Meet Maria. Last year, Maria felt hopeless from daily bouts of picking her face, hiding and not seeing any way out of her situation.
Today is completely different. Although Maria once saw the picking as a curse, she now believes it to be a blessing, because 1) she simply wanted to start seeing it differently and 2) it’s prompted her to make changes that have improved her life in other ways, which would not have happened if not for the picking.
Not only is Maria not hiding from her friends anymore, she is not even hiding from you! Maria joined me from her home in Guatemala for this video conversation that is one of my favorites in my “Client Success Stories” series.
It’s an in-depth conversation in which she shares her journey, including stages of her mindset transformation, how she deals with anxiety, and even some practical “stop picking tips” which I have never shared on my YouTube channel before.
I hope you enjoy spending time with Maria as much as I have:
Annette: Hi, this is Annette Pasternak, the Stop Skin Picking Coach, here today with Maria from Guatemala. Hi, Maria.
Annette: It’s so nice to have you here. Thank you for coming on my channel.
Maria: Oh, thank you, Annette.
Annette: Yeah. So Maria is one of my coaching clients who I’ve had, I think we worked together starting about a year ago, was it? Do you remember?
Annette: Yeah. So Maria, you have made so much progress. You’re, I would say not a different person, but why don’t you tell what your life was like maybe a year ago, what was your experience even in your own head, in your body was like, and a little bit of what’s been changing for you?
Maria: Okay. Yes, I do feel very different, as you say. For a year ago, I think it’s important tell everyone that I have been dealing with this since I was 14, and I’m now 26. So when I started with you, I was just turning 25, and it was very painful and difficult. Sometimes I remember after picking a little of my skin, I remember feeling like hell. I couldn’t believe I could feel so bad and ugly with myself, and so it was really hard times, and I didn’t have any hope. I thought I couldn’t change myself. And I’m so grateful that you taught me the opposite.
Maria: A year ago I was picking a lot, and no hope. I thought that I was bound to be that way, and then another reality or better me didn’t exist, or couldn’t exist, or I didn’t deserve it, or I couldn’t. And I was pretty much always focusing on my skin. I didn’t go out. I didn’t talk to men at all, because I was very self-conscious and low self-esteem. I still have the issues, but they are in a little that it’s normal, it’s not like I was. And I didn’t go out with my friends, because I was always worried about my skin. I didn’t do exercise, because I couldn’t go to a place that people was going to see my skin.
Maria: And, yes, it was horrible, and I started looking on the internet, and then I found you, I found your videos, and then I think I wrote you. I bought your book and I started reading your book, and that gave me the first sparks of hope. So that was very useful, because seeing someone that had been through all that, too, that I was not alone, I discovered I was not alone, also an important thing. And so, I think hope is the first thing you need for the recovery process.
Annette: Yeah, I agree. Yeah. That’s so important, because that makes you see, “Oh, I might be able to get better. Let me start looking into how.”
Annette: Yeah. Okay, so great. So what happened next? So we start working together?
Maria: Yeah. We started doing the sessions. I begged my mom to help me. That’s also an important thing, because my mom, I couldn’t pay you, so I needed my mom to help me on that. But, she didn’t understand my problem, although I have been having it for more than 10 years, so it was kind of shocking, because she knew I had that habit, but none of us knew. Until I met you, I didn’t know it was, I know OCD as something that you can actually treat. So she didn’t understand, but I begged her so much that she said “Okay. Okay.” And so, we started doing sessions, and I didn’t see change the first months, because I was not giving my all. Like you were telling me this, to do this, and this, and this. But, I was always hoping for someone to save me. Like, “Oh, she’s going to save me. Annette is going to.” And you did help me the hand that I needed, that no one else had.
Maria: I tried other things. I went to the psychiatrist, I went to the psychologist, and none of them could, because they didn’t understand this OCD. I like to call this addiction, or OCD. They didn’t understand it. So you did help me the hand, and gave me hope, but I think it was also important when I switched to think that no one was going to save me but me, in this aspect.
Maria: And one of the things you say in your book, or in The Freedom Companion, is that this is not my fault. This addiction is not my fault, but it is my responsibility. And it also helped me when you, in one of your videos you say that this became a blessing for you, because you have end up making a profession out of it and helping so much people. And so, I also took that and say, “Well, how can I make this a blessing and not a curse? Because it has been a curse for 10 years. So now I have to make it a blessing.” And I’m trying.
