As someone living with vitiligo, I know what it’s like to have moments of weakness. I spent many years hiding away, not wanting to talk about my skin or answer questions. Instead, I tried to ignore my skin – to turn a blind eye to the one thing that impacted my life the most. I wanted the world to see someone that was confident, even though deep down inside I hadn’t accepted who I was on the outside.
Fortunately, after years of working to build my confidence, I’ve learned to accept and love the spots I was born with. And while I recognize that I don’t quite fit in with the strict parameters that the media forces us to believe is beauty, I understand that beauty comes in many forms.
While my journey with learning to love my spots still continues, here are some of the things I’ve learned that are “okay” and “normal” when you live with vitiligo.
You feel awkward in social settings
Unfamiliar social settings can sometimes feel daunting, especially if we find ourselves among people we don’t know. During my teens, my vitiligo significantly knocked my confidence. I often felt socially awkward around large groups of people, which made me feel paranoid, anxious and vulnerable. I worried about their judging eyes and what they must be thinking about me.
As I got older and fixated less on my skin condition, I started to feel more comfortable with the person I was. It made socializing more enjoyable, which in turn enabled me to feel relaxed around people I hadn’t met before. Now, I love the idea of going somewhere new and meeting people. Not only have I learned to be a ‘people person,’ but I also feel challenged every time I do something that was once outside my comfort zone.
You get tired of people staring and try to remind them that it makes you uncomfortable
When you live with vitiligo you know all too well what it’s like to be stared at. As a teenager, I was desperate to fit in and remain unnoticed, except my skin condition didn’t really allow me to do that. My automatic response when I noticed people’s eyes fixated on my hands was to hide them away, which would then trigger a feeling of discomfort as I contemplated escaping the situation I was in.
Now I don’t get frustrated when I notice people looking. I no longer hide my hands in embarrassment like they shouldn’t be seen. I understand that people are curious about my condition. Staring at someone who is ‘different’ will never be acceptable. However, rather than allowing myself to feel anger, I remain calm so it doesn’t affect my day.
You try to hide your spots on social media
We live in a world obsessed with social media and like most, I have an Instagram, Facebook and Twitter account. Before I opened up about my skin, I would edit photos to disguise my vitiligo or I would deliberately stand in a position that allowed my hands to be hidden. The resulting photo could sometimes be so distorted that I wouldn’t look like myself at all.
Looking back at those photos, I can see that I wasn’t telling my true story because I’d removed everything that was originally natural, all because of my insecurities. Now I snap, check and upload without worrying about my beautiful spots being on show. Saying “goodbye” to editing has been freeing – and empowering.
Natalie Ambersley is a London-based blogger and finance personal assistant who has written for various media outlets such as Mind & Skin, Ditch the Label and The Vitiligo Society. Her blog, Being Just Us (www.beingjustus.co.uk), is a lifestyle blog that also documents her journey with vitiligo.