How to Stop Obsessively Checking Your Acne in the Mirror


It’s a habit most acne sufferers know. That insatiable urge to run and check the mirror a thousand times a day.

I’ve been there. You’ve been there.

What are we actually doing when we go to check the mirror? What are we trying to accomplish?

For some reason we are grasping to the desperate hope that the acne has magically cleared up in the last five minutes.

Except, of course, we know it hasn’t.

And then all that happens is that we are just reminded about our skin and more miserable than ever.

And we logically know this is pointless and just creates more pain. And may lead to picking at our skin, which makes our acne worse.

So why do we keep doing it?

The Critter Brain Is Responsible for Obsessive Acne Mirror Checking

We have this funny part of our brains that I like to call the critter brain.. sometimes referred to as “the lizard brain”. This is not a very logical part of your brain.

It’s only job is to keep you safe from mortal danger, and it is constantly scanning for it.

Except the problem is that it doesn’t know what’s real or what’s imagined. Anything that we imagine as a threat to our love or belonging or safety or security is deemed a mortal threat by our brains.

To your brain, a literal lion about to eat you, or imagining a scenario where someone rejects you is considered to be exactly the same level of “oh shit”.

What does your brain do when it senses danger?

It gives you a lot of anxiety.

Acne obsessive mirror checking

Your brain is this skittish little guy. Always on the lookout.

Acne is the perfect so-called “danger”. It’s interpreted by us as an ultimate threat to our love and belonging.

In caveman days, threats to our love and belonging could literally mean death. There was safety in numbers, and if you were kicked out of the tribe, then you were likely going to find yourself dead by wild animal, hypothermia, or starvation. This is why we react so strongly to the potential judgment of others.

But in this day and age, it’s just simply not as serious as our brain makes it out to be.

Acne (or 99% of the things we get anxious about) are not actual mortal dangers. But your brain doesn’t know that, so no matter what it is that you are worrying about, it’s going to treat it as one.

And what does your brain want you to do when you are faced with a mortal danger? It wants you to freak the f out. It wants you to run. It wants you to fight. It wants you to do whatever it takes to stay alive at all costs.

This is the biological purpose of anxiety.

This is why acne makes you so anxious. This is why your brain wants you to run and fight and kick and scream when you get a breakout.

This is why your brain wants you to go and check the mirror a thousand times a day (or pick at it, or obsess over it, or buy a million products, or go on a strict diet, or the list goes on).

To your brain, acne is as bad as a lion about to eat you. Checking the mirror over and over is akin to exiting your cave every five minutes to see if the lion is still there or if it’s taken off.

Understanding Why You’re Obsessively Checking Acne in the Mirror is Key

Why am I telling you this?

I’m telling you this because it’s very important to understand how this works.

As humans, we take our thoughts and our emotions extremely seriously.

We think that because we thought it, it must be true or important or that we have to act on it.

We think that because we felt something difficult, it means that we have to do something so that we can avoid feeling that way ever again.

In fact, you can see how the critter brain is just full of BS. It tells you stories of doom because it wants you to stay alive, but in reality… well, it’s actually just being overly dramatic.

Unless you are actually, literally in mortal danger, then you don’t have to listen to what it says.

You don’t have to be so afraid of every thought and every emotion. You don’t have to be ruled by the fear. Because it’s false.

It’s just some cracked out satanic character in your brain trying to scare you.

So what I mean is that when you get the urge to check the mirror, remember what I said here. Remember that just because your brain told you to go look, doesn’t mean that anything bad is going to happen if you don’t do it.

What’s actually going to happen?

You’re going to feel uncomfortable for a few minutes. That’s it. And then it will pass.

What else is going to happen?

You’re going to be sending the message to your critter brain that acne isn’t life or death and it doesn’t need to make you so anxious about it.

When you don’t fight or flight from something you’re anxious about, your brain learns that it was perhaps not as big a threat as it thought. So next time, it won’t make you so anxious.

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