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How Finding Beauty in Others Helped Me See It in Myself

How Finding Beauty in Others Helped Me See It in Myself

arm with vitiligo

It’s time for a confession: I used to think vitiligo was ugly. And not just my vitiligo — any vitiligo.

While I doubt that I’m alone in feeling this way, it pains me to write those words — especially as the founder of a platform that celebrates women with this condition. And yet, it’s the truth, and a big part of my story.

I’ve lived with vitiligo now for more than twenty years and today, I can genuinely say that I think vitiligo — and everyone who has it — is beautiful. And yes, that includes myself. I’ll admit — I do still struggle to love my skin some days, but I’m also so much closer to loving it than ever before.

So how did it happen? How did I go from thinking vitiligo was ugly to thinking that it’s beautiful today? I had the same question for myself. So I did some digging into my past and in reflecting on my journey, I found three distinct phases that I experienced in learning to see my skin — and myself — as beautiful.

Let’s start at the beginning.

Phase 1: Spending more time around people with vitiligo

I spent most of my life not knowing others with vitiligo. It wasn’t often that I would see others with the condition and I hadn’t looked online or on social media to seek out these individuals. That all changed when I decided to launch Living Dappled. For the first time, I was spending hours each week looking at pictures of people with vitiligo on Instagram and the web.

Again, I hesitate to even write this, but I want to be honest: Looking at these pictures scared me. It made me uncomfortable. I saw these people the way I saw myself: To me, vitiligo was still ugly, weird and different. The pictures reminded me of what I looked like and how much I didn’t like it. As a result, working on Living Dappled made me squirm emotionally — it was hard to spend so much time thinking about the one thing I tried daily to forget. But I pushed on.

Over time, I got used to seeing people with vitiligo through my work on Living Dappled and through my own social media feeds as I started following more accounts and people with the condition. I would spend hours curating images for Living Dappled by poring through Instagram and even started hosting shoots for the blog and meeting women in person.

For the first time in my life, I was surrounded by others with vitiligo. And it didn’t take long for my perspective to start changing, both about the condition and the people living with it.

Phase 2: Seeing beauty in others with vitiligo

The more time I spent around others with vitiligo, the more normal vitiligo became to me. Vitiligo was no longer “other” or “different.” It was all around me, all day and every day. And as a result, I slowly stopped seeing “just spots” and started seeing the real, beautiful people that came with them.

Perhaps the most transformative way this happened was during our photo shoots for Living Dappled. These women were not models. They were not used to being in front of a camera. For many, they had never allowed their skin to be photographed. They were nervous, anxious and second-guessing themselves. And yet, they showed up anyway.

As the photographer would snap away, I would notice that there would be a smile on their face but fear and uncertainty in their eyes. It broke my heart. They were everyday women with big, full lives, reaching for the chance to find peace and joy in who they are. It was beautiful. And I could see that beauty — spots and all — even if they couldn’t.

These moments were truly a perspective shift for me. But the biggest work was still to be done — because I was still struggling in my own skin.

Phase 3: Seeing beauty in myself

Yes, I thought these women were beautiful. I was seeing beauty in others. But at the end of the day, when I went home, I still couldn’t face my own reflection in the mirror. And the irony that I was giving out advice that I couldn’t accept myself wasn’t lost on me.

But just three years after I had started Living Dappled, I decided it was time to give my newly depigmented skin a chance. I had been covering my skin with tanner for seven years and I decided to throw it away and let the tan fade to reveal my universal vitiligo. I wasn’t sure what my next step would be — if this would be a permanent change and something I would do forever. So far, I haven’t looked back.

It wasn’t easy. It didn’t happen overnight. And it doesn’t mean that every day is perfect. I still struggle to love my skin some days. But like I said before, I’m closer to loving it than I have ever been.

Were there other factors that led me to say goodbye to tanner and see the beauty in my skin? Perhaps. But I believe without a doubt that spending time around others with vitiligo — both online and in person — had a huge impact on my decision to embrace my skin. I was able to see their beauty and in turn, see mine.

What has helped you find beauty in your own skin?

If you’re looking to spend time with others with vitiligo, join the Dappled Darlings Community, Living Dappled’s membership network, today.

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