Maria: Yeah, it has been, because in this process of recovering, I have changed in other aspects and in other areas of my life, that I wouldn’t have done it if I didn’t needed it. But, the thing that it woke everything was this, to help trying to solve this. And so, we started in the few first months, I remember I used all my phone calls, because whenever I needed to talk, I will call you, which was really good. But then, you also teach me that this is a process. It was not going to solve in a month I was going to be free.
Annette: Yeah. I think it was, from what I remember in the beginning, yeah, the problem was you would lose hope over and over again, after each time maybe you picked a little more. You were making some progress, but you would get discouraged and it would take phone call or an email. I remember sometimes you emailed me, and I’d email back to try to encourage you, and I think it just, for you, I think it just took a couple months for it to sink in, and you were absorbing this, and it was kind of working its way around in your mind. And then, at some point, like you said, I don’t know if it was like a switch that flipped a little bit.
Maria: Yeah, a little bit. But, the thing is, you are very practical, so it’s not like when you go to the psychologist, or in my experience. It was like, “Oh well. How do you feel?” And you don’t, okay, decide that the things that you’re going to do or avoid. And you talk about feelings and everything, but we don’t dwell much on them, but actually make an action plan, and that’s the action plan that really changed the game. Because, if not, it’s only you in your head. So what you helped me a lot with was with the specific actions, and identifying the current situations and habits and thoughts, especially thoughts, that took me in a bad, that, yeah, that were dangerous for me and were painful and bad.
Maria: So from the first thing, covering the mirrors, and taking all the mirrors in my room out. And it was also, in the beginning, it was a negation, because I was like, “But, my friends have mirrors in the room? Why cannot I have mirrors in my room? Why I cannot go to a bathroom that has a mirror?” And I think it’s important, yeah, to accept this, also the first step, and say, “Okay, you’re not your friends. Don’t think of yourself as the next ones to you, because you’re not that person. You have this issue. You cannot be near mirrors in this stage of your life.” And so, I took all mirrors out. And that was before starting coaching, but when I read your book. So that was the first thing.
Maria: And it was a game-changer. Suddenly, you don’t have the, how do you say? The…
Annette: The trigger?
Maria: Yeah, the trigger, the temptation. So it’s easier. But, it was hard to accept that I couldn’t have those things in my room as a normal person, but I guess, yeah, it’s just accepting, and now it’s okay for me.
Annette: That’s the huge thing, is just accepting where you are. Stop fighting and resisting, where you wish you were like your friends. Yeah. And it’s just like, okay, you can only have the power to work on this if you’re working from where you are, right?
Annette: Yeah. That’s great. And then, I remember, even after that it’s a struggle, because there’s the temptation to look in your mother’s bathroom, right?
Maria: Yes. That has been a huge thing. The bathrooms in my house, the rest of my family do not have to deal with this, so they have mirrors in their bathroom, but I realized, thanks to Annette, because sometimes we do things, but we don’t realize all the triggers that we have, or all the environmental triggers that we have, or we put ourselves in a situation where it is very hard for us to not fall. So the strategy was to take care of myself, not being in front of the trigger or the temptation, but taking care before. So we identified that whenever I was in my mom’s or the bathroom I share with my brother, ever time I was in either of there, I pick, because I leaned to a mirror, I started seeing imperfections, I lose the big picture, and I end up picking. So I have to avoid those place. That’s when I really started improving, when I decided I was only going to use the downstairs bathroom that I took away the mirror, so that’s when I really started improving.
Maria: And doing less with my skin. I stopped washing it two times a day, but started washing it once. But, all these tips, I saw it in your channel, so whenever I needed help or advice, or whenever I had free time, I would watch your videos. I still do.
Annette: You can watch yourself next time.
Annette: Okay. I know that you mentioned working on your thoughts and anxiety. You had tremendous anxiety, right? So we had to kind of work on that, right? Do you remember anything about that?
Maria: Yes. I think that’s the main part of all, and I still have the anxiety, just my coping mechanisms have improved. One of the most useful things you taught me has been the breathing exercise, because it’s so easy to just do it. I did it today. Or whenever I feel, yeah, and being more conscious about my breathing, because you also mentioned that sometimes we’re not breathing well and we don’t realize most of the times. But, when we pay attention, it’s amazing, because you realize you’re breathing like this, and so I do the exercise you taught me.
Maria: And also tapping. I used it in the beginning a lot. Actually, I used it yesterday. I was feeling a very strong emotions, so I started tapping. So tapping, breathing, then doing the exercises where I put what’s in my control and what’s on the Universe control, like what can I control and what can I not control at all? And that has helped me, too. Also, there are so many exercises. I’m being short here, but those are the ones I use the most. And reading stuff that you put in, and watching yourself. Because you have to keep motivation. Also, if I needed to take a shower, sometimes I need to take it with the lights off and just a candle. So sometimes I need to do that.
