I wanted to write a response to my recent post which was a little angry, about negative, intrusive and continuous comments. If you haven’t read it, check out “Just F**k Off!”
I was angry and raging about these comments. Why were people talking to me like this? It seemed like everyone had a comment about my skin. Everyone felt they had a right to intrude and tell me what they thought.
All the bad comments that had ever been made raced around my head, and none of these were compliments. Why is it that the horrible comments stick fast and nice things people say don’t?
- Why is your skin so red?
- It that sunburn?
- What is wrong with your skin?
- What happened to your face?
- Have you used Aveeno? Drunk Aloe Vera? You name it… it cured my eczema…
- Don’t you moisturise?
- Have you been the doctors about your skin?
- Your hands are really wrinkly
- Where are your eyebrows?
- And on and on and on…
They’re just interested or curious
What I realised, when I had time to calm down, was that most of these comments came from a place of kindness. People are naturally interested, curious and want to find out about you, especially if they like you. But it’s still hard. It’s still an intrusion when it happens at lot. And it is happening more and more at the moment.
It gets to the point where even nice comments hurt.
Compliments that your skin looks good, when you have just spent hours deflaking, bathing, standing in front of a fan, meditating and getting ready. It kind of belittles the struggle you go through behind closed doors.
Sounds ridiculous doesn’t it. But that’s how my brain works. I’ve always been sensitive and am working on self love, positive affirmations and gratitude daily, which all help to quieten that voice.
Because in my head the person is having a whole massive monologue about my skin… things they’ve never said, are probably not thinking, but my brain is piecing together in a horrible nasty stream of comments. STOP BRAIN!
I think the comments have increased because my skin HAS been improving from the swollen, red, angry mess I was at the beginning of my TSW journey. Now I look more normal, if slightly red and puffy sometimes with no eyebrows; people feel more able to ask me about what’s going on.
And I don’t mind talking about it, most of the time. Because I also feel the need to explain about topical steroids to everyone I can, so that I can prevent others going through this. It’s just that repeating the same stuff over and over again can get so wearing.
How to politely respond
I got this advice from my lovely friend Cherly Rezak, who kindly also gave me a copy of her brilliant book, Anxiety and Depression.
It’s so simple I don’t know why I never thought of it myself. If someone asks you anything you don’t want to answer, you simply say
“I’d rather not talk about that at the moment. But thank you.”
Then perhaps just change the subject. Ask them something. The weather is always a safe bet if you’re stuck for what to say.
If it’s a really rude comment you can chose to just ignore it, but that could cause tension.
I’ve only used this brilliant response once so far but it really empowered me to feel calm. To feel in control of the conversations I’m having.
I often feel like I’m spiralling into anxiety when I get asked about my skin. I start to shake, my anxiety levels rise. I often start to feel itchy too. I feel hot. It often makes me feel close to tears, like this visceral response is just so close to the surface all the time and once it’s started to spill over I can’t stop it.
Climb into your bubble
She also suggested that when I do need to go out but am feeling sensitive, when my skin is perhaps not great, I can just climb into a bubble. Not a real one, although if I did have one I think it’d be pretty cool.
Think of it like a protective bubble around you. No one can hurt you. If anyone does say something it is their words and you do not need to even listen to them or take them on board. You can simply choose to let any negativity, awkwardness or confrontation hit your bubble and slide away.
Try not to take anything to heart, let it go. Breathe deeply and perhaps use a mantra in your head. Something like ‘I am calm and safe.‘ These are just words. I choose not to respond to these words.‘ I’m making this mantra up so you could say anything calming. And repeat. I am calm and safe. I choose not to respond.
And by using the response above, if you feel you need to say something, most people will realise you were not comfortable with answering. Conversation will naturally move on.
The vast majority of the population will understand and respect this response.
And during this self isolation we find ourselves in at the moment with the threat of corona virus all around is, staying at home and avoiding any comments is the norm! Perfect!
Some inspiration from Jono
To get some perspective, Jono Lancaster has a condition called Treacher Collins which affects how his face formed and also his hearing. The way he deals with comments from people is an inspiration. He is positive, kind, empathetic and incredibly inspirational.
So if you are going through Topical Steroid Withdrawal, take heart that your skin will heal. This is temporary. You are beautiful.
And if this is your new skin, it’s OK. Whatever your normal is, how you look does not define who you are. I’m hoping to share some of Jono’s advice on how to handle really tough comments in a blog about bullying soon but I’m hoping to get his agreement first. I watched him on an Insta Live this week and he had some amazing advice. You can follow him here JonoLanc
The best advice Jono gave which I will share is to smile. If people are staring. Just smile. Say hello. See if you can strike up a conversation. Most people can’t find the words easily to ask you or speak to you. They may not have seen anyone with skin like yours. They don’t mean to be unkind.
It’s great advice and I will be trying this too. Rather than looking at the floor, getting upset and avoiding any public places, get out there.
Show your skin. Be brave. You are beautiful.
We need the world to understand. We need people to accept people no matter what they look like. We all need to be more accepting of anyone we meet, whatever their facial or body difference may be.
And try to remember the compliments you receive. Focus on these instead. look in the mirror and learn to love the face you see. Only by doing this can you move forwards with positivity and empathy for yourself.
#skinpositivity #inclusion #empathy
Vanessa Kennedy says
You are fantastic. I read this for a different reason. Five years ago I had a back/hip/pelvis injury and now aged 45 have been stuck with crutches for life. Everyday someone, even complete strangers in the street, asks why I am on crutches and I always feel like I need to explain the whole story. Which is depressing and complicated story due to a hospital misdiagnosis and years fighting the hospital to get an actual diagnosis. Anyway, afterwards off the stranger goes with just another story and there I am feeling rubbish because I’ve just gone through everything again. So thank you for this I will definitely be trying this in future.
Ruth Holroyd says
Thank you so much Vanessa, yes it applies to so many areas of our lives. You don’t have to explain or justify anything. I get this a LOT as a childless woman, Why didn’t you have kids? Don’t you wish you’d had kids? Seriously people! This is possibly THE WORST thing you can ask a woman. You just don’t know what is going in someone’s life, their losses, their regrets, their situation. Take that second before asking anything and make sure it’s something you should be or have the right to ask. Especially people you don’t know very well. It’s different with close friends, but even then it can be hard. I hope you can continue to find healing! Pimp those crutches, own them and make them beautiful! Thanks so much for your comment. I love who this subject relates to so many different situations.