“When we are no longer able to change a situation – we are challenged to change ourselves.” – Viktor E. Frankl
I’ll never forget the moment my family and I pulled into the parking lot of my college dorm. People everywhere were scrambling and laughing, excited for the next chapter in their lives. Although I was equally excited, I lacked confidence and doubted whether I would be taken seriously.
At the time, I was 25 pounds overweight, had a face filled with acne and was full of self-doubt. It was tough being the only one among my friends and peers with these physical struggles. Instead of focusing on my own strengths, I was envious of people who portrayed confidence, people who were in great shape and had shining, acne-free faces.
I was letting this flaw define who I was. This was my opportunity to do something about it.
Losing weight was first on my list. Luckily, I had a good relationship with my college roommate, who happened to be on his way to becoming a personal trainer. He and I began exercising consistently, and I slowly adapted to a healthier lifestyle that was achievable for me.
When everyone else was indulging on the massive buffet at our college campus, I was the guy eating chicken salads.
It was tough, but I didn’t care.
Sure enough, I did see progress, and by the end of the year I had lost 20 pounds instead of gaining the dreaded “freshman 15.” Yet, I wasn’t joyous nor proud of my accomplishment. Instead, my new physique heightened the psychological effects of another problem – the acne-filled face.
My struggles with acne continued, and I slipped further away from becoming the person I wanted to be. In my college-freshman eyes, as long as I had acne, I would never be able to fully embrace life.
I used to dread and avoid looking in mirrors. When I did look, I obsessed about achieving clear skin, leading me to poor facial care practices. Seeing the clear faces of others only made it worse because it served as a constant reminder of my own flaws.
Maybe a counselor would have been a smart choice, but instead, I started seeing a dermatologist. Hopeful that this was the solution, he approached the problem with the belief that it was something that I had no control over.
He had me convinced that acne could only be managed. He strongly emphasized to me that the foods I ate wouldn’t make a difference. In his eyes, I was another patient that “needed” antibiotics instead.
The doctor gave me a harsh topical cream that destroyed the naturalness of my face. Treatments worked to a certain extent, but the acne only came back worse down the road.
At that point, I was practically hopeless. Worst of all, I was led to believe from an authoritative source that nutrition “probably wouldn’t help.” Advice that I regret not taking the time to research or to seek another opinion.
But how could I have known? I was a college kid focused on partying and passing classes, completely unaware of what I did have control over. I did what I was told and only approached the problem at face value (pun intended), believing the solutions given to me were the only answer.
Throughout college and a handful of years after, my struggle with acne was part of what lead me to an unhealthy state of mind. I lived in a reactive state which caused me to get angry and impatient with the smallest things. I was always in a rush, never slowing down to reset or clear my head. Failing to see opportunity in any ‘annoyance’, life was happening to me and never for me.
My indecisiveness became more apparent each day as I continued to wait for an epiphany to happen. Some kind of sign to tell me I was doing the right thing or which way I should go. These excuses led to inaction because the moment “was never quite right.” What if I invested all of my time in something and it didn’t turn out quite like I imagined, would it be a waste?
Most importantly, who I did not align with who I wanted to become.
What I needed was a positive avenue to channel this negative energy. My attention should not be on what I don’t have or things that are out of my control. Instead, I needed an approach that focused personal growth. An approach that viewed everything in life as an opportunity and not a distraction.
I started to focus more on healthy habits that made me happy. I stopped focusing on what I couldn’t control and started focusing on things that were in my control. If I showed up in life each day with the eagerness to build a more positive mindset, I couldn’t go wrong.
Taking Back the Control
Armed with a growth mindset, I recognized that I also had a choice with my acne. Whether or not my actions would heal my acne was beside the point. The fact that nutrition and weightlifting had helped me lose weight was all I needed to started experimenting and researching different ways that those elements could possibly improve my acne.
I began learning more about what foods could reduce my acne and which ones were problematic by documenting my findings in a food journal. This approach allowed me to pinpoint the foods that caused my acne flare-ups and recall them anytime I had a blemish.
I learned nutritional techniques and strategies toward reducing acne. Like the importance of reducing inflammatory foods in my diet and the influence that stress has on skin condition. Also, did you know gut health is tied to poor skin conditions?
Learning more about the specific benefits of food furthered my belief in using nutrition to heal. I started eating more purposefully as if I had something to prove, completely disregarding what Dr. X had said.
Amazingly enough, my acne disappeared with the exception of a few minor blemishes here and there.
What was once a means to an end search for healing, became something much greater and now serves as the blueprint for my life. Only because I took that first step and made a choice.
While we don’t have control everywhere, the choice to improve myself and health was something that I did have control of. I could play the victim or I could make a stand and become the victor.
Through this journey, I managed to stumble into one of my greatest passions. A passion that fuels my desire to fulfill my destiny and constantly reminds me that I am exactly where I am supposed to be. It is my choice to act on the opportunity to wake up each day and inspire those who have similar struggles and ambitions.
When the odds are stacked against us, it is hard to believe that what we do will matter in the long run. Our doubts can stop us in our tracks and keep us from taking the leap of faith. Regardless of the outcome, I believe that every situation becomes a learning experience when we act on the things we can control.
Because I chose to take action with the belief that life can only get better if I focused on my wellness, I took the control back in my life. As I look in the mirror and see the scarring of my past failures, I am reminded of how I became the inspired person I am today.