Maria: Another one, good one, that you came up with that one, was putting my makeup not in front of the mirror. So first I would put my makeup, and then I can go to a mirror to fix everything that’s missing, but that’s also a very, very good one. And using makeup every day. I used to not use makeup, because I would think, “Oh, my skin is going to get clogged, and da, da, da,” and it was not true. If you use good stuff on your skin, it’s okay, but it has helped me to feel pretty in the daily basis. Even if I’m alone here in the office, I still feel better, and I remember you told me that I have to cultivate the good emotion, or start inside. So I think that’s key, also.
Annette: Right. So, in the beginning, you were telling us all the things you couldn’t do and weren’t doing. So tell us how those have changed now.
Maria: So I started doing yoga, also because of you. So now, one year doing yoga, and has helped me a lot. I think there are a lot of stuff that you have to put together so everything works. One thing important is that I was not doing exercise, and you stressed that a lot, that I needed to do exercise. So I started doing exercise, and at the beginning I would go in the mornings because there was no one there, so I was feeling okay. And then, I started improving, so I started saying “I don’t care how I look. I really don’t care.” Yeah, working on that, too, “Okay, I really don’t care how I look right now.”
Annette: Yeah, that’s a huge change, right?
Annette: You were extremely self-conscious.
Maria: Yeah. Yeah. And that’s something that I still fight, but it was terrible before. So you also taught me that I needed to focus on something greater than me and to go outside of yourself. So that helped me a lot also, that perspective on thinking about others, or stuff greater than you. So I started doing yoga, and I started going out with my friends. I’m still working on that, because I’m not that social.
Annette: Well, that’s a different story.
Maria: Yeah. That’s a different story, than saying “Oh, I’m alone in this world.” Yeah, that’s totally different. But, I have been trying to take things in, like being in control of things I can. So if one day I was, or I am not doing anything, instead of waiting for someone to write me and say “Hey, do you want to do something?” I take control of the situation. So if one day I’m sad, because “Oh, I am bored that I don’t have nothing to do,” well, I can organize something and invite my friends, and if they don’t come, okay, but you at least tried, or write your friends. Now I write a lot of friends, “a lot,” or five, or something, but at least I try to reach out so I don’t feel hopeless. I read this quote that I like a lot, and it’s called “Hopelessness can only be overcome by action.”
Annette: Yes. Pretty much anything can only be overcome by action.
Annette: Or pretty much everything, yeah. So, yeah. Even if it’s actions to try to have been thoughts, it still takes action and practice.
Maria: And that’s something that before, for me, it was a problem to think that, for example, I had my face very damaged because I had picked a lot. So I thought I needed to take action over it to improve it, but end up doing worse. So a good thing that you’re saying is because redirect your energy for the actions. Yeah, redirect your energy to something outside yourself, so that this can heal by itself, because I was taking actions, but I was making it worse. But, it is true. I can sit and say “Okay, it won’t go away,” but it’s very, very difficult. So if you do the breathing, or if you do other stuff, or you go take a walk, or you, I don’t know, pet your dog, it’s easier because you’re doing an action.
Annette: Right. And even changing the environment. Even not very much action, because this morning, I was feeling kind of down and reflective. It’s the anniversary of my mother’s death, and then when I went outside, I was like, “I’m just going to go outside and do what I’m doing out there.” And it was just the breeze and it was beautiful day, and I see the tree, and it completely shifted my mood, almost without trying. [crosstalk 00:23:25].
Maria: Yeah, it’s true. But, nature helps me a lot, just being around nature.
Annette: I remember you emailed me, said you kissed boy, or something?
Annette: So, yeah. Because before you had mentioned you wouldn’t talk to men, presumably [crosstalk 00:23:48].
Maria: Yeah. I started doing things that I didn’t believe myself capable of, as dumb as that sounds, I didn’t see myself doing it, like kissing or just looking in the eyes. I have here my list of goals, and as silly as they sound for other people, or they can sound for other people, the goals were being able to look people in the eye, and not being able to feel confident, or being able to not be thinking of my skin when someone was talking in front of me. So I can say I have accomplished that now.
Annette: That’s huge. Yeah, because that’s such an important one, right?
Annette: Yeah. That’s amazing.
