Appearance and confidence as a young person who looks different

We explore what “looking different” means and what you can do about improving your confidence in your appearance.

Sometimes, looking different can make us feel different to other people. This can make us feel a bit less confident, and we can act in a shy, embarrassed or worried way.

On this page, we look at what “looking different” means, why appearance and confidence are connected and what you can do about it.

What does “looking different” mean?

There are lots of things that can affect how you look, for example:

  • You were born with something that changes the shape, size, feel or look of your face or body, or how it works.
  • You have a birthmark or skin that is not the same colour all over, or it feels and looks different to other parts of your face or body.
  • You have scars or burns or changes to your face or body from an accident.
  • You look different after being ill or having an operation.

Here at Changing Faces, we normally use the term “visible difference”. But different people use different words to describe their appearance, like “unusual”, “different” or “disfigurement”. Sometimes people use the name of the condition they have. You can choose whatever words feel right for you.

Feeling different to other people

Looking different might make you feel different to other people. Feeling like this can be hard sometimes.

You might feel like you look different to your friends and family, but remember that everyone is different. No two people are exactly the same. It’s one of the great things about human beings. We all have different personalities. We all look different. We all like different things. We are all unique!

Although you and your friends and family are not all the same, you will have some things the same – and, more importantly, you’ll like and enjoy a lot of the same things.

Why appearance and confidence are connected

When we are confident, we feel happy with ourselves and our ability to do things and achieve the things we want.

Appearance and confidence are linked. Looking different can make you feel less confident. This could be because you are worried about what other people think about you. Or maybe you’re worried about what they might say or do.

Feeling less confident can make you act in an embarrassed, shy or worried way when you meet other people. You might even avoid seeing new people because you are worried they will stare or say horrible things to you.

Your condition might mean that you can’t do some things. For example, you might struggle to move a part of your body. This can make you less confident about doing PE or sport at school.

Things that can affect your confidence

There are certain things to do with looking different that can affect your confidence. Here are some of them – plus some things you can do to make yourself feel more confident.

People staring or saying hurtful things

It can be difficult to feel confident if people are unkind to us. Sometimes we think about what someone has said again and again, and feel sad, angry or upset. When someone is unkind, we might worry that other people will be unkind as well.

How can I feel better about this?

Remember that just because one person has been nasty to you, that doesn’t mean that everyone will be. Most people don’t want to hurt other people’s feelings – but it is the horrible experiences that we remember.

If there is a person or people who are often horrible to you, you should tell someone, like a parent, carer, teacher or another adult you trust. Have a look at our page on bullying.

David told his mum and dad that other people were making him feel bad. They spoke to David’s school and things soon got sorted out. Have a look at this video:

Comparing yourself to other people

You might see other people and want to be like them or look like them. Everyone does this sometimes. This can make us feel less confident because we are comparing ourselves to someone we think is “better” than us. This can stop us seeing our own good points and achievements.

How can I feel better about this?

Everyone is different. People look different and they also do different things and have different talents. Looking different has made you strong and resilient, even if you don’t always feel that way. You can use that strength in other parts of your life as well.

I associated my scars with being ugly and I struggled to feel good about myself. I never felt beautiful or accepted compliments about how I looked. I looked at magazines and read about celebrities and I wanted to look or be like them. They were beautiful. I have accepted my scars and wouldn’t want to change them now.

Tulsi

Not seeing your good points

When we don’t feel confident, we think about all the things we don’t like about ourselves. This might be not liking the way we look or worrying about not being good at something. We often forget to think about all the things we are good at.

How can I feel better about this?

Think about some things about yourself that you like and wouldn’t change. Maybe other people see those things in you and wish they could be like you too.

Thinking that no matter how hard you try, no one will like you

You might think that because you look different, no one will like us or want to be our friend. Maybe you have sometimes found it a bit hard to make friends or have been put off talking to someone because you were worried about how they might react.

How can I feel better about this?

Remember that being friends with someone is about much more than just looks. Think about the people you like and love. What is it about them that you like? It probably isn’t how they look!

Normally, the things that make us want to be someone’s friend are to do with their personality. People will want to be your friend because you are kind, caring, funny or enjoy doing the same things as them. People who make friends based on looks are missing out!

Meet Lorna… Lorna is fun, clever and kind. At times she’s quiet but she is talkative with people she knows. She has long, dark hair and brown eyes. She is happy wearing jeans and a T-shirt but does wear a dress sometimes – on special occasions. She likes music, dancing, roller skating and she plays football. She has three best friends – they spend all their time together.

Lorna also has a scar on her face from a dog bite. But what counts for Lorna and her friends is that she is herself. There is only one Lorna… she’s interesting, kind, fun and has a great sense of humour!

Like Lorna, how you look is only one part of you. And like everyone else, you are unique – there is only one “you” and you’re great!

What if I am really struggling?

Sometimes people can find it really hard to cope. You might:

  • Feel very unhappy or not want to go anywhere or see anyone.
  • Not be sleeping properly or be having nightmares a lot.
  • Feel like there is something wrong with you or be worrying a lot about how you look.

If you feel some of these things, you might need to get some help. Don’t struggle on alone – tell your parents, carers or your teacher. Ask them to get in touch with Changing Faces to help you to cope better.

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Tools for boosting your confidence

We’ve put together a few things for you to try out to help you feel more confident. If appearance and confidence are a problem to you, why not try them out?