Dating can be a nerve wracking experience for most people, however, when you have a skin condition such as vitiligo, the thought of dating can come with added fear, nerves and angst as we think about how we’ll explain our skin to someone who has likely never seen it before.
One of the things I learnt later in life in relation to dating, was that confidence speaks volumes. It’s something that I wish I’d known back in my twenties; the time when I found dating most difficult. Reflecting back on those years, I can honestly say it wasn’t a pleasant experience. I felt a strong sense of fear because I wasn’t comfortable with who I was, which meant that whoever I was dating could pick up on that fear straight away.
My twenties was a time when I lacked confidence, was very embarrassed about my skin and questioned who would find me attractive with a skin condition as vibrant as mine. I felt it became the ‘elephant in the room’ whenever I met someone for the first time and as much as there was some excitement in meeting a potential partner, I couldn’t shake off the feeling of someone judging me because of my skin.
That time has thankfully passed and now I see every day as an opportunity to learn and grow. For me, my light bulb moment came when I shifted my mindset and learnt that, ‘if I didn’t love my skin first, then I couldn’t expect someone else to’, and slowly over time, whilst learning how to self accept and adopt self love, I realised that my skin played no part in who I was, and that dating and relationships can be enjoyed without my skin being an issue or being a reason for someone not to like me.
Through growth and shifting my mindset, here are some of the questions I can reflect on and some of the key things that I now understand about dating as a woman with vitiligo;
‘Why would my date like me if I have vitiligo’.
I asked myself this question all the time and I also answered it. Unless you have accepted your skin, you will always reject the possibility of someone liking you, because in your mind it isn’t possible if you have vitiligo. My answer to this question was ‘there are so many other girls out there with ‘normal’ skin…why would he choose me?’. The fact I had a personality, was a good human being and put an effort into getting to know someone, didn’t even enter my mind, because as far as I was concerned I was being judged on my skin, alone. I was stuck in a fixed mindset.
I realise now that there were a number of things wrong with my thought process. Firstly, I shouldn’t be comparing myself to other girls because it isn’t a competition and secondly, my personality comes first and a good guy will recognise that. Of course, it’s hard for some of us to completely erase how our skin makes us feel, however a genuine person that understands there is no such thing as perfection, will date, love and be with you because you are uniquely beautiful with the kind of attractive, open minded and non-judgemental personality that living with a skin condition creates. Someone with integrity, someone who is honest, someone who can make people laugh and someone who can simply be themselves, because ultimately a person isn’t dating your skin, they are dating you….the person that you are.
Confidence is key
Confidence is such an important factor if you want to date with success. I know this may sound particularly hard if you are finding it difficult to feel positive about your skin, especially if you have been newly diagnosed, however, please know that feeling confident is possible, even if you’re not feeling it right now.
If you show your date that you can talk about your skin, answer any questions and show that it doesn’t impact how you feel about yourself, then your date will feel that energy and recognise that if it doesn’t bother you, it doesn’t bother them.
If you show a person that it makes you feel anxious, that you find it difficult to talk about and prefer to keep it hidden, that person will automatically feel as though they have a job to do in terms of making you feel comfortable. It’s so important that we are confident in our own skin so that others can have confidence in us too.
How do I have the ‘vitiligo’ conversation?
If you’re anything like me, then you may have spent many months or years worrying about having ‘the conversation’. Thinking about when the best time is to explain it, or whether you wait for the person to ask? Looking back I almost feel guilty for the time I wasted thinking about this, because now I realise there simply isn’t a ‘right time’. It doesn’t need to be planned nor does it need to be introduced like its something separate to who you are. It will naturally happen in one of two ways; it will come up in conversation organically to which your reaction will be to explain what it is in its simplest form (unless he / she is fascinated and wants to know even more!) or if you prefer, you mention it when it feels right for you. There is no perfect time, just the right time when it naturally comes up…this leads me onto….
It’s good to talk
If you are in the early stages of dating or a relationship and the conversation about your skin has started, then the best way to manage it is to welcome the conversation. For me, it was always a conversation that I rushed. After feeling my temperature rise when the dreaded question came up, I’d mumble something about ‘white patches’ as quickly as possible, keen to get the conversation out of the way, never to be spoken about again. I’d give the impression that I was uncomfortable, that it was a topic that was off limits and that, worst of all, it affected my confidence which wasn’t the impression I wanted to give. Now, when the question comes up, I explain what it is and even ask them if they’ve heard of it and I’m often surprised when they respond with ‘my friend/family member has vitiligo too’. It gives that automatic reassurance that it isn’t something completely new to them, meaning they are more likely to have some understanding of the condition.
Talking about it means that the ‘elephant in the room’ will leave very quickly because the dialogue has started and you’ve shown the other person that you can comfortably address any questions he/she might ask you.
This one isn’t for everyone, but depending on how you feel, humour is a great way to relax you and the other person. I remember using humour once before. I can’t recall exactly what I said, but I vividly remember it being a positive way to break the ice, strengthen my confidence and navigate moments of awkwardness. Like speaking with confidence and being open about having a conversation, using light humour is another way that gives the impression we are comfortable with who we are.
Dating and even relationships isn’t something we should dread because of our skin. Sure, it’s natural to feel nerves or butterflies in your tummy, but let that be because you can’t decide on which outfit to wear or what you should do on your first date.
Lastly, whilst you’re sat there worried about what your date is thinking about your skin, just remember your date is also sat there with a basket of their own insecurities too!’
Happy Valentines & Galentines…