Maria: So, yes. One of the main things I wanted to treat this issue, I call it an addiction, was because in some point of my life, I hope to get married, or I would like to get married. I don’t know when, but before, for me, that was an impossible, like, “Oh my god, that is never going to happen because I’m this way, and no one is going to love me this way.” So it is not true, because there are other girls that have this problem and are married, they have boyfriends and everything, but for me, it’s something I needed to take care of first before thinking of being with someone, or being in a relationship or anything, because it’s a lot of self-care that I was not giving myself.
Annette: Yeah. And this is very relatable. I’m glad that you’re saying this, because a lot of our viewers are, not everybody, but there are a lot of them that are in the same position as you, and, yeah. And now it’s so possible for you. I always remember really in the coaching you were saying you pray every day. “Please help me from this. Why do I have this, and blah, blah, blah?” Asking a lot of questions. You asked so many questions, oh god. And I remember I asked you do you every listen for any answers? And you laughed, and you said “no.” So now, do you feel like you’ve calmed down enough that you are able to listen and get some [crosstalk 00:26:47]?
Maria: Oh, yes. I do prayer every day. I go to mass every day, because that’s how I live my faith, but yeah, in the beginning I was not very consistent. And the prayer, yes, I was doing all the talking. Of course I was not going to improve this way, because I’m just talking and talking and talking and da, da, da. So, yes, I remember when you told me that. It was like, “She’s so right.” So you know what I started to do, it sounds dumb for others, but I started going to the chapel where I go, and instead of saying everything, da, da, da, I would just sit and say, “Well, how are you, God? How are you doing?” And sit, and maybe you’re not hearing voices, but he does hear you. So yeah, at least saying “Hi,” you’re already doing prayer. When you say “hello,” you’re already having a conversation. So, yeah. I started trying to put myself more out in the picture.
Annette: Right. Good. Yeah, and I believe we don’t necessarily get the answers. You ask the question, and you go to church and you literally hear an answer right after. It might be some other time in your day when you have a thought to do something, or to call your friend, or whatever it is. I just feel like the ability for you to quiet your mind a little bit and have some space in between the constant chatter and the constant asking questions is, yeah.
Maria: Yeah. The answers come in so many ways. I think one of the answers was you telling me “Listen, because you’re not listening me.” Yeah, they can come from people, from [crosstalk 00:29:01] situations, so it is true. They don’t come instantaneously, but they do come along the way.
Annette: But, if you’re constantly going, you’re not going to be able to listen to anyone really.
Maria: Yes. And now, I still pray for this and for all the girls, I think girls, but everyone in general that has it, I do prayer for the people, because it’s really hard, but something really so precious that I held now in my heart is that I have a lot of defects that I’m trying to work on. Sometimes it’s very easy to lose hope on myself, on, “Ah, you cannot do this,” or in other areas, like in work or relationships, or I don’t know, or exercise or whatever. But, I remember that if I have been able to change so much in this aspect, I can change in any aspect.
Annette: I love that. Yeah. Because, it is so natural for us to have doubts in any area. I’ve been listening to these interviews with top Cross Fit athletes on YouTube, and they’re these short interviews, but the guy always asks them “Do you ever doubt yourself?” These are champions, and they all do. They all have doubts, in it’s just how they deal with those doubts. And you’re dealing with it in such a wonderful way of telling yourself, using this other area of life, which now is the picking, and telling yourself, “Oh, you’ve dealt with this. You’ll find a way.” You have people in the audience listening to this video. You can equally do that, thinking maybe you’re successful in some other thing, like maybe you are successful in work or you have a great relationship. Maybe you don’t think those are such hard things, but you did them successfully, and you can just reassure yourself when you’re having doubts that you’ll ever be able to stop or reduce your picking to a more normal level. I believe everybody can. And I’m sure you believe that at this point, too, because you were so doubtful and hopeless in the beginning, right?
Maria: Yes. I thought everyone was able except me.
Annette: Yeah. And with all these success stories I’m showing of people, people all share that.
Maria: Yeah. Really.
Annette: Yeah. I don’t know about all of them, but I do remember a couple others were, yeah, people were like, “I thought it was just everybody else. I would watch these success stories and I didn’t believe I could do it.” But, you have at least the “hope you can,” and you take the actions then, and it will happen.
Maria: What was very also important for me, and something that you taught me, was that because you are going to fall, and I still fall, dealing with the negative emotions that come after a fall, or a slip, that is key, because those negative emotions were holding me back. So of course I was going to feel hopeless. I was only thinking of that. So one of the very important things was not to be masochistic, if you want to call it, or to keep…
Annette: Beating yourself up.
