Vitiligo can make everyone, especially those with widespread, feel isolated and excluded. When you lose your pigmentation rapidly, your emotions can be difficult to handle. It’s not easy to stay calm while dealing with stares and answering those annoying questions regarding your condition.
So what could, and should you do? While your loved ones would ask you to simply ignore it, it’s not a very realistic option. As long as you have vitiligo, people are going to stare. Sometimes, you can handle it better; sometimes, you can’t handle it at all.
If it helps, learn to deal with staring in a more productive and less stressful way, whether it’s in an elevator or at the gym. Here are some coping strategies that should help:
1. Don’t go looking for it.
This is rather a more proactive than a reactive approach. As vitiligo progresses, you may get used to leaving the house expecting people to stare. But you need to understand one thing. There will always be people who stare, being naturally curious or wondering what you got on your skin. You can rather spend time worrying or thinking following:
- I approve of myself.
- I love myself.
- My patches are now part of me. I have to own them.
- I am beautiful and smart and that is why everyone notices me.
It can serve as a great strategy for falling in love with yourself. If you say to yourself five times before leaving the house that staring does not bother you, you’ll start believing it.
2. Control self-talk.
Believe it or not, self-talk is enormously powerful. It becomes the reality you create for yourself. It can hold you captive or set you free. When you walk around thinking about how awful your white patches look, that is what you reinforce with your thoughts about what other people think about you. Controlling self-talk is not easy, but working on it is absolutely crucial to your resilience and mental health in vitiligo. Being aware of the impact of your inner dialogue is a great place to start.
3. Don’t take it personally.
It is really hard, but don’t let strange stares shatter your confidence. Curiosity is a very normal, human behavior. Remember, they are not staring at the person, they are staring at the chronic skin disorder. You know it’s not your fault, but it’s not their fault either.
Smile and say hello if a stare lasts longer. Not only smiling will exhibit your confidence, but it will also invite people to learn about vitiligo and ask questions. By smiling and then inviting a discussion, you’re doing the important work of educating people about the chronic skin disorder that too few know about.
Is being nice to people who stare at you easy? No, it’s not. But remember, for every person you educate about vitiligo, there is one less person who might stare at the next person with the same skin disorder.
5. Consider it as an opportunity.
Have a conversation. If you feel comfortable, there’s nothing wrong with asking, “I noticed you staring at me. Why is that”. You never know you may end up having an interesting conversation with a stranger. If someone is staring at you because he doesn’t understand what is he looking at, you can preempt the questions he may have.
You can see it as a compliment or an opportunity to fight social anxiety – something very common among those fighting with vitiligo.