My name is Alexia, and I have reallynasty eczema all over my body.

My eczema makes my skindry, flaky, wrinkly and susceptible to oozing various clear liquids andblood. It’sall-around pretty objectively gross, especially when you watch me slathertubesof cortisone ointment on myself all day at work.

But truthfully, my eczema isnot the end of the world. I mean, there are peoplewho don’t have limbs, you know? At the end of the day, my “problem” isreallynot enough of a problem to warrant any legitimate feelings of insecurity.

Still, it bothers me.I’ve tried countless creams, topical steroids and combinations of vitamins in an attempt toheal it.I evengot a laser treatmentonce. All of these “solutions”work for a few days, but ultimately my geriatricskin emerges in full force. Sigh. Woe is me.

At thispoint in my life, whenever I try a new treatment method, Idon’t go in expecting miracles. I know that any changeswill only be temporary. And while you might thinkthis thought process has defeated me, it’s actuallyhelped me come to accept my eczema for what it is: just a damn part of me.

I’m certainly not immune to physical insecurities. But these tiny, insignificant“flaws” that we all obsess over — the gap between your two front teeth, your short nail beds, your small boobs, your hyperpigmentation — are not worth the stress. And 22years of dealing with one of those flaws has taught me a thing or two about how to stop being insecure and obsessive over them. Here’swhat’s worked for me.

1. Stop being a narcissist.

We all think the world revolves around us. We all think everyone we interact withis staring intenselyatus and formulating a really extensive opinion on us.ButGUESS WHAT? THEY’RENOT.

Literally nobody is thinking about you as much as you are thinking about you. And this is a really good thing. WhenI tell people I have eczema, they look at me like I just told them I was going to the bathroom. They’re all confused, and they wonder why this thing I’m talking about is even worth discussing in the first place.

So the first thing you have to do is stop being so full of yourself! (I’m kidding, but only slightly.)

2. Acknowledge that your flaw isnot going to change.

This flaw that makes you want to rip your hair out of your head is not going to change. You cantry to spend money on treatments, lighteners, enhancements, braces and whatever else, but the only thing that will happen is that you’ll lose hundreds of dollars that could havebeen spent on more importantthings, like shopping or going out to dinner with your friends.

Is it worth spending the money to tryto fix this flaw?Plenty of people might think it is, and Lord knows there was a time in my life when I thought it was, too. But trying out all ofthese temporary “solutions” is like living in a perpetual on-again-off-again romantic relationship, where you get your hopes up every time only to be crushed and let down over and over again.

Is that the kind of life youwant to live? Trapped in anon-again-off-again relationship that NEVER ends? Living in a constant state ofheartbreak? Not me. Nothank you.

So thebest, most painless thing you can do is just leave your flaw alone.

3. Find the value in your flaw.

The worst of my eczema is on my hands. I freak my cousinout by rubbing my hands all over her armsand making herthink my eczema is “contagious” (it’s not). I joke to everyone that when I get engaged, those photos where I’m supposed to show my ring off with my handare gonna look like sh*t. I ask people to guess how old they think I am based on what my hands look like.

In other words, I have found humor in my eczema. That’s the value my eczemabrings to my life.

What canyour flaw do for you? Can you laugh at it? Can you use it to connectwith others? Can you use it to embrace your culture? Can you use it to inspire others to get over THEIR flaws? Can you take a badass Instagram picture of it and rack up those followers?

I’m not asking you to love it, because that’s really hard. But I am asking you find a way to accept it and make it useful to you somehow. Becausewhen its purpose becomes more than the fact that it just exists, you’ll find real value in it.

And who knows? You might even learn to love it naturally.

4. Realize that everyone — no, seriously, EVERYONE, like even Kylie Jenner and whatever other celebrity we’re supposed to worship these days– has flaws.

This is the one thing that helped me the most.

All the “perfection” you see in advertisements, television shows, movies — the perfect skin, the perfect bodies, the perfect hair and teeth and eyebrows — is all fake. I repeat: It’s all fake. Do I need to say it again? It’s. All. Fake.

When I was in college and learned this concept for the first time (yes, it took me until I was 18 to learn that no famous personlooks like that in real life), it rocked me to my core. I double majored inmedia studies and sociology, which basically means I learnedthat every single aspect of our culture— LITERALLY every one — is controlled by a small subset of people (*cough* white men *cough*) whomanipulate everything around usinto their version of reality.

That means passive, obedientwomen with tiny waists, flawless skin, shiny hair, pouty lips, and no body hair. That means emotionless, barbaric men with ripped muscles,perfectly straight teeth, huge dicks and body hair in all the right places.

This is NOTreality. This is a fake reality that a small subset of people wishwere reality.But this fake reality isplastered on billboards above major highways and in every movie and television show and commercial on Netflix, Hulu, HBO, and what-have-you, and it’s affecting theway we perceive ACTUAL reality.

It’s easy to look at an actress in a television show and think that she doesn’t have pimples or curly hair that needs de-frizzing. But people behind the scenesspenthours making her skin look flawlessandgallons of products to make her curly hair straight and silky smooth. Then, they put up lighting fixtures at exactly the right angles to emphasize hernicer features and de-emphasize less appealing ones. And then, in post-production, they Photoshopped her arms to make themlook twoinches smaller.

And THEN, aREALgirl who’s living in ACTUAL reality sees thisactress, spends thousands of dollars on Accutane and Keratin hair treatments, and develops an eating disorderbecause she’s striving to live up to this unachievable, non-existentideal.

Do you see how everything around you manipulates you into thinking you need to be something that no human being isphysically capable of being? Once you really, truly understand how f*cking fake everything is, you will be SO much happier. Trust me.

5. Understand that you are so much more than your flaws.

Women are brought up to believe that the greatest thing we can accomplish isbeing beautiful. This idea — the pressure to be beautiful no matter WHAT IT TAKES, even if it means sacrificing money and sanity— isthe source of so many of our insecurities. We believe thatonce we finallybecome “beautiful,”we will be happy.

However, our culture’s impossible-to-achieve beauty standardsset women up to fail:You can spend hundreds of dollars and expend all of your mental resourceson fixing aflaw, but you will inevitablyfindsomething else, and then something else, and then something elsethat needs fixing. Andyou will forget that you are striving to emulate a human being who doesn’t exist (see: step #4), so youwill never, ever be satisfied.

Onceyou understandthat our culture’s idea of what’s beautifulis not based in actual reality, it becomes easier to give a bigf*ck-you to beauty standards altogether and focus on more important things, like your character, your ability to be empathetic towards others and your sense of humor.

Because you are so much more than what you look like. It is only when you truly understand this — not when you finally become “beautiful” — that you can achieve real happiness.

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