Maria: Yeah, beating myself up for when I slip, for when I fail. So that helped me sustain hope. It was okay. That was a huge part, too.
Annette: Is there anything else you want to share?
Maria: If you’re watching this and you haven’t done coaching with Annette, or you have been trying a lot of stuff, I can tell you that if I was able to do it, anyone is able to do it. Really. I was in a very, very, very dark place, and Annette helped me. I think it’s very important to remember that it’s a process. Yeah, it’s a process, and it’s not one day to other, or “in the next month I will be fine.” No, it’s not going to be like that. But, also the support system that you give has helped me a lot. Also, the group therapy and seeing other girls like that have lived with this for a lot of time and have the same thought patterns as me, how they deal with it, how they go with their day, or what their tips are, and that has helped me a lot.
Annette: Yeah. I remember you made some diet changes, too, that helped you.
Maria: Yes, yes.
Annette: Do you have a bit of time to talk about that?
Maria: Yes, no, sure. In one of your videos, and also in your book, you talk about sugar, and do eat sugar sometimes, but definitely not as I used to eat, because if there was cake in the fridge, I would eat that for breakfast. Ice cream, I would eat a lot of ice cream, or candies, I would always have candies in my desk. Now that I think about it, I ate a lot of sugar. A lot.
Annette: Do you think reducing sugar helped you pick less? If you had less interest?
Maria: So much, so much. Yeah. I haven’t done all the tracking very detailed, but it is a huge difference in anxiety overall. So I did change my diet in that way, that I stopped eating sugars, and I do it occasionally, but it’s no problem. But, not like I was eating. And also, eating more vegetables and fruits.
Maria: Yes. So you feel better, and that reflects outside, I think.
Annette: Yeah. For sure.
Maria: I started first with the sugar, and then my mom, “Oh, I’m going to search about it.” And then, she showed me a lot of the commentaries about sugar, and it’s like cocaine, that stuff. It’s terrible. And so, now she doesn’t eat sugar, too.
Annette: Oh, good.
Maria: So we try to, for example, if I want to eat something sweet, I have frozen blueberries. So I eat frozen blueberries or frozen banana with blueberries smoothie. It feels like ice cream, instead of cookies or ice cream with sugar.
Annette: Yeah, so much healthier.
Annette: Yeah, that’s great. So you’ve mentioned a lot of my videos and things you read in the book. How did the coaching help you accomplish what you wanted to, that you wouldn’t have been able to maybe just with the videos?
Maria: Okay. Well, the videos are great and everything, but I think us, the people with this type of addiction, we need to talk about it, and there is not many people we can talk about it, because first, they don’t understand, and second is you feel a lot of shame, so you cannot open up about this stuff with almost no one. For me, it was you. And so, that’s the first thing, and that you understand this, and also you helped me understand my situation. You were very detailed, like, “Okay, what do you do in the morning?” All my routines that I didn’t know they were routines. So all the things, and you can attack those things, or yeah, treat those habits specifically, because it’s not it’s only ideas, but when you take it to a personal level, you can get very, very, very specific. And it’s only by being specific that you can actually improve with small actions. Very small actions, but they were necessary.
Maria: We do some exercise that they are not in your videos. So they are really helpful, because yeah, they are about you, they are treating you. It’s not a general tip. It’s how you apply in your life. And when we did it, it did help me. Also, you know which one helped me a lot? The one…
Annette: Like a belief change?
Maria: Yeah. That helped me a lot. Yeah. All these useful exercises that are mental. Yeah, but it’s specific and it’s personal. Honestly, here in Guatemala, there are no people that treat these stuff like you do. I went to a psychologist and she didn’t understand. She thought I was doing it to harm myself. It is not that.
Annette: Yeah. Common misconception.
Maria: Yeah. Yeah, totally not. It is very game-changing to have the coaching.
Annette: Thank you so much for doing this, Maria-
Maria: Okay, thank you.
Annette: -for being on my channel and sharing so much about yourself and about the process of coaching to stop your picking.
Maria: Oh, thanks.
Annette: And you’re continuing to work on this, right, and getting better and better. So that’s wonderful. Do you want to say goodbye or anything?
Maria: Well, just if you’re watching this, there is hope. A lot of us have, not only me, but Annette has a lot of patience, and they have been able to improve, so you can also improve. And I’m praying for you.
Annette: Ah, that’s really sweet. Thank you.
Annette: What’s the most important thing you got from today’s conversation? Please feel free to share it in the comments and any other comments you might have, give Maria a thumbs up, and if you’d like to visit my website and find out more about coaching, you can click on the link there.