I was born with a strawberry birthmark on my face. When I was very young my parents decided to get it surgically treated, but that left other scars and that’s why it looks the way it does.
I first realised I looked different to others when I was in primary school. I became most aware when I had to move schools and people started asking more questions and pointing it out a lot. This made me feel quite different as a whole person. I became very shy and didn’t like to meet new people in case they would ask about it. Anyone drawing attention to it made me uncomfortable.
I am not really like that anymore as my confidence has improved as I have grown up, and I am becoming more comfortable in my own skin. The Youth Action Group with Changing Faces has helped a lot because I can talk to other young people with similar experiences and that has been really nice.
These days I am not sure how many people notice it, most don’t mention it at all, unlike when I was younger. Perhaps children feel confident to mention it more, whilst adults try to be polite. Before I used to clam up and go silent if someone asked me about it, but now I feel better talking about it as I realise sometimes people are just interested to know.
I continued having laser treatment to try and improve the appearance of my scars until a few years ago, when I decided it wasn’t worth it. I felt bad that the regular appointments meant inconveniencing my parents from work and that I would keep missing school. More importantly than anything however, I came to the conclusion that I am happy just how I am.
The doctors at my appointments were always very nice yet focused on visible and medical aspects, they were not supportive at all on the emotional side. I realise now that they never asked me “what would you like to do?” or “how do you feel about it?”. If they had actually asked me these questions first I would have realised much earlier that I didn’t want to continue the treatment anyway.
Beauty and fashion industries tell us that we have to fit into these specific boxes, and I don’t fit any of them. They never encourage you to look on the inside as well as the outside. I have come to learn that being different is not a bad thing and it does not equal ugly. It is something that these industries need to represent more. I think it is improving very slowly, but still not enough to normalise it.
I would suggest that the Changing Faces support forum is a great place to go if you are struggling. It can really help to speak to someone who can relate to what you are experiencing and you will feel less alone in your difficult moments.
I am not defined by the way I look, and I want to be a role model for other children and young people with visible differences.