As a girl living with vitiligo for twenty years, I know all too well how easy it is to focus on looks. I start every day staring in the mirror and check my reflection at least three times before walking out the door. But here’s the thing: no matter how many times I look in the mirror, my skin isn’t going to change.
Living with vitiligo isn’t a choice
I didn’t choose to live with vitiligo, but unfortunately, no one asked me. I can’t change the fact that I have this skin condition. There’s no cure, treatments are hit or miss, and truth be told, those spots are going to do what they want whether I like it or not. It’s a hard reality to accept.
I want to be in control of my life, my looks and my happiness. So it’s easy to wish I could control the reflection staring back at me in the mirror. I tell myself that if I just look long enough, my spots will disappear and my pain and frustration will disappear with them. Yet we all know that no amount of looking will change my reality.
So if I can’t change the way I look, what am I left with? Do I just have to take the pain and be miserable for the rest of my life? Should I just accept the fact that I’ll never want to wear dresses or shorts in the summer again? I want to scream, “Yes, just give up!”
But that answer can only lead me right back to where I started – hurting, lonely and frustrated with the skin I’m in. It’s the easy route back to the beginning that leaves no room for the change that I desperately need in my life.
Changing your perspective
I can’t change the way I look, this is true. But I can change the way I see the girl in the mirror.
It’s not the answer most people want to hear, because it’s not the easy answer. Change is hard. This isn’t changing the color of your nail polish. It’s a change of perspective, a change of heart and a change in the way you feel about yourself. It’s deep, fundamental change that will turn your life upside down. And that kind of change takes hard work and time.
There is no straight-forward, cut-and-dried path to changing the way you see things. It’s a messy journey, the kind where you take two steps forward just to take one back. It’s the change that requires thought and action every day, not just the first day. It’s something that you will struggle with – that I struggle with.
So where do you start? For today, start with knowing that you can change. That there is work to be done if you aren’t in love with your life. Throw out the idea that you can’t get to that place. Look at the girl in the mirror and recognize where you stand today and where you could stand tomorrow.
Who do you see when you look in the mirror?
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.