Hate the Way You Look:

Do You Hate the Way You Look?

By Dr. Ben Kim

In March of 2006, I received the following letter from someone who consulted with me for a skin condition:

Dear Dr. Kim,

I 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).

I don't have any friends or acquaintances (in my local area), and I've had a huge problem with loneliness over the past year.

I 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 22 situation.

I would appreciate any thoughts or suggestions you have on this.

Best wishes,

Because 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.

If 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 old.

Due 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.

This 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 me.

For 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.

I'd 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.

There were a number of thoughts and events that encouraged me to see my physical appearance differently.

At 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.

Sure, 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.

Another 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.

It 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.

And 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.

Because 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 term outcome.

My 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.

Without my vitiligo, I doubt that I would have gotten interested in leading the healthy lifestyle that my family does now.

I 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.

If 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.

It's 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.

Dr. Ben KimImprove Your Health With Our Free E-mail Newsletter

Join thousands of people from all over the world who receive our natural health newsletter.

  • 100% free. You can unsubscribe anytime.
  • No spam. We respect and protect your privacy at all times.
  • Valuable information that you can use to improve the quality of your health and life.
First Name:


Just a note to let you know how much I appreciate your newsletter. As a fellow health care provider (optometrist) and medical researcher, I find your distillation of the literature into lay terms to be accurate and very understandable. I really enjoyed your contribution regarding macular degeneration. Keep up the good work. - Kristine Erickson, OD, PhD, FAAO

I get a lot of e-mailed newsletters and yours is the only one I read thoroughly from top to bottom. Your advice is enlightening, educational, easy to follow and it works! Thank you so much for all that you offer. - Lisa Abramovic

Thanks for your excellent health newsletter. I look forward to it every week. Thanks for providing the best online health resource I have found. - Moorea Maguire

I'm sure as a doctor you hear your share of complaints. I just thought you'd like to know that there's at least one person in your "e-audience" that appreciates the time and effort you put into sending the emails. I really look forward to them. - Linda H., Raleigh, North Carolina

Many of my adult ESL students are Korean, and enjoy bits and pieces from your newsletter that I have shared with them. In addition to your logical approach to health, I enjoy sharing your newsletter because your English is unfailingly correct as well as easily understood. Thank you for your beautiful approach to life. - J. Zetterstrom

I thank you and your staff for such a great website. I am former National Level Bodybuilder so I know a thing or two about health and fitness. Your site is very valuable and I do my best to pass it on to friends and people I train. It is also a helpful resource in my career as a human service provider working with clients who need to recover from substance abuse. I believe a major part of recovery is getting your body and mind feeling healthy and strong. Thank you again! Great Website! - Michael Christopher, MSW

I truly appreciate your wonderful newsletter - your balanced and professional way of looking at issues is so helpful! - Erica H.

First Name:

Disclaimer: Throughout this website, statements are made pertaining to the properties and/or functions of food and/or nutritional products. These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration and these materials and products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.