When I was about 14, I went with my mom to a department store so she could get some more face cream. “Is it time for you to have face cream?” she wondered. “Would you like to try some?”
Sitting at a counter, doing a skin analysis with one of the sales women, I mentioned my chin. Which, at this point, was basically flawless. “Do you see all these clogged pores?”
Sales woman: “No, I don’t see anything.”
My mom: “Emily, there’s nothing there.”
I actually have good skin – but you wouldn’t know it, because I’ve spent so much of my life picking at my skin until it’s scabbed. I don’t limit myself to my own skin, either – sometimes I’ll even find myself starting to pick at Z, like a chimp – until he swots my hand away and tells me to leave him alone. (Wife of the year award, that’s what I’m aiming for.)
It’s not premeditated, either. What happens, usually, is I’ve been really busy, and then I have a sudden break. I mean really busy: I’ve been staying up late, working lots, maybe feeling a little overwhelmed. Right when it’s almost bed time, I’ll go to the washroom and catch myself in the mirror – and then I start. Once or twice, I’ve even gotten upset with myself. Like: “How long have I been in here? I need to get some sleep!” I’ll spend say 30 or 40 minutes (where I could be sleeping or reading or something actually good for me) just digging at my face, at perceived flaws too small for anyone to even notice.
I wasn’t surprised to read that the habit is, largely, psychological – and linked to a control impulse and anxiety. Anxious, but with a desire for control? That’s me! (Though – I have a lot more to say on that. So often, “controlling” gets thrown out like it’s a bad word. I see it used too in misogynistic ways…. So yes, more to come.)
As it turns out, I’m not alone. Lots of people do it – and some people seem to have a more extreme case than others. (Luckily, my case is quite mild.) It really is a bad habit – I have a couple of lumpy scars that I might never be rid of, likely because I picked off mosquito bites so aggressively.
Thinking about it as an anxious tick, though, rather than simply as a bad habit, has inspired me to try to stop. I don’t know how it’s going to go – but here goes – over the next few weeks, I’m going to make a concerted effort not to dig at my skin.