Ever felt as though you were living a life based on other people’s opinions of you? If in you’re mind your answer is yes, then I suspect it’s a slightly uncomfortable feeling….and it’s a feeling I can completely relate to.
Vitiligo can have a detrimental effect on how we feel about ourselves. Many of us, at some point, might experience low self esteem and anxiety as we compare ourselves to others, question if we’re ‘good enough’ and worry about whether a few small patches will turn into multiple.
The good news is, the world is changing and skin conditions, disabilities and natural marks and scars are becoming more socially visible and accepting. Back when I was younger, vitiligo was something you made every effort to keep a secret. It was a subject we refused to talk about, something we tried to cover and a condition that was completely misunderstood. But since Winnie Harlow positively exposed vitiligo as a condition that doesn’t hold people back, we have seen a surge in influencers across social media, more people publicly sharing their story, children seeing themselves represented in the toy market and a supportive community that empowers each other. All these factors have influenced us and encouraged us to live more authentically with vitiligo.
Being your authentic self is a gradual process. It takes commitment, self belief, understanding your trigger points, refocusing your mindset and most importantly, putting yourself before others. For some, this might feel like a goal that is difficult to reach, but it needn’t be. So here are five things you can do that will lead you towards being your most authentic self:
1. Visualise the life you want with Vitiligo
Do you want to be the person that wakes up each morning and doesn’t give their skin a second thought? Someone who can confidently say their skin doesn’t overshadow who they are and can stick two fingers up to negativity? Of course you do! You can be that person if you start visualising what that person looks like. How does that person feel? How does that person behave? How does he/she react when faced with the ‘what’s that on your skin’ question?
You may be familiar with the term Manifestation which means focusing and deeply visualising something that you want to see happen in your life. In a world where there is so much daily interference, whether that be society telling us how we should look or behave, to the values we may have been taught during our childhood and that might need to be reversed (i.e. vitiligo is a condition that should be treated), how do we rise above and focus on what is best for us?
Manifestation is adopting your own thought pattern and taking actionable steps that allow us to bring the things we really want into our lives and it starts with self belief and being grateful for what we have now. I’ll briefly touch on my story. I severely lacked confidence during my teens. Whilst all my friends were hitting the beach in the cutest bikini sets, my mind was preoccupied with ‘am I wearing enough sun cream’ and ‘am I wearing enough layers over my swimsuit so that my skin isn’t noticeable to others’. It didn’t matter that I wanted to enjoy myself like everyone else sunning themselves, I was more concerned about what other people would think if they saw my bright, white patches. Mixed in with other paranoid thoughts about my body, it was enough to stop me from enjoying those things that other women my age were enjoying. I truly envied them.
Changing my mindset in relation to the beach was my biggest challenge, but I had to visualise it and for me that visualisation showed me that I could wear a swimsuit, I could block out anyone that chose to stare and most importantly, that I had every right to enjoy the summer like everyone else…..and like you.
2. Accept you might face some challenges
I say this in the gentlest way because accepting some of the challenges we could be faced with, isn’t easy. It doesn’t matter who we are, what we have or what we look like, we are all likely to experience some self doubt in relation to how we look. For us, those challenges could be accepting that people are curious and may ask intrusive questions, that there is no treatment that can cure vitiligo, the discomfort we might feel when embarking on new relationships and of course, getting through the summer months when you feel like shorts and t-shirts aren’t an option for you.
Accepting such challenges means you can work on overcoming them in your own time. It helps you to mentally manage difficult situations more seamlessly and eliminate or at least reduce those feelings of discomfort. For example, accepting that people are curious and may stare, may mean that it doesn’t bother you when they do or going one step further, it might encourage you to start a conversation and explain to that person what vitiligo is. It’s a bold move, but believe me, it’s so liberating when you can confidently put a stop to someone’s curiosity and put a tick against educating one extra person in the world who had no idea what it was!
3. Tune into when you’re not feeling your best. What triggered it?
Even though I feel the most confident I’ve ever felt with vitiligo compared to 10 years ago, I still have wobbly moments when I question my skin and self doubt creeps up on me! For me, dating instantly comes to mind. If I’m meeting someone for the first time, as much as the thought of meeting that person excites me as I plan what i’m going to wear, how i’ll style my hair and whether I’ll wear Fenty or Charlotte Tilbury makeup, there is always that annoying voice that questions how my date might react to my skin. The trigger for these moments goes back to my twenties when I found dating hard. When I hadn’t accepted my skin. In those moments when that voice appears, I quickly remind myself that I’m not the same person I was back then, that I’ve learnt to put me and my personality first and that if there is any chance my date doesn’t like my skin, he simply isn’t the right person for me. So if you are having moments when you are not feeling your best, take a moment to reflect, recognise the trigger and remind yourself that you are on a journey that welcomes authenticity and absolute self appreciation.
Journaling feels like such a buzzword right now but it really does work! For me, journaling has been a saviour and one of the best ways for me to tune into how I’m feeling. It helps me to try and untangle my feelings and make some sense of my emotions……and I believe it can help you do the same if you make it a regular behaviour.
Journaling isn’t just about recording all the nice, fluffy stuff, the moments when we’re glowing, it’s also about recording when you’re feeling emotional, having down moments and want to spend 24 hours under your duvet until you snap out of it. Also, it’s a proven fact that it reduces stress, it has a strong link with mindfulness and is a great memory booster. Make it part of your routine and see just how much it can benefit you…..
5. It’s good to talk….
You don’t have to be someone who voluntarily talks about their skin at every opportunity, or be an influencer or ambassador on social media to open up. Opening up means sharing who you are (when the time is right) and allowing vitiligo to be part of your life. That means not avoiding it. Not pretending like it doesn’t exist. Not choosing clothes to purposely cover it and not worrying about how to explain it.
How do you do that? You do so by not letting questions make you feel uncomfortable and allowing yourself to have the conversation whether that be with friends, family or strangers. It’s an immediate confidence booster and eventually becomes part of your normal dialogue when you are faced with the most common vitiligo related questions. Another good exercise is looking at yourself in the mirror, running your eyes over every single patch that you have and repeating to yourself, 3 things that you love about being you. Shall I share my 3 things? Im unique, i’m loved and i’m confident in my skin…..
Want to learn more about living with vitiligo? Come and join me on Instagram: @being_just_ us