Good afternoon beautiful readers, please excuse my absence due to the hectic senior schedule. Today is the mass before our formal graduation and I wanted to share this message with you all. In today’s society, we tend to seek validation from others (including myself), but we rarely look at ourselves in the mirror and say 5 things we love about ourselves. Self perception is crucial to our livelihoods since we will be in the same body for a longggggg time and we have to embrace and accept ourselves. This was a very difficult lesson for me and I know that many of my peers share that struggle of self-acceptance. However, I would not have learned how to love myself if it wasn’t for a particular group. This group of people can come at any given moment. Sometimes they can be subtle, but other times they are relentless. They stare back at you in the mirror and can evoke negative self-talk. It’s acne LOL. Crazy right. How this unavoidable skin condition can completely alter how you view yourself. That was a big challenge for me. Growing up, now that I think about it, I did not love myself prior to having acne. I was very young and careless at times. I didn’t have a filter yet so sometimes I would say things completely out of line. I am a super sensitive guy and I always feel like I have to be on defense mode a lot, because I never wanted to be used, taken advantage of or hurt. I still struggle with vulnerability because it opens a soft spot for me. However, I always loved my personality and I felt that if more people saw that, they would like me. I did a lot in my childhood so I could be seen or acknowledged because I just wanted people to notice me. I felt that if I were loud or told more jokes or just spoke more, I could get the attention I wanted from my peers. But, that never worked out. I do believe that God granted me obscurity so that I can learn to love myself without scrutiny or interruption from others. I learned that I don’t have to have a million friends or constantly be in the loop on things. I learned how to be still. At peace when there is chaos. Finding comfort and solace in the most minute things. I learned to just be. Unfortunately, during that time, I began to dissect myself and my appearance. At about 13 or 14, I had fell into a deep depression that followed me like a cloud day in and day out. I feel that I was very high-functioning, but my self-concept was awful. The moments of laughter and joy alleviated the moments of self-deprecation and hopelessness. I felt that I was ugly for a long time and I did not like myself. I thought “I’m too loud. I’m not cool. I’m not smart enough. I’m not strong enough. I’m not handsome enough. My skin isn’t clear enough. I am not enough.” So, I would constantly seek validation in others to replace the lack of love I had for myself. I believed that if someone loved me enough, I could start to love myself or learn how to. Fortunately, that didn’t happen and in retrospect, if it did happen, I would be soooooo lost as an individual. I would not be as strong as I am now and I would be piecing myself together. My mother was an avid believer in self love and she always encouraged me to just love myself. Moms see the beauty in their children even when the child doesn’t see it. A mother doesn’t look solely at your appearance, but at your heart. A mother could never belittle its creation. A mother sees the child as nothing but beautiful and a gift from God. As I got older, about 16 years old, I was still struggling with my self-concept, but I began to find coping methods like journaling, praying and Instagram quotes. The self-care and self-love mantras really helped me cope with the feelings of inadequacy. However, I began to weaponize those self-care tactics into obsessive behavioral patterns particularly with my acne. Self-care does involve skincare, but I began to take it to the max. I have spent an exponential amount of money on skincare. Charcoal cleansers, Cetaphil, Epiduo Forte, Salicylic acid moisturizers, benzoyl peroxide spot treatments, Noxzema, Dove Soap, Dial Soap, Urban Skin RX, alcohol, toothpaste, tea tree oil and face masks are just a few items that I have spent money on to achieve this ideal of perfection. I believed that “If I have clear skin, I will be happy.” Please be careful with “if” statements because they carry an unfulfilled connotation. I thought that I would be happy if I had clear skin. I thought that I would be beautiful and dateable if I had it. I thought something was wrong with me since I was never in a relationship before. But, I learned this year that I am beautiful. It’s crazy because when other people would tell me that I was attractive, I thought they were lying or saying it to be nice. When I would look in the mirror now, I try to say 5 things that I love about myself and I tell myself that “I am beautiful”. The good thing is that the more you tell yourself that on the bad days, you feel really good on the good days. So, as I type with a couple of pimples on my face, I pray that you guys love yourself wholeheartedly. You are incredible and you are more than enough. Yes, there will be bad days when you do not feel your best and that is okay! Everyone has bad days trust me! But, we can choose happiness in those bad days. Hating ourselves can be so draining, trust me I have done it, but when we build ourselves up, it is a different kind of strength. By loving ourselves, we are demonstrating our confidence in who we are. Because we are incredible people. We are human beings and we are imperfect beings. But, we have to learn to embrace our insecurities and imperfections because that is what makes us, us! This is better said then done yes, but it is a journey that I would love to be a part of. I am Noah. I struggle with acne and self-esteem issues, but that does not define me. I am handsome, smart, funny, talented, artistic and a great dresser. I’m super fun and I love to be service to others. I pray that you all say 5 things that you love about yourself each day! You are amazing, incomparable and very desirable. I love you guys and I pray that you love yourselves even more today. God bless you all and until next time. Please feel free to leave a comment, recommendation and suggestion, I am open to all. See you soon guys!