How people might react

The biggest challenge

Many people find that one of the biggest challenges of having a visible difference is unwanted attention. Understandably, this attention can be upsetting, annoying or make you feel anxious. It may mean you feel less confident and, as a result, shy, embarrassed or nervous when out in public or meeting new people. Or you may even try to avoid this. Reactions may include staring, double-takes, questions, comments and even unkindness. Some people might feel sorry for you. Unfortunately, there are some people who stare excessively, laugh or say something rude – and a few will be very unkind. Some people may move away, look away or ignore you.

Why do people behave this way? Mostly this behaviour is thoughtless; most people are just curious and don’t mean to upset you – they forget to think about how this might make you feel. It is natural for humans to feel curious, interested or surprised when we come across something new.

How people might react

Unless someone is being deliberately rude or nasty, most people do not mean to hurt or upset you, but may forget to think about your feelings and do not realise this is something you may content with every day. They may not know how to act or what to say. They may wonder what happened to you and want all the details. (Although, this does not meant they have a right to know, or even ask you – or to stare). They may even be worried that you are ok. Or think they are being humorous and light-hearted by making a joke or comment. Children might notice if someone looks different. They may stare at you because they’re curious and say things or point without thinking. Usually they don’t mean any harm and simply haven’t learnt that it is rude or that it might hurt your feelings. Sometimes adults with children may stare themselves or say something to you, or shush their child.

Maybe think about how you’ve acted when you’ve seen something or someone who looks different for the first time. What did you think? What did you do?

How does this make you feel?

Dealing with these reactions day in day out can be difficult and may mean you often feel:

  • Judged or criticised by others
  • Embarrassed, ashamed or awkward
  • Anxious and panicky
  • Angry and defensive
  • Self-conscious and conspicuous
  • Lonely and isolated
  • Sad and depressed
  • Worried and scared
  • Unconfident and unsure

Everyday people stare at me. People need to be aware of how that makes someone with a visible difference feel, having a visible difference means never having a day off. I don’t get to take my scars off and forget about them. Every day when I leave the house I need to check in with myself to see how I am going to handle staring or comments


It can be really difficult to face staring, comments and questions from people. You may just want to go out and be anonymous, and unnoticed by people so you can go about your day and this is perfectly natural. Unfortunately living with a visible difference can mean that people do notice you more. However, there are things you can do to help you manage the reactions of other people and we have put together some tools to help you.

3-2-1 Go tool


Explain, reassure, divert tool


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