Being a very literal person, I’ve always wished there was a roadmap to loving my life with vitiligo. I would hear people say you should “love your life” or “embrace your skin,” but the only thought echoing in my head was “how?”
After twenty years of trying, I’ve realized there is no foolproof way of learning to loving your skin, but there are things that have helped me get closer. So if you’re stuck, or aren’t sure where to turn, here is your roadmap to starting the journey towards loving your life, spots and all.
Find role models with vitiligo
This might sound silly, but looking at pictures of others with vitiligo actually helped me to accept my own skin. At first, seeing others with vitiligo made me wince – it reminded me of how ugly I’ve always felt and how weird people must think I look. But over time, I came to see the person and not the spots in each picture. In fact, I even started to see the beauty in a person’s spots. And when I looked back in the mirror, I was able to see my own skin differently.
Keep a gratitude or happiness journal
A couple of years ago, I started a happiness journal and would write down one thing I was happy about or grateful for before bed each night. Being thankful for the small things in life helped me realize how much I have to be grateful for. There are many people in our world would happily trade whatever they’re facing for a non-life-threatening skin condition – and that’s important to remember.
Find a hobby that you can pursue
Hobbies do two important things for those with vitiligo. First, they take time and attention away from idle thoughts that could be self-judging and degrading. And second, they boost your mood and confidence. Having a hobby gives you something to throw yourself into, and leaves you a better person. I love writing and running – and I lose track of time when I do either. Both activities give me a chance to forget that I’m the girl with a skin condition and just be myself, doing something that I love.
Focus on something you like about your body
Find one thing you love about your body and accentuate it. Personally, I love how tall I am. So naturally, I wear high heels to make myself even taller. I love the confidence boost I get from wearing heels and feeling my long stride as I walk into a room or a meeting. It’s something that I love about myself, and that’s the first step to loving the rest of myself.
Don’t make a habit of browsing social media
It’s easy to browse Facebook or Instagram when you’re bored. While it’s great to see what your friends and family are up to, obsessing over social media also makes a habit of comparing yourself to others – a habit that can be detrimental to your self-esteem. Especially in the summer, when bikini pictures flood my Instagram feed, I try to make a conscious habit of getting on social for only a few minutes each day – enough to keep up, but not enough time to browse and compare myself to others without vitiligo.
Take small steps
What makes you most anxious about your skin? Is it leaving the house without makeup? Wearing shorts in the summer? Whatever it is, take one small step towards conquering that fear. You aren’t going to change overnight – change takes time. So break it down and go one step at a time. Try wearing capris one day if you don’t like wearing shorts. Try putting on less makeup if you don’t like the spots on your face. Pushing yourself a little bit at a time will help you grow without causing you to panic.
Give yourself permission to struggle
This is so important – you have to give yourself permission to struggle. If you’re trying to love your life with vitiligo and you fail and beat yourself up, you won’t be making progress. Know right now that you will fail and that you will have to get back up and try again. And then give yourself permission to do that, so when that moment comes, you know that it’s just another part of the process.
Find one way that having vitiligo has changed your life for the better
Vitiligo is a part of your life and it’s a part of who you are. Chances are that it’s shaped your decisions, your relationships and your world view – and that might not be a bad thing. For me, vitiligo has opened my eyes to understanding the personal insecurities of those around me, allowing me to be a part of what builds up their confidence. That change in perspective has made my relationships better – and that’s a good thing that come from living with vitiligo. Find your own reason to love your spots, and you might actually start liking your skin.
Erika Page is the Founder and Editor of Living Dappled. After getting vitiligo at the age of seven, she lost 100% of her pigment to the condition and today lives with universal vitiligo.