By Ashley Featherson
“Did you have chickenpox?” “Were you burned?” Blank stares. Name calling. I’ve heard it all in 26 years of living with psoriasis: advice, questions, comments, and looks. I was often referred to or identified as “the girl with the spots.” Living with a chronic condition can have a major impact on your identity, especially if diagnosed at a young age like I was.
As a child, my psoriasis wasn’t seen as beauty marks or something that made me unique. The reality is we tend to hate things we don’t understand. At a young age, it was embedded in me from experiences that I wasn’t pretty, regardless of the compliments or encouragement that was given. I felt like the opposite of society’s standard of beauty. I often compared myself to the “pretty girls” -- and comparison is never healthy. It resulted in low self-esteem, and I limited social engagement. I would be hesitant to go to large gatherings or anything that would make me feel like I would have unwanted attention. I was very self-conscious, which caused me to be sort of anti-social and kept people from seeing my true personality. I would come off as quiet and reserved. People didn’t get to see the funny, outgoing me.
A psoriasis flare creates discolored and sometimes flaky patches on the skin. It determined the clothes and hairstyles I wore, and eventually I turned to makeup to completely hide it. I had become accustomed to long sleeves in the summer and avoiding pools and the beach. If I had a scalp flare, I wouldn’t wear dark clothing because of flaking. Certain hairstyles such as bangs and swoops were my go-to because they covered my hairline during a flare. I literally was finding ways to alter my identity.
Enough Is Enough
Psoriasis was controlling my life. I wasn’t living to the fullest or offering the world the opportunity to know the true me. Although it impacted my identity in many ways negatively, there were positive effects as well. I gained a love for holistic health by researching ways to heal through food and keeping stress at a minimum. Ridding the bathroom sink of foundation and concealer was liberating. I finally embraced all of me and my life changed in ways I couldn’t imagine. Once I became more social, I realized that most of the time I was in my own head. People saw me as a work of art or thought my “spots were cool.” Most of the time, no one really cared, and they loved who I was as a person. Just shows how you must do serious inner work to heal from factors that influenced identity struggles. I went from hating taking pictures to modeling in magazines. So many people, parents, and children have approached me and thanked me for being so encouraging and inspiring. I stopped allowing psoriasis to BE how I identified myself and made it just part of my journey. I went from the “girl with the spots” to “Spottie Too Hottie.”
Ashley Featherson is a psoriasis advocate who was diagnosed at age 4. Her mission is to make an impact on the world by embracing every part of her journey while sharing knowledge of holistic health and influencing society’s standard of beauty. Featherson aims to not only make people more aware of psoriasis, but also to encourage others to live authentically and love themselves. Follow her on Instagram and Twitter .
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