I have a confession: I struggle with self-love. I have moments where I wish I felt less insecure, wish I had a different body, DNA, or even skin tone. I also think that I am more prone to insecurities in today’s Instagram-filtered world. I am constantly barraged by images of what seems like perfection, from the new mom flaunting her bikini bod, to the happy couple on a mountain top, to the car of my dreams sitting in someone else’s driveway. 

July is National UV Safety Awareness Month, and it really got me thinking about how comfortable I am in my own skin, and about how I am taking care of my skin. 

Every primary care physician has diagnosed hundreds, if not thousands, of people with various forms of skin cancer. I know I have.

Here are questions that I long for answers to:

  • Why are we so obsessed with other people’s validations?
  • Why are we so obsessed with celebrity looks and unrealistic Instagram photos?
  • Why do we want to achieve unattainable beauty standards and risk our health in the process? 
  • Why can’t we commit to loving ourselves the way we are?

After I make a skin cancer diagnosis, the conversation usually leads to stories of how my patients used to cover themselves in baby oil to attain that bronzed glow. Or they say that they look better when they’re tan.  

This month (and every month!) I take simple steps to protect myself from the damaging effects of exposure to UV rays and it helps me get comfortable with loving my skin the way it is. Join me as I explore the risk factors of excessive sun exposure, my favorite protection from the sun, and some of my favorite TEDx Talks that I listen to when I need a reminder that I am naturally beautiful.

Risk Factors

I was a recent contributing writer to the How Healthcare Works blog. I wrote about UV exposure and how to reduce the risk this summer. In that article, I shared some statistics from the American Academy of Dermatology that I think are worth checking out. It’s important to know the real risks of getting that Instagram-tan:

  • Skin cancer is the most common cancer in the United States.
  • Exposure to natural and artificial ultraviolet light is a risk factor for all types of skin cancer, including melanoma, the deadliest form.
  • Skin cancer can affect anyone, regardless of skin color.
  • Sunburns during childhood or adolescence can increase the odds of developing melanoma later in life.
  • The majority of melanoma cases are attributable to UV exposure.

Prevention and Detection

I see part of my job as a mother to keep my family safe and prevent sun damage to their skin. And I always try to lead by example. First, I avoid contact with natural and artificial UV light. That’s right, not only are the sun’s rays damaging to my skin but so are tanning beds at the salon. According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, there is a 75% increased risk of developing life-threatening melanoma in just one tanning session! 

The good news is that there are four simple steps I take to lower my risk:

  1. I try to stick to the shade when possible and apply water-resistant sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher to exposed skin at least every two hours. 
  2. I wear lightweight, breathable clothing that covers my arms and legs in the summer, too, and I don’t forget my hat. 
  3. Many sports and outdoor stores carry clothing that features built-in SPF, so I take advantage of the technology if possible. 
  4. Finally, I meet with a dermatologist or my primary care physician annually to discuss any skin concerns I may have. 

My Preferred Protection from the Sun

Here are my three favorite sunscreens I use:

How I Make Self-Love a Priority

Unfortunately, sunscreen won’t block bullies or rude comments. But these TEDx Talks help keep me on track to staying positive and loving who I am, the way I am. 

How to Love Yourself to the Core | Jen Oliver | TEDxWindsor

In her talk, Jen Oliver shared two life experiences that taught her about self-love. As a young girl, she remembered watching her mom dress in beautiful clothing before going out for the day. She’d compliment her outfits and her mom would repeatedly rebuff the comments with negative comments about her body. She also shared a personal story of growth. As a new mom of two and a personal trainer to new moms in a baby bootcamp, Jen was dissatisfied with her own body image. She overdid the exercise and injured her back twice in one week, sending her to the hospital. That meant she couldn’t lift or bathe her babies. 

This talk really helped remind me that we are not in a competition to be the prettiest or the fittest and that we need to prioritize what is truly important in life. At the end of her talk, she said, “If you can love the body and the life you have, you will have the body and life you love.”

Follow Jen @lovejenoliver and the FitMama Podcast @fitmamapodcast on Instagram.

Overcoming Rejection, When People Hurt You & Life Isn’t Fair | Darryll Stinson | TEDxWileyCollege

Darryll Stinson’s moving talk about staying true to yourself and using rejection as a leveraging tool was a confidence booster for me. He said, “Rejection is our friend, not our enemy.” He told the story of a group of students laughing at him in third grade. The rejection stung, and he changed the way he talked and behaved just to fit in. While he gained street cred, his peers really only loved the false version of himself, a psychological projection of his peers’ insecurities.

In his second story, he shared that he should have surrendered to his failure to play in the NFL. A ruptured disc couldn’t keep him away from the sport, and after two years of drugs to dull the pain and suicide attempts he learned to see the good in that failure. Darryll said, “We can leverage our moments of rejections to produce confidence and success.” 

The takeaways from his talk are that rejection builds character, separates those who care about us from those who don’t, and prepares us to face future rejection. I need to keep his wise words in my mind and leverage rejection about my appearance and how I speak to help myself embrace my uniqueness. 

Follow Darryll @dstinson97 on Instagram.

How I Move Forward With Confidence

People have asked me why I rarely and barely use makeup or why I haven’t gone for this or that cosmetic surgery. Or why don’t I tan? I’ve had people tell me to cover my legs because they’re not tan. Fortunately, none of these comments bother me. I know the negative impact and real danger that sun exposure and tanning have on my body because I follow the science. I don’t want my self-worth to be defined by the tone of my tan. 

But on some days, it only takes one negative comment, or a disgusted look from a stranger, to second guess how I feel. I want to have confidence, to love myself and my skin, just the way it is. There is no need to try to look like anyone but myself! 

From this blog, I shared the risks of sun exposure and my top picks for daily protection. I also shared two motivational TEDx Talks I watch when I’m feeling down, or when someone criticizes me because of the way I look. 
If you want to share stories of how you protect yourself, your favorite sunscreens, or things you do to improve your self-love, I’d love to hear them. Tweet me @ReyzanShali or connect with me on Instagram, and let’s talk!