When we talk about body positivity and inclusivity, it is a completely different ball game for someone with Vitiligo. Vitiligo is a long-term condition where pale white patches develop on the skin. It is caused by the lack of melanin, which is the pigment in skin.
Is it curable, you might ask? No, it is a condition one must live with and embrace. Though there are treatments that might slow down the progression of the patches on your skin, it can be quite expensive.
I was born with vitiligo. As a person of African descent, it was difficult to process and understand this condition, as it was not something that I had seen anyone else with throughout the entirety of my childhood. Luckily, for me, the white patches were in places that were easy to hide, my leg and chest. I hid my condition and thrived in the cocoon of long socks and long-sleeved shirts as a mode of fitting in.
It was always easier to fit in than stand out. After all, what business did I have explaining to my peers why there was a white patch on my leg, that somehow never seemed to go away regardless of how hard I tried scrubbing it in the shower? I was naive and insecure that this difference in my body meant that I was not worthy of self-love.
Due to this insecurity with vitiligo and lack of confidence, there were activities that I dreaded participating in. Swimming was one of them. I hated that I now had to remove my long socks and clothes and let everything become visible to everyone. I would spend a long time in the changing rooms, so that I could jump in the pool when no one else was watching. At times, I would go to the extent of wearing socks in the pool, just to hide this condition.
When I look back at some of the measures that I took because of my insecurity and constant comparison with other bodies that were perceived to be 'normal', it hurts my self-confidence because I have now begun to fully embrace this as my unique feature. Something that gives me a profound sense of individuality. Something that makes me, ME.
I have become a firm believer that self-love is very intentional. It encompasses all aspects of our lives and without it, it is hard to fully exert yourself with full confidence. An enormous influence of this belief, particularly on my condition, was the representation that I began seeing in the world of fashion. Models such as Winnie Harlow, who have embraced their vitiligo with pride gave me the reassurance that I was okay, I did not have to hide it anymore, there was no need to feel that I was not worthy of love. There was no need to stay back in the changing rooms longer than usual when I went swimming. There was no need to fold my legs when I had no socks on. There was no need to always have something covering my chest area when I needed not to. I was okay.
As a result of this newfound confidence, I began championing this condition. I was now fully aware that for me to be in a position of body positivity, I had to stop comparing myself with other people. I told myself that I was going to be 'unapologetically me', which is also the title of a Ted Talk I presented regarding my journey with vitiligo. If you would like to listen to what my 19-year-old self thought about body positivity and the importance of self-love you can check it out here.
To anyone going through this journey of self-love, be patient with yourself. Take it one day at a time. Your uniqueness is needed in this world. No one is perfect, we all have to make peace with our broken pieces, because it is in that uncertainty that we find ourselves.