Shannon is a Changing Faces campaigner and has a birthmark on the right side of her face.
Accepting my birthmark and learning how to embrace my looks hasn’t been an easy journey. I still have my bad days, but those days push me even more to help others.
Growing up my mam always told me, yes you have a birthmark, yes that makes you look different, but you are not different in what you can achieve, and you will go out there and show them.
Because of that I didn’t notice my birthmark until I was 12 and started high school. Then I started noticing people staring and some comments being made. I really did start to hate how I looked. I went from being such an outgoing confident child to being in a wee shell that I couldn’t see a way out off. I had zero confidence and blamed my mam for me having a birthmark.
I started work when I was about 13 in the local fish and chips takeaway. I worked there for a year before I started work in a bakery. Working in the bakery helped to rebuild my confidence because I couldn’t hide out at the back and shy away from the customers.
At the age of 18 I was told that laser treatment was no longer working for me cosmetically, and that my birthmark would not get any lighter. For four years I battled with that in my head.
When I was 22, I gave myself a good talking to and realised that if I didn’t accept that and learn to love my birthmark then I was just going to forever be upset and angry. It wasn’t easy and I had a few setbacks but the support of my family and friends made it easier.
I was working one day; it was really busy and I noticed a woman looking at me. Whilst I was serving someone else, she approached me and asked did I know the meaning of two words. When I told her I didn’t, she looked at me, whilst placing her hand on her cheek, and telling me she could guarantee it would help get rid of THAT on my face. I told her I was very happy with my face, but until she was served, she proceeded to follow me up and down the shop.
Another time I was working when a wee boy approached me and asked what was on my face. When I told him it was my birthmark and I was born with it, he rather excitedly asked me ‘does it hurt’ and when I told him no, he was rather disappointed – I think he was hoping for something more exciting.
Moral is for every horrible comment, there is always one not far behind it that makes you smile! I post all my stories on my social media channels, as I find it a good place to educate others about living life with a visible difference.
I have seen some horrible comments on other people’s stories, that’s the bad side to social media, which upsets me a lot, but I have always been so lucky. For me social media has been supportive and helpful. I’ve even had parents of young children with port wine stains reach out to me online. It’s nice to be able to offer some support and share experiences.
Accepting my birthmark and learning how to embrace my looks hasn’t been an easy journey. I still have my bad days, but those days push me even more to help others. My mam always fought for my right to be accepted and not be defined by my looks. Joining Changing Faces as a campaigner has helped to continue that fight.