Whilst vitiligo isn’t a life-threatening condition, it certainly has the potential to change your life, and many of you reading this will understand why. Firstly, there is the visible side of vitiligo and how it prevents us from fitting in with societal norms when it comes to our outer apperance and secondly, the psychological impact such as feeling isolated, ashamed and experiencing a sense of social anxiety. Living with vitiligo can severley affect our self-esteem and can lead to mental health problems because of the many associated feelings linked to the condition.
Despite this, there are strategies you can adopt that can make living with vitiligo easier for you, particularly where confidence is concerned. Finding a community of people who understand and can support you, can make all the difference in how you live with the condition, whether that’s online interaction or in person support.
Many people mistake vitiligo as a purely cosmetic condition. But since the majority of societies around the world place enormous emphasis on physical appearance, looking different can have a huge impact on someone’s self-esteem and how they feel about themselves.
Low self-esteem is common in people with vitiligo and this is often because of the highly visible nature of the condition and how unpredictable it can be. As we know, vitiligo an affect any part of the body and knowing that patches can show up at any time and anywhere, can often be difficult to accept and can leave many of us living in fear. For some of us, it can lead to us feeling unattractive and undesirable, making us compare ourselves to those who aren’t affected by the condition. This can also increase the risk of depression and anxiety, which are commonly associated with low self-esteem.
The concerns someone may face around the appearance of vitiligo can lead to the avoidance of social situations with friends and it can also interfere with dating and intimate relationships. But with the right support and focusing on an inwards mindset, it is possible you can successfully manage such challenges and potentially overcome them, allowing you to enjoy a more fulfilled life. Here are some ways that can help you do that;
As previously mentioned, social isolation can be common amongst those with vitiligo which can impact how we see ourselves and how confident we might feel meeting others and being in new social settings. Guided group sessions give you an opportunity to connect with people who also share those concerns, who understand what you’re going through and have had similar experiences. Not only does this help you to feel less alone, but it also provides you with regularly scheduled contact with others, whether it’s walking groups, social activities or crafting nights. This can have a positive impact on your wellbeing because it can build your confidence, make you feel part of a unique community and can even create an opportunity for you to potentially learn something new!
Online platforms may receive criticism for being impersonal, but they can also be a very helpful way for people to find communities and make friends. Finding people in your everyday life who have vitiligo can be challenging, which is why online spaces can be so useful.
From community Facebook groups and online forums that create a safe and open space for those with the condition to share their experiences, to the growth in ambassadors and influencers using social media to raise awareness and show the beauty in their skin, there are so many ways in which you can connect and communicate with those who share something unique with you. Such forums and the significant growth in social media have also made it possible to connect with people from across the globe which has lead to a real and very special global community feel. Given the exposure of vitiligo in recent years, it has meant that reaching out to others has never been easier and often those with the condition welcome new connections and conversations because they understand what it’s like to have vitiligo.
Raising awareness of conditions such as vitiligo is essential to reducing the stigma and helping people understand the condition, which in turn can help us feel less alone or ostracised because of how we look. The more social awareness there is, the less we feel the need to explain what it is and the more it becomes familiar in society.
Non-profit organisations and charities can be a great resource for education and implementing a change of thought, but those looking to support people with vitiligo can also help by getting involved with campaigns, events and fundraising, all of which support the importance of raising awareness of the condition and everything associated with it.
Become an advocate or encourage those closest to you, to become one!
Whether you have vitiligo yourself or know someone with the condition, it’s possible to become an advocate to show your support. You might have a friend, a relative or a colleague who has the condition – ask them if they’d like to do something together to raise awareness of vitiligo such as hosting a fundraiser, using social media to raise awareness or even getting involved in World Vitiligo Day, which is the biggest global event in the calendar every year. There are so many ways you or those closest to you can become an advocate, whether that’s by sharing your story, engaging in social media, wearing a vitiligo t-shirt or joining a support group.
Every voice matters when it comes to raising awareness and you and those closest to you are what’s needed to advocate change.
There’s real power in supporting others, no matter the cause, and whether you’re someone who lives with vitiligo yourself or you want to support someone you know, finding ways to help people feel less alone can be a wonderful thing to do.