Each year, summer comes and my girlfriends grab their bikinis, excited for the long, sunny season to come. Maybe like them, getting in a bathing suit and jumping in the pool is easy for you. But as a girl with vitiligo, it isn’t so easy for me. In fact, it’s just emotionally difficult. But here’s the key – I still do it. And I want to make the case for why other girls with vitiligo should do it too.
Two years ago, if you had invited me to a pool party or a beach vacation, I would have balked. The idea of people being able to see my skin, whether I was wearing tanner or not, absolutely frightened me. I didn’t want people to stare at me, I didn’t want to answer questions – I just wanted to fit in. And the more I was covered up, the more I seemed to fit in.
Then I started dating a beach boy. Needless to say, I started going on beach trips and hanging out by the pool. I certainly wasn’t thrilled about it, but I was willing to tag along and try my best to keep up for the sake of the relationship. And let me tell you, that first summer was hard – one of the hardest summers I’ve been through. I had panic attacks, stressed out about weekends in the water and dreaded the next time I would have to put on a bathing suit.
So why do I put myself through the pain? Because I actually enjoyed being on the beach a few times last year, and this season I’m headed into summer a little more excited and confident than I was before. Will it still be hard? Yes. Will I still have anxiety attacks and get nervous about being seen in a bathing suit? Yes. Will I do it anyway? Yes! And here’s why you should, too.
You care more about your skin than anyone else
Trust me on this one – you care more about your spots than anyone else does. Yes, people will stare, but they’ll look for a minute or two and then go back to what they were doing. You are the only person who is going to think about your skin the entire time you’re in a bathing suit. So own your spots and jump into that swimsuit because you’re the only one holding yourself back.
You need to push past your comfort zone to grow
Sure, getting in a bathing suit can be hard. And it might always be hard. But getting into a swim suit will push you outside of your comfort zone and help you grow. You won’t become more confident by sitting inside on a sunny beach day, hiding your spots. You will learn to be more confident by mustering the courage to put on a swimsuit and love your body the way it is, even for a few minutes or a few hours.
It builds your confidence
I’ve been in a bathing suit before, so I know I can do it again. It’s that simple. Each time I get into a bathing suit, I’m a little more comfortable showing my skin and letting the world see me. And once you start the process, you’ll slowly build confidence as you realize that the world doesn’t end just because someone sees your skin.
So there you have it. Will you be in a bathing suit this summer?
Erika Page is a writer and blogger with universal vitiligo. Based just south of Washington, D.C., Erika founded Living Dappled to create a community of inspiration and hope for girls and women living with vitiligo.