Hate the Way You Look:
You Hate the Way You Look?
Dr. Ben Kim
March of 2006, I received the following letter from someone who consulted with
me for a skin condition:
wondered if you would have any advice because I'm having a very hard time emotionally.
I'm having a problem with low self esteem and self confidence, mainly because
of my (health condition).
don't have any friends or acquaintances (in my local area), and I've had a huge
problem with loneliness over the past year.
feel too embarrassed to meet other young people because of the (health condition),
and I feel my emotional state has taken a large toll on me. It seems like a catch
would appreciate any thoughts or suggestions you have on this.
I have received letters like Jessica's over the years from people of both genders,
all ages, and a variety of ethnic backgrounds, I thought it might be helpful to
share some of the thoughts that I included in my reply to Jessica.
you've read the bio section of our main website, you may remember that I came
to do the work that I do now because of my own health challenges as a 19 year
to a variety of stressors that I faced at that time, I developed a skin condition
called vitiligo. Over a period of 3-4 years, I lost approximately 25 percent of
my skin color in patches on my face and body.
condition affected every part of my life. I thought that no one would hire me
as a chiropractor because of the way that I looked. I was depressed because I
couldn't play tennis, baseball, and basketball for hours at a time like I used
to without getting sun burned. I was sure that no one would ever want to marry
about two years, I couldn't even look at myself in the mirror. I showered, brushed
my teeth, and washed my face in the bathroom with the lights off. Such was the
extent to which I had come to loathe my scars.
like to tell you that there was one magical moment when it all turned around for
me. The truth is, it took many years to overcome my low self esteem and addiction
to self pity.
were a number of thoughts and events that encouraged me to see my physical appearance
one point, I realized that the person who made the most of my physical apperance
was me. When I made it a big issue in my own mind, it seemed to become more of
an issue to those around me. When I went about my life without obsessing over
my appearance, it clearly became less of an issue to people I interacted with.
there were a few people here and there who clearly indicated that they didn't
want anything to do with me because of my unique physical appearance, but for
the most part, almost everyone I met and interacted with didn't even bring it
up. Some even made me feel like they didn't notice it at all.
important revelation occurred when a friend asked me to consider how I would want
my own future child to go about his or her life if they faced the same circumstances
that I faced. In recognizing that I would not want low self esteem over physical
appearance to hinder my own child's life in any way, I was inspired to begin the
practice of living my own life in a way that resembled how I wished my own child's
life would turn out.
took me until about the age of 26 or 27 to feel relatively free of the self pity
that I allowed to plague me since I developed vitiligo.
since that time, I've come to realize over and over again that my experiences
with vitiligo and low self esteem over my physical appearance are among the greatest
blessings that I have ever received.
of my experiences, I can truly relate to people who visit our clinic who have
a health challenge that involves anxiety about their physical appearance. If I
didn't have the experience of not being able to turn the lights on in the bathroom,
I believe that I would have less capacity to understand and help some of these
people. To focus solely on dietary choices when a person can't even look into
a mirror without a visceral reaction is not likely to lead to a positive, long
vitiligo also gives me the ability to quickly identify people who place more importance
on a person's character than on a person's looks. When my wife knew that she wanted
to marry me when she was 25 years old, I knew that I had found someone who recognized
my spirit. I didn't need a handsome face, fancy clothes, a big bank account, a
flashy sports car, or a 5,000 square foot home to have her want to marry me. I
just needed to stay committed to being myself and occasionally treating her to
a high quality ice cream cone.
my vitiligo, I doubt that I would have gotten interested in leading the healthy
lifestyle that my family does now.
could share many more blessings that have come about because of the skin condition
that caused years of sadness, but hopefully, my point is clear.
you suffer with anxiety about your physical appearance, I hope that you will take
some time to consider the many ways in which your current and past suffering can
lead to a bright and meaningful life. Many wise people over the centuries have
told us through their writings that it is often the case that suffering is rich
soil that makes it possible for a beautiful flower to grow.
difficult to change the way that you feel about yourself in just a few days. But
I hope that you are inspired to think about your appearance and life in a way
that you would want your own child to think about his or her own situation.
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