Being a teacher isn’t easy. All of the early mornings, the outside-of-school prep work, the grading, the stressful meetings, the extracurricular practices and group meetings, plus the day-to-day dealing with kids can all take a toll. Then, if you’re me, you have a blog (or two), Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, and Instagram to update, plus a second job as a freelance writer, AND a workout schedule. Not to mention I cook, clean, and just generally take care of business every day.
During the school year, I get stressed out. When I get stressed out, I break out, I start to get bags under my eyes, my hair looks frizzy and dry, and I just generally start to feel old.
When I look at myself in the mirror and I see a million zits, I get even more stressed out. Which causes even more zits. Then, I spend a lot of time trying to cover up said imperfections in the morning before I go to school, which probably irritates them even more but makes me feel better about myself and my skin. Then, after a long and stressful day, I come home and look at myself in the mirror again and want to cry.
Objectively, I understand that I don’t look noticably better or worse at the end of the day versus the beginning of the day. Objectively, I also understand that 2-4 localized zits does not an acne problem make. Objectively, I know that, even if these zits are red, inflamed, and painful, no one is going to notice them but me, makeup or no makeup.
But it’s awfully hard to be objective about these things when you have 150 students staring at you all day.
Even worse than having 150 students stare at you all day is the fact that at least a few of those students are brutally honest without provocation. While this seems like a good trait, their honesty is often just plain mean. “Oh hey, Miss. I guess you still break out too, huh,” says a student while looking at my face. In the middle of my lesson. Introducing a book. A book that has nothing to do with acne or my face. Without raising his hand.
You laugh, but if you have ever had an interaction with a 15-year-old, you know it’s true.
People often ask me what the most difficult thing about my job is and, though I don’t usually admit it, the hardest part for me is knowing that my students are staring at me, and that I don’t have the flawless skin I used to. I also have unfounded fears about skirts tucked into pantyhose, open flies, and spinach between my teeth. Last year, when my acne was the worst it has ever been in my entire life, I often daydreamed about taking the plunge and working from home, not because I didn’t like teaching anymore, but because I wanted to be somewhere no one could see me all day.
Of course, no one is staring at me all day in the summer. When I’m tan, fit, happy, relaxed, and my skin is glowing. No. Only in the winter when everything is dry, itchy, flakey, red, and I haven’t gotten enough sleep since… well… school started.
For teachers, or for anyone else whose career involves them being the center of attention, body image is a very real issue. I used to have a dance teacher who had a pretty severe case of body dysmorphia because she spent all day every day in front of the full-length mirrors at the studio. She told us there was only one mirror in her house because she couldn’t stand to go home and see herself anymore. I tell my students – especially my Fearless Females – all the time that they should embrace their inner beauty and not worry what other people think about them, but high schools truly are a cesspool of negative opinions and judgement – even for the teachers.
I’ve been doing my best this year to reduce my stress, but I’ve also been trying my hardest just to care less about my appearance. I give myself 30 minutes in front of the mirror in the morning and whatever comes of that is how I face the day. I realize that no one is coming up to my face and poking at the imperfections; in fact, with makeup on, they probably can’t even see what I can from where they sit. I also realize that, aside from the few honest ones, the rest are probably too concerned about their own appearance to worry about mine.
Body image is a constant struggle for women, and for teachers. I do think mine tends to get worse when I am teaching, but I also think I’m on the right track toward fixing that problem.
If you are a teacher, do you find yourself having worse body image issues when you’re in front of the students? If so, how do you cope with it? Leave your ideas in the comments!