“Your eyes look brighter”, “You look so much healthier”, “Your energy level is so different” are just a few of the comments I’ve received over the last month from my clients, friends, and family. And I’m so grateful to be finally feeling this way post-surgery after feeling quite dim the last few years. But another important piece of feedback that’s worth addressing is how most people had no idea I was suffering. This is something I have to get off my chest because I grew up doing this work and it’s really exposing to break the 4th wall of my industry’s standards I couldn’t keep up with. I got hired for my first job as an esthetician days before my 19th birthday and have been consistently working in this title ever since so it’s safe to say that I know nothing else but this world. Some of the lessons I have learned have been from outside help breaking the conditioning that I allowed myself to trust. I’ve gone through my first heartbreak, phases of partying, and every type of common sickness while working like food poisoning, the flu, an allergic reaction, or even a chronic cyst in my wrist that prevented me from actually flexing my joints – all while caring for clients the past 13 years.
I’m a bit of a late bloomer, so it took about 5 years for me to actually start embracing that I may be good at my work and wanted to explore what I could do to create longevity in this field. Around 23, I realized how important my health would be to keep my stamina in this physically demanding work going so I started looking for ways to improve my lifestyle. For my diet I learned how to cook and studied nutrition, for my body I started getting more active through yoga and hiking, and for my mind, I would work to keep my brain sharp with community college classes and advanced education. This was around the same time that I actually started to excel in my career. I became much more booked up, made more money than I was used to, and found that there was a community of estheticians that I could mentor – yes, this is all still at 23. Healthy Hayley would equate to an abundant Hayley. But I’m a vulnerable person when it comes to being healthy. I’m like a house of cards so one small misstep can bring the whole thing down. I didn’t want to lose my abundance so I mastered the art of “fake it ‘til you make it”.
Traditionally speaking, the spa industry has never really supportive of technicians taking time off to nurture themselves. Though there have been tons of improvement in this area of our industry, the norm used to be that technicians are meant to nurture others at the expense of their own health with long hours, little breaks, and tough consequences for not working. I would get in trouble for getting sick, lose money for not overworking, and was thrown into competitive environments with peers that I didn’t want to compare myself to. I was taught from an early age to show up and work no matter how I felt. So I became good at putting aside my health in order to show up for someone else’s care. That has always been encouraged by my spa bosses and ultimately bled into my work when I started my own business.
As you know, Therapeutic Skin Coach was born as a survival mechanism once I had to leave my last ever spa job in 2014 after getting shingles. I knew I had to quit because the morning I was so sick that I had to go to urgent care (most spas didn’t provide health insurance so I could only afford a $100 copay at the local clinic), my manager reprimanded me because I needed to find proper coverage before taking care of my own health emergency. My doctor put me on 5 prescriptions and a doctor’s note to not work for a month, yet I went to work a day later. Trembling through a treatment, my clients were none the wiser of my what was happening to my health. To be honest, I’ve been struggling with my health ever since because I’ve never allowed myself time to heal. My training in this industry has been to show up for others regardless of my emergencies. I’ve worked the day I find out a loved one died. I miscarried during the middle of a facial while working a double shift (12 hours) only to get released from work during the 45-minute lunch break so I could change my pants and underwear. I did 3 facials after.
So when I started to struggle with my endometriosis, I coped by utilizing what my industry has taught me which was to show up with a smile and do the work anyway. I can count on one hand how many people I’ve canceled because of being sick, which never goes over well. I get it, I would be bummed too if my self-care time was canceled but some clients have not shown any compassion to my explanation that I was in the hospital or contagious. This only perpetuated my fear-based beliefs that my worth is directly related to how many people I care for.
Recently, I was called out on social media by another esthetician who claimed that some of my clients found my energy “unsettling”. It broke my heart because as much as I thought I could fake it, I was dealing with an undiagnosed chronic illness that depleted everything out of me. The clients who found my energy “unsettling” might have been the ones whom I would rush out the door so I could vomit because of my chronic nausea or change my blood-filled pants and undergarments. The new refreshed look in my eyes is from having the endometriosis that was taking over my entire reproductive system finally diagnosed and removed. It’s from the uterus-sized fibroids removed to allow space for me to properly digest and not have to pee every 10 minutes. Every month would be excruciating but I still showed up to work because it’s what I know to do. It may not have been fair but I also never received negative feedback. I know very well that my work and energy will not be the right fit for everyone, I learned that lesson from my days in the spa environments working alongside 20+ other estheticians. I never put that pressure on myself, but I do know that I’ve given my clients my all before I gave myself anything.