You want to heal your skin condition permanently, but something always happens to stop a successful treatment plan. Or, you mindlessly eat or do something you know triggers a flare-up of your acne, eczema, TSW, or psoriasis, just as you were starting to get better.
What’s going on? Is there such a thing as self-sabotage when it comes to healing a skin condition?
Yes, there is, and here’s why:
Whether we realize it or not, there are hidden emotional and psychological benefits we get from having a skin condition. These benefits can sometimes become barriers to healing.
Healing Means Life Changes
If you’ve suffered from a chronic and debilitating skin condition, healing the condition means there could be big changes in your everyday life that are actually a bit challenging or scary:
- You might be able and expected to go out more to socialize, versus: “You’ll have to go to the party without me, since my eczema is horrible this week.”
- You may no longer have a reason to postpone that new career move, versus: “I can’t go on job interviews while my psoriasis is still raging.”
- You won’t have a barrier to enter the dating life again, versus “I can’t try to meet people with this horrible TSW.”
- You’ll no longer have a convenient excuse for skipping a family function, or being late for sending a gift, versus: “Sorry, I couldn’t go to the store – come to the party – visit Uncle Abe – because my skin was flaring up again.“
- There will be nothing to blame if people don’t like, notice, or include you, versus: “I’m always passed over because of my terrible skin.”
Healing Means Responsibility
We may not realize to what extent our skin condition has become a scapegoat for our own shyness, our own feelings of insecurity, or our fear of facing challenging life demands. Without our skin to blame, we might have to step up and take responsibility in areas of our lives that others have previously managed for us, or that we were able to opt-out of completely in the past due to our skin problems.
Complete healing of your skin condition might mean you won’t be the center of attention in your family or friend circle. After all, we often get more sympathy, more support, more kindness from others, if we are suffering from a skin flareup. In some cases, our friends and family may even revolve a large part of their lives around our care. Will they love and care about us when we’re no longer sick or no longer need their help?
In some cases, our skin condition completely prevented us from life experiences like wearing a bathing suit, dating, allowing our photos to be taken or shared, so we have to learn new coping skills and step out into new frontiers. Sometimes we have to rebuild our sense of self-esteem, self-confidence, and social poise. This can feel really new and uncomfortable.
Self-Sabotage Just Before Success
It’s just like the old proverb: “The devil you know is better than the devil you don’t know.” We often subconsciously choose the old discomfort of our skin problem over the new discomforts that lie in the unknown future that healing offers.
What does self-sabotage look like? In the case of skin health, it can look like mindlessly eating a food you know can trigger a flare-up and then blaming your new skin treatment for failing you. It can mean stopping your herbal medicine regimen early or not taking the full dosage, or consistently “forgetting” to take doses just as you begin to see results. It can mean not following through on advice from your health professional, or missing appointments because you’re too busy. It can mean assuming that everything is okay and falling back into bad skin habits instead of committing to the lifestyle changes that brought you your success.
How to Remove Hidden Barriers to Healing
Preventing self-sabotage in skin health starts with really getting honest with yourself. Take out a journal and really think about some of the hidden benefits you get from your skin problem. It’s hard to admit these, but once you identify them, you can start to let them go. Sometimes just knowing how your skin trouble benefits you is enough for you to toss those benefits aside and move forward, ready to face up to the challenges of a new life. Other times, you might need help from a compassionate counselor or therapist to help you work through your fear of change.
Healing from the Inside Out
Healing your skin isn’t just an outside job. True healing comes from healing your whole body and your whole health. That not only includes your internal physical health but also your emotional and psychological health. When you are able to work on all of these areas at once, you’ll see true and lasting results.
It may feel strange at first, but moving forward into a life with healthy skin can provide wonderful opportunities for self-growth in so many areas. Take those steps, and face your fears with confidence that the new you will be able to handle everything beautifully in time.
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About the Author
Olivia Hsu Friedman, LAc, Dipl.OM, DACM, Cert. TCMDerm, is the owner of Amethyst Holistic Skin Solutions and treats Acne, Eczema, Psoriasis, and TSW. Olivia treats patients via video conferencing using only herbal medicine. Olivia is Chair of the Board of Directors of the American Society of Acupuncturists, serves on the Advisory Board of LearnSkin, and is a faculty member of the Chicago Integrative Eczema Group sponsored by the National Eczema Association.