White classmates. When I was stressed over grades only being average and my lack of social life, I felt overwhelmed and became very depressed.  I would wake up several hours in the mirror before class doing my makeup and finding the perfect outfit. After all that primping, I'd suddenly have no energy, lay back down and go to sleep or randomly, for no concrete reason have these crying spells.  I considered seeing a counselor, even went a couple of times, but then diagnosed myself as "a normal college student going through identity crisis" and figured it was just a phase I'd snap out of. I also felt that counseling was a taboo in African American culture and was ashamed and afraid someone would see me walking out of the doctors office. I was having suicidal thoughts and even considered coming home from school, but a group of people who cared about me reached out and gave me the support I needed to make it though.

I don't know if doing my makeup all that time in the mirror was me trying to change anything I didn't like about myself physically, but I definitely believe I was trying to paint away the things I didn't like about myself emotionally.  Then, and even now, I found my escape to peace in the world of makeup. I find that while I'm doing makeup, I am not thinking about my student loan debt or my disrespectful car that breaks down whenever it feels like it. Doing makeup for me has always been about expressing myself through an art form.  I suppose like any artist, when I put the brush down and the piece is finished there is a little sadness. I have to leave a state of meditation and actually find real solutions to real problems; I can't just paint them away.  In the process of "painting away" my problems, I began to see a different me; the me I wanted to be, rather than the ones my comparison with others made me feel like. This, along with the support and motivation from my loved ones somehow managed to lift me up from a dark place in my life. I believe makeup was my therapy and continuing to do makeup has made me feel good. If I find myself heading back down that road of depression, I pull out my brush roll and 120 palette.

I figured if I shared my story; someone else might find my "Makeup Therapy" to be helpful. There are many people that don't believe there is a cure for BDD, only medicinal treatments that lessen the symptoms. And since many of the people diagnosed with BDD are feeding their obsessions by looking in the mirror and doing their makeup, I assumed naturally they would be drawn to makeup and beauty blogs, including Blushing Ambers. Hopefully the healthy messages and encouragement to develop one's own definition of beauty will resonate and began to change their perspectives about their body image. I understand that one of the many symptoms of BDD is camouflaging a perceived defect with clothes, makeup, fashion accessories and posture. This means the content of this blog can be used to feed their obsession. Blushing Ambers is in no way trying to fuel anyone suffering with a BDD or body image problems. In fact, quite the opposite! Blushing Ambers wants to serve as a resource on using makeup and skincare as a meditative and therapeutic, physical and mental health tool and a creative outlet.  We want our readers to embrace who they are and what they look like and through that find self love. So I did a little research to help me understand the disorder and its symptoms better, as well as find helpful ways to reach out and support people with a BDD.

I came across a clip from this documentary "Too Ugly For Love" on The Body Dysmorphic Disorder Foundation website. The video allowed people to share their story about being clinically diagnosed with this psychological obsession with what they believed to be their flaws.  Watching the clip, I now know that it must be very difficult to work with someone who, no matter what you tell them, has a hard time believing anything different than their perception. They see a very different picture of themselves inside their head than in reality, even what they see in the mirror is a distorted image of their self. Psychological disorders seem harder to treat than those that are physical. There are many stereotypes of people with BDD, such as narsassistic and selfish. Someone with a psychological disorder such as BDD, needs to build relationships with many people they trust who will give them a positive environment that reaffirms their self worth and promotes community responsibility. One person telling a someone with a BDD that they are beautiful, carefully and uniquely made to serve a purpose, won't be enough support. Even if that person never completely recovers from a BDD, a support group and sense of responsibility may help them to have better days and hopefully prevent suicides and self harm.

I have been doing research on this topic for only a short period of time.  The UK based foundation appears to no longer be operating (Donate button no longer has an open paypal account) and the website has not been updated. I would like to find a charity to support that is either doing research or providing services towards Body Dysmorphic Disorder patients in America. If anyone has more information please reach out to me BlushingAmbers@gmail.com.

:::EXTRA:::
How I am Learning to Like My Face by Dani
Another blogger's journey to self worth and how she blocked BDD. She a former product junkie that gives advice to those who are insecure about acne blemishes.

As always, don't

5 comments:

  1. It really makes you think. Thank you for writting such a great post.

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  2. When I came across the term BDD, I was thinking it would only be for a class research topic, but I want to know more and find ways to help. Thanks for the comment.

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  3. Awesome post. It's a shame that there is so much pressure to be perfect directed towards young girls and women. We should all love ourselves despite our flaws <3.

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  4. I agree Deja and we have to remember to compliment people because as you see in the movie, there is absolutely nothing wrong with their appearance, yet they believe they are "disgusting". After 7 surgeries the doctor said he didn't think anything more could be done to improve her nose, yet with the high risks of her nose turning out worse she still wanted surgery over therapy. Thanks for commenting! :-)

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  5. I came here because I was looking for books on BDD in Africans and black americans. I definately agree that we have an issue because of social organisation placing us at the bottom of the totem pool and we see it everyday with rappers liking light skinned women, how dark skinned women are talked about etc. But BDD is a general thing and like you said- about having a positively affirming environment. I could relate to a lot to what you wrote in the blog about trying to cover or paint away your flaws with fashion and accessories etc. Thanks for the blog- definitely reassuring

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