“Magic Mirror on the wall, who is the fairest one of all?” Taken from an original Brother Grimm tale, this famous quote relays a scenario that I and so many with vitiligo are familiar with. We spend an uncharted amount of time standing and staring at our reflections in the mirror, wishing it would change us so we could fit in with society. That’s mirrorlized beauty – beauty defined by the standards of the world around us encourages an unhealthy need to be validated.
I spent many years trapped by mirrorlized beauty, yearning to love the body I felt my soul was trapped in and wishing my mirror was magic. How much longer could I possibly stare at an image I was convinced was distorted? Then, a conversation with a young Asian woman in a nail salon changed my view forever.
Feeling good after new lashes and a fresh coat of gel polish, I walked to the counter as confidently as I could, knowing that everyone in the salon was staring and not because of my lashes. Handing my tip to the woman behind the counter, she looked up and said, “you are beautiful even with that, but you could be perfect if you were to fix or cover that.” The “that” she was referring to were my distinct marks of vitiligo.
Normally, I would get angry and lash out, pretend not to hear or understand, or laugh along with people’s hurtful words. This encounter was different. I was taken aback. It was as if I had transcended time and every interaction with an insensitive person was flickering in front of my face. I went to my car and pulled down the visor mirror, tears streaming down my cheeks and mind racing. Why have I allowed this to carry on for so long? Why do I not love myself enough to believe I am perfect? Why have I accepted other’s perceptions of me as them as truth? These were the questions that flooded my head as I looked at the girl in the mirror.
It was that day that I grew tired of reinventing, pleasing and pretending. The young woman was shackled by mirrorlized beauty, but I didn’t have to be. And in that moment, I decided to break free. I left behind the shackles of society’s broken definition of beauty and you can too.
Recognize the societal mirror trap around you
Society doesn’t define beautiful, you do. Recognize your beauty and the beauty of those with vitiligo around you. For every person who is unaware or unaccepting of your skin, there are over 1.2 million people with the condition who will welcome you with open arms. Try this exercise: remove all of the mirrors in your home for one week. Without being able to see yourself, you will have to believe that you are beautiful. You will start to define your own version of beautiful instead of checking your reflection in the mirror.
Reflect on your positive self
When you do look in the mirror, stop searching and start reflecting. Look at all the great things you have accomplished. Think about the lives of those you have positively impacted. See your uniqueness and absorb how much of a blessing your life is. If you can’t see the positive things in your life, then create a positive outlet. I own many rocking chairs and enjoy sitting in them, pen and sheet paper in hand, and observing my surroundings. I pay attention to the way people interact. I search for deeper meaning around me while recognizing the simplicities of life. Find a way to spend time actively seeking the good in your life.
Redirect your energy
Instead of looking for something in the mirror, focus on the strength you hold within. Take comfort in knowing that you are strong enough to live with vitiligo, because you already are. You have the ability to set your own rules in your life, rules that let you be you without apologies. Embrace that person. And when you look in the mirror, see her staring back at you.
Archie B. is a mother, model and vitiligo awareness advocate currently working on a clothing line to address the needs of the vitiligo community.