Growing up I suffered from an extreme version of the common skin disease exzema. Exzema can basically be referred to as an intense rash that doesn’t go away. While it can’t be cured it can be managed, with ointments and creams and medicine. But once you have exzema you are stuck with it for life.
My exzema was a little different than most cases. As with most I would get the rash and I would itch and itch but it wasn’t just a simple scratch and then I’m done. I would scratch until I bled… Then scratch my bleeding legs more. I would mindlessly pick off scabs so I could scratch the skin underneath. After years of doing this, basically all of my formative years I developed many deep scars all over my legs and arms.
My parents tried everything, dermatologist after dermatologist, they would make me sleep with gloves on to not scratch in my sleep, they tried punishing me in hopes that I would stop, but nothing worked… When I had an itch I was going to scratch it until I bled and worse.
As I grew older my exzema got better, but that didn’t do anything about the scars that I already had all over my body. This began a 12 year and counting battle with scars.
It’s summertime. I’m 9 years old. Going to pools, road trips, sleepovers, running around in shorts and dresses.
“What’s wrong with your legs?”
“Why do you have black marks all over your arms?”
“You’re covered in scabs!”
As a 9 year old I didn’t know how to handle these comments. So I would just yell “nothing!” And continue about my day.
But the questions kept coming, from kids, from adults, even from my cousins. After a few years of feeling ashamed for my imperfections, I decided it was time to only wear pants and that’s it.
Problem solved right?
“Do you ever wear shorts?”
“Aren’t you hot?”
“Are you only allowed to wear pants?”
I started to fail gym because I didn’t want to change into shorts, so I would take a failed class participation grade everyday. I would constantly long for winter and fall so that everyone would be wearing long pants and I wouldn’t be singled out. Cold weather means pants. It may be the reason I still love cold weather to this day.
But after a few years of being uncomfortable in pants all the time, I needed another approach. Luckily, I still had one more option up my sleeve to hide my imperfections.
Now, while this seemed like a good idea at the time, make up isn’t created for your legs and your legs and arms have different skin tones than your face. So I’m sure you can imagine that finding a makeup that matched my legs and was dark enough to cover the scars was next to impossible.
I’m now in high school.
Every morning before I went to school I would slather my legs in make up. Make up that rubbed off everywhere, make up that was so clearly a different shade than my skin. If people rubbed against my legs accidentally they would get make up all over their clothes. I would get teased even harder.
“Why do you wear make up on your legs?”
“Try to rub her legs she’s wearing make up”
“Kathryn don’t go outside, it’s raining your leg make up will run!”
I avoided pools and beaches and outdoors activities for years. The only time I would go outside was to tan so that my skin would become dark and my scars would look less alarming.
It wasn’t until my senior year of high school that I said enough is enough and just dealt with the stares and the questions because at least I was finally free.
As humans, imperfections scare us. We try not to let it happen but the fact of the matter is, it does. You see someone in a wheelchair,you stare before quickly realizing that staring is rude. You see someone missing a leg or an arm, you quickly stare and look away. But what we don’t realize is however quick we think these glances are, they aren’t for the person you’re glancing at. It can feel like someone is laser focused on your imperfections in what they may think is a quick glance.
We get uncomfortable about things that “aren’t normal,” which leads to rude questions, teasing and staring.
Now unfortunately, I can’t give any advice for how to stop humans from being uncomfortable around imperfections. It’s human nature.
But for people with “imperfections” here’s my advice to you: don’t let the fear of how other people react to your differences stop you from living life how you want it. I still get questions about my scars all the time, to which I respond “I had a skin disease called exzema.” The conversation usually ends there but sometimes people ask what exzema is and then I raise awareness, so maybe the next time they see someone with scars like mine it won’t seem so abnormal.
You’re imperfections give you a story.
They add to your character.
They made you who you are today.
Embrace your imperfections and love yourself and they way you were made.
And I promise you if you do that every single day, no one will ever be able tear you down again.