Comfortable in (and with) my own skin

Nobody is perfect, right? Believe it or not, that was something that took me a long time to believe in the first several years of my life. When I was very young, something was happening to my physical appearance that set me apart from others…and not in a good way.

You know how school kids can be. Anything that makes you even a little bit different, a little bit unusual is raw meat in the lion’s cage. When I was 5 years old and just beginning my social life, the affects of vitiligo began to manifest on my body. As a young boy, it was clear to see by my year round tan that I was of Mexican descent. But that only made it more obvious when that beautiful dark skin was juxtaposed by the spreading condition that killed the pigment on my hands and elbows.

The hardest part wasn’t the physical, but the psychological impact. I remember praying to God when I was a kid, asking Him to make me “perfect” like other kids.

As I got older, things didn’t necessarily get easier. In high school, there were upper classmen who called me “leper”. I even had one teacher call me a zebra in front of the entire class. I had many people ask me if I had been burned. Whenever I wasn’t using my hands, I almost always had them buried in my pockets.

When I was 19, I discovered singing. While that was a a life changing development in a positive way, it also put me in a very uncomfortable situation. The most common place for a singer to be is in front of a group of people. And to make things worse, they won’t be able to hear your voice over the music without the aid of a microphone. That meant having my hands in a very visable place with everyone looking at me.

On one occasion, I was singing in a church in Nevada. After the service, the pastor felt compelled to pray for my healing from vitiligo. While his intentions were pure, I didn’t necessarily feel I needed healing. More than anything, I needed healing from the paranoia I had been dealing with since I was 5. All my life, I was afraid for my condition to be noticed. Vitiligo was not limited to my hands, but I was pretty much able to cover up the other areas with clothing. As I have grown older, it has spread. Now it is not so easy to cover up, since it’s now spread to my face. It started around my eyes. I’ve had many people ask me if I was wearing eye shadow. Now it’s all over my face and forehead.

I would dare say that more people than not have some physical insecurities. Whether it’s something that has been a target for ignorant people to ridicule, or we’re just proactively avoiding the mere possibility of being teased. If we’re not being teased, we’re probably at least the topic of conversation when we’re not in the room.

I don’t enjoy having vitiligo. But ultimately, it’s only cosmetic. I no longer allow it to control me. It no longer enters my mind when I’m standing before a crowd to sing or speak. I no longer look into people’s eyes to see if they’re curiously looking at my skin.

When I was planning a lifelong dream to go to New York City, my mom was very resistant of my trip. It was only five years since the attacks of 9/11, and she was more than a little uncomfortable with her “baby” flying cross country to a place which is the most obvious target for more terrorism. But I was not going to let terrorists keep me from my dream, much less the unsubstantiated fear of them.

My challenge to you is to overcome your insecurities. As I have learned through my life, people are less likely to notice our imperfections than we think. What we think is ugly or freakish, other people don’t even see. Our real friends don’t even see or care about those things. And if someone is tripped up by our imperfections, guess what. They’re not deserving of the influence we allow them to have.

The bible says that there was nothing about Jesus so attractive that people would be drawn to Him. He didn’t have Hollywood looks. People were drawn to Him for much more substantial and meaningful reasons.

You are a person of substance. Don’t let fear or insecurity, the terrorists of your self esteem and value, keep you from living your life. People love you just as you are. You should see what they see.

You should see what Jesus sees.

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