It can be. If you doubt this, then take a look at the photos on #SteveHargadon’s wonderful Uniquely Beautiful photo site and you will see what I mean. The many and varied patterns of vitiligo in these pictures seem to turn the faces and bodies into living works of art. Far from spoiling their natural beauty, the markings heighten it somehow and, as I look into their eyes, I find myself captivated by the strength and dignity that emanates from them.
Having communicated online with many vitiligo friends over recent years, I have also found - in the vast majority of cases - what I can only describe as a spiritual beauty which sets them apart from the average person. I’ve often asked myself why this should be. I think the answer lies in the fact that many of us who have been through the process of seeing ourselves change in appearance from one day to the next have had to find a way to come to terms with who we really are. We have realised from personal experience that physical appearance has nothing whatever to do with who a person is on the inside and what makes them special. This realisation causes us to look beyond the superficial in ourselves and in others and I believe it makes us more tolerant, more compassionate and – dare I say – altogether wiser than we might otherwise have been.
So, does this mean that people who have vitiligo are more beautiful than they would be if they didn’t have it? Well, this probably depends on how they react to their condition. Not everyone finds wisdom and compassion as a result of their own suffering. Some people can’t cope with the psychological effects of seeing their appearance change and dealing with the ignorance, curiosity, or even cruelty, of others. These individuals may become bitter, withdrawn, angry and resentful - reactions that rob a person of their natural beauty faster than any number of white patches ever could.
I certainly don’t blame those people who cannot find the beauty in their own appearance or in their soul. No one knows what someone with what they see as a disfiguring skin condition goes through or how deeply the experience affects them unless they have been through the same experience themselves. I had very widespread vitiligo for almost 50 years before I unexpectedly found a treatment that caused me to regain my natural colour. I believe it made me a stronger and more thoughtful person and it definitely made me a more compassionate and empathetic one. But, try as I might, I never did manage to see my white patches as beautiful. I’m not proud of this – it’s just a fact. So I was thrilled, relieved, grateful and humbled when my pigment returned. I felt that it gave me back whatever physical beauty I had been missing. But I like to think that, even though my white patches disappeared, the beauty that vitiligo imprinted on my soul has remained and that is a gift I truly appreciate. :)
My name is Caroline.