An Open Letter to the Girl with Vitiligo Hiding Her Skin in Fear of Rejection
To the girl with vitiligo hiding her skin in fear of rejection:
The right one will love you for you, but first you have to love yourself. Cliché, I know, but it is so true. You have to let go of the worry that someone will not be attracted to you, and be confident in your skin.
I was not that woman until recently. I have had vitiligo, which began on my face, since the age of 14. For over a decade, I hid my vitiligo from whoever I could in whatever way that I could. Being perceived as “normal” was very important to me. This feeling caused me to sacrifice my time in an effort to wear a disguise for almost 24 hours a day, every day, for years. What I did not see at the time is that I was hiding a lot of my personality as well. I was trying not to be noticed, and told myself I was shy.
I met my current partner in the fall of 2015. At this point, even though I was still wearing makeup to hide my vitiligo (it was visible on my arms), I always made a point to tell a guy by the second date that it was also on my face. I never found it to be an issue with genuinely interested men, but more a personal insecurity of mine that would kill relationships.
I always feared that the man I was with had to see me as “normal,” so I would go the extra mile to hide and cover my vitiligo. For me, that meant wearing makeup to bed and making sure I woke up first to re-apply what had come off while sleeping. It also meant refraining from an actual hug and embrace because I had brown makeup covering the front part of my neck and chest that I didn’t want to come off on someone’s clothing. Imagine being that guy, going for that hug at the end of a great date and the woman puts her arms out, and basically just pats your back. That probably wasn’t a good signal and may or may not have been a reason I didn’t get a phone call. In fact, this very well could have been the miscommunication between myself and my current partner.
We went on a few dates in 2015, and after what I thought to be a good date, I didn’t hear from him. Two year later, I added him on social media and he reached out and has stuck by me ever since. This was crazy to me mostly because in October, when we started dating again, I was at a very transitional point with my vitiligo.
I had been on a year-long journey of preparing myself to be comfortable in my own skin. This past September, I had done a photoshoot where I left my house without any makeup for the first time in my life. I went directly to my car, where I drove directly to the photographer’s studio to do the shoot and immediately put makeup on after the shoot – before I left to travel home. After that day, I proceeded with life as “normal,” wearing makeup on my face to hide the vitiligo. My partner and I kept getting to know each other and things were going well. At Halloween, I dressed as model Winnie Harlow, who also has vitiligo. It felt amazing to be in a party setting revealing my skin for the first time in my life. After that party, I continued to wear makeup as I normally did—but I decided to post pics from the party and a few weeks later, allowed the photographer who had done my makeup-free shoot to tag me in her post on Facebook. The support from close family and friends was very encouraging, and it was then that I decided that I was ready to work up to the point of not wearing makeup at all. For me this was a six week process during which I would wear less and less makeup each day.
My partner never questioned my choice, and in fact, he was a big encouragement. This was a relief. I have so much admiration of his ability to quickly accept this unique condition that I had not accepted for so long. Today, we continue to move forward as a team, and face the same happy times and challenges as any other couple. I am so thankful to him if only for the fact that has he shown me that it is possible for a man to look past my skin, using his heart to see my soul. After all, it is the inside that counts and that is what will help your relationship stand the tests of time.
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