As a woman who has lived with vitiligo for over 30 years, I am all to familiar with the emotions we often go through with a skin condition as visible as ours. For me, it feels like it was just a few months ago, where, if there was a magic wand that would cleanse me of vitiligo, I would have happily taken it, just so I could blend in and make my life easier. As a teen and young woman it was difficult for me to visualise accepting myself. Visualise ever loving my skin and appreciating that being different is just as valid as someone who doesn’t have a visible difference.
When I appeared on London Live in 2013, I had no idea the impact those 8 minutes of live TV would have on my life, personally. The doors it would open, the opportunities it would create and most importantly the voice it would give me that would allow me accept my skin and open up to those around me. From that very moment, the direction i’d been walking in suddenly changed and the new journey I was about to embark on, became one of positivity and self acceptance. It was one where I had made a commitment to myself to change.
When you make a commitment to yourself there are a number of things you likely would have done to reach that mindset of visualising change. They might not seem like very big things, but I can assure you they are! Here are those actions you will have taken when you decided you were ready to love yourself with vitiligo….
You made a commitment to change your mindset
When I realised that trying to conform to the idea of perfection in a world where women come in various sizes, skin tones and shapes was not only draining but unrealistic, I made a commitment to myself that I needed to shift my mindset and focus on looking at myself as a whole. I knew it wasn’t going to be easy and I knew it wasn’t going to happen in 24 hours, but by making a commitment that started with changing my mindset, it meant that I was promising myself that I would change in a time period that worked for me.
I can’t stress enough, the importance of a healthy mindset. Your mindset is a set of beliefs that affect how you think, feel and behave and in relation to vitiligo, my mindset was unhealthy. During my teenage years, which were my most difficult, I had created a collection of beliefs about my skin that were effectively poisoning my mind. These beliefs were completely acceptable given the images I was exposed to and the fact I didn’t know anyone else with the condition, but they weren’t the beliefs I wanted to have 20 years later.
Changing your mindset means refocusing where your mind channels its energy and looking deeper than what’s on the surface. Taking the intense focus away from what your body looks like in the visual sense and thinking about it in terms of physicality and the incredible things it does for you on a daily basis. For me, learning to broaden my mind made me truly understand that my skin is a tiny fraction of who I am, and that I am a whole ‘picture’ with plenty of ‘colour’ and not just on my skin! Changing your mindset is the first commitment you can make to yourself that will drive you towards loving and accepting your skin.
You have taken a big step forward….probably bigger than you realise…
Deciding to self-accept when its something that has been a challenge for you in the past, is not only a nerve wracking step, but an incredibly positive one! I know it was for me. For many years I lived in denial. Pretended like I didn’t have vitiligo to the outside world, but was heavily aware of it when I was behind closed doors. I avoided questions, felt hugely offended if people stared and covered up as much as I could with fake tan. I was even convinced that one day I’d either wake up and my entire life with it had been a dream or that a miracle cure would be discovered by Dermatologists which would be my way out of this tormented life I felt I had with the condition.
In order to start your journey, it’s important that you focus on accepting your skin the way it is, in all its glory. Every single patch you have, the hidden patches and those that people will notice straight away, give them love! Accept that there was a reason why you developed your first ever patch. Maybe it’s a sign of something you went through that you can now look back on in a positive way. My first patch at the age of three developed because it was supposed to. That’s all I can say. I wasn’t stressed. I hadn’t fallen over and there was no one else in my family with it. I often asked myself ‘why doesn’t my sister have any patches’? or ‘Why was I the sibling that developed this?’, but the truth is, she wasn’t supposed to get it and I was. Once I had accepted my fate, I knew that I had taken the first step towards creating a positive mindset.
You are making a choice and choosing the thoughts that enter your mind
I knew that I needed to create a filter that welcomed positive thoughts and images and blocked out those that didn’t serve a purpose. But, how do we do that when we can’t control what we see? I was (and still am!) a very frequent user of social media, which means I see thousands of images daily. I practically read every single woman’s magazine on the shelves (the UK has many!), and love fashion and beauty. This meant I was constantly consuming images of woman with perfect skin, body shapes I secretly wished I had and even wardrobes I wished I owned! Its these types of images that are hard to escape therefore its important that you allow yourself to ACCEPT these images as images and not allow them to make you feel inferior. We are prone to using filters, photo editing apps and other magical tools that stretch our waist or remove pimples on our skin, so just remember, we are seeing people’s best pictures online and around us, that have often been manipulated.
I hear all the time about women and girls who have developed a complex because they’ve seen an influencer with spotless skin or the perfect shaped body and its not healthy. It saddens me that theses images can affect how we feel about ourselves. I would strongly suggest if these feelings are present when you scroll, unfollow those accounts on social media that are making you feel bad and come back to them a bit later because right now, they aren’t serving you any purpose. I do look at other women and see beauty, but I don’t let them alter how I feel about myself because I’m beautiful too! (and so are you!).
You are ready to share who you are as someone with vitiligo
During my teenage years and early twenties, I struggled to be true to myself because I spent a lot of time comparing myself to others whilst trying to fit in. In fact studies have shown that comparing ourselves unfavourably to others can seriously affect our mood, increase chances of depression and reveal feelings of inadequacy. We all have parts of our personality or physical flaws or imperfections we want to hide because we don’t want to show our ‘real selves’, that’s very normal. The reason for this is because we fear how others will respond to us. But what if we removed ‘others’ from the equation? Does that mean we’d have more love for ourselves and not see our imperfections as being imperfect? Imagine the freedom we would feel knowing that we can be ourselves. It’s a feeling I know is already making you smile! When I started to talk more openly about my skin and welcomed questions from others, it meant I was ready to be honest with myself. It was a feeling that I wanted to welcome because it meant that I could observe myself and my surroundings with clarity and be my most authentic self. Embracing our authentic selves is the only way you can fully feel like ‘you’ and by being ‘you’ it allows you to connect and inspire others. It also allows you to welcome a set of values that represent who you are and ultimately, allows you to live them. Being open meant that I was able to enjoy being on the beach, leave the house without makeup and look in the mirror and see someone with a skin condition that she loved. Sharing myself meant that I was giving everyone the best version of me. It’s a feeling that I now know, satisfies me the most…..
Are you ready to love yourself with vitiligo? I hope so……