Every person has their own version of insecurities. For now let’s focus on physical attributes especially skin. In all honesty, our insecurities or personal judgments are not something we naturally possess but grow up hearing from society, people and even the media that sets the criteria on what to look like. This occurs irrespective of your cultural background, location, and ethnicity, no matter how hot you are.1
Although, looks are not something we can really help, a young woman with vitiligo shows us that it really is about your personal perception and communicating that with the world.
Ashley Soto has been hiding her body since she was just 12-years-old because she has vitiligo. Vitiligo is an autoimmune disease, which makes patches of a person’s skin lose its color and pigmentation. Ashley learnt about her condition when she saw a small spot on her neck, at an age when she was still figuring herself out. As time passed, society ended up using that condition to define her, be it by staring at her or making mean comments.
The worst comment she was given was when she went for a swim and besides the obvious stares from others, some person told her that she looked like she had bathed in bleach. Ashley tried to ignore it all, but later ran to a bathroom and cried, feeling afraid to ever go swimming again.
Years followed where Ashley, wore long-sleeved clothes irrespective of the hot weather in Florida. Her cheer-leading pastime, outgoing days and even the confidence to make friends reduced after she got vitiligo, because she was scared she will be judged and rejected.
This resulted in a lot of days where she was always cooped up at home, not going anywhere and she always counted on her mom for company, as she had close to no social life and even love life because they may think she was gross.
Despite that destroyed confidence for years, Ashley rose from the ashes like a phoenix and felt she has hidden herself for long enough.
She started by sharing a photo of herself, which showed the vitiligo on her body on her Instagram page. Prior to this, her Instagram account showed photos of her make-up, but never showed her body, just her face because that’s the only part of her she learnt to cover up.
But, after taking examples of many girls who put themselves out there and seeing the positive feedback they received, she thought, I could do that too. Although, she did mentally-prep herself for the nasty comments as well.
She needed to make herself feel less ashamed of her skin, so she took baby steps to do so.
First, she stopped wearing sweaters or long-sleeved tops when going to nearby places, as a litmus test to how she felt. Then she started to wear tank tops, a new thing for her, when she went to the amusement park and she even forced herself to wear a swimsuit again.
She wanted to stop judging herself like others already did and just love herself for how she is in all that unique glory. After lots of attempts, she has now grown a new confidence for herself, and is even able to do stuff on her own.
As a way of boosting others’ morale, she uploaded a series of photos of herself without hiding the vitiligo parts, so someone out there, like herself can learn to love themselves for however they are and show it.
Likewise, a former Canadian model with vitiligo, named Winnie Harlow has helped influence and normalize the condition in the public eye with confidence in her own skin. She expressed, that she never had a problem with her skin or how it looked, but started to believe so because of the way people treated her.
As Winnie said, at the end of the day, it is your own stand-point that keeps you going and what counts, especially if it has to do with your looks, which is personal and not anybody else’s business.
The naysayers painted Winnie as someone who shot to fame because of her condition, but she said that beauty or confidence goes beyond vitiligo, it is a celebration of the confidence one can have by just believing in themselves.
So, it really does not matter if one is rejected for having vitiligo, albinism or even acne, there is no shame in whether one is dark or light skinned. Every natural pattern or skin tone or gradient is naturally beautiful and gives the world that vibrant collage of variety.
But the real ornaments in any crown, is confidence and self-acceptance, no matter what skin you’re in, to shine and smile unashamedly to the world.