Getting Naked Never Felt So Good…
“With realization of one’s own potential and self-confidence in one’s ability, one can build a better world.” —Dalai Lama
I believe everyone deserves to feel comfortable in their skin, and I believe that potential exists inside each one of us.
Feeling comfortable isn’t just about what’s on our skin; it’s also what’s happening beneath it. I can relate to feeling uncomfortable in both.
Even though I’m now a skincare expert as a dermatologist, most of my young life was spent worshipping the sun, trying to mask the shame and embarrassment of how uncomfortable I felt with who I was in my skin. As a child, kids at school made fun of the two birthmarks on my face and called me Coffee Stain Face. I immediately became acutely aware that my skin could be a source of pain, shame, and humiliation. I quickly figured out that if I got a tan, my “coffee stains” became less noticeable, almost invisible, so I took every opportunity I could to keep them that way.
As the daughter of a redhead, I have fair skin and burn easily, but I ignored this warning sign. Years of frying my skin with sunburns and suntans led to sun damage, freckles, and moles. It culminated in diagnosing myself with the most deadly skin cancer there is: melanoma.
When I saw that spot on my arm, my heart sank and panic set it in. I knew that something was seriously wrong. This particular mole had been on my arm for years, but on that day when I checked my skin, it looked different, darker…more irregular in contour. I was scared, and that fear was compounded by the fact I had the skills to interpret the findings microscopically. I could see the features of skin cancer clearly right in front of me. There was no denying it, and my colleagues agreed. Waves of nausea mixed with disbelief washed over me. As a dermatologist, I became my own worst nightmare patient.
If I’d known then what I know now, I wouldn’t have had the shock and upset of finding that spot on my arm and having to undergo surgery. I don’t want that experience for you. I never want that to happen to your children, or anyone else’s.
For most of my life, I carried the emotional scars from my childhood and allowed them to shape my sense of self. I allowed feelings of shame and embarrassment about what was on my skin to diminish my self-esteem and self-confidence. It was from this place of poor self-image that I chose how to nourish—or more accurately, starve—my skin, body, mind, and soul.
I, like so many women, have looked at my own reflection to find that what and who I saw in that mirror was a source of stress, anxiety, and overwhelm.
As a physician, I felt like a failure. Despite 20 years of medical training under my belt, I couldn’t avoid my skin cancer diagnosis. At the time of my diagnosis, I felt I was “doing everything right” with regard to wearing sunscreen, keeping up with the latest fad and trends, as well as getting exercise. In fact, as an ultra-marathoner at the time, I thought I was in the best shape of my life. But clearly, I was wrong.
Contrary to what I believed throughout most of my young life, my experience taught me that our skin is not the enemy; in fact, it’s the hero. It protects us. It lets us know what our body truly needs to thrive.
The diagnosis of skin cancer was my wake-up call about how I was living and what I was doing. Despite being a dermatologist, I hadn’t been listening to what my skin had been desperately trying to communicate to me for over a decade. It took being diagnosed with melanoma to hear the message. Finally.
This was the turning point for me. The reality was that things would never improve until I stopped looking for strategies to treat what was on the surface and started paying attention to what was happening beneath. In order to create lasting health and pursue what I wanted in my life, I had to get naked on every level and uncover the truth about what my skin was telling me about my current state of health. I had to identify the issues holding me back and develop a new way of thinking about “skincare.”
For what seemed like the first time, I was taking notice of how I lived my life. As I tuned in, it became clear that what was showing up on my skin was directly correlated to the choices I had been making. I realized I had to make new choices. I began to make changes in how I nourished my body nutritionally, emotionally, physically, and spiritually. It was only then that things begin to shift. I went from nearly a decade of biopsies and surgeries every few months for growing and changing skin lesions to not needing to have a biopsy nearly seven years because I haven’t needed one.
Although it was a hard lesson to learn, my experience served as the catalyst that transformed my body and self-esteem and gave me the confidence to know that I am in control of my health. I can change my habits. I can make new decisions. I can redefine the meaning of skincare. And I know that if I can do it, you can, too.