How eczema affected my self-esteem and identity
In my 20’s I was scared to show areas of my skin where my eczema was really bad. As the eczema was mainly on my lower legs I refused to wear skirts above my ankles. Sometimes I would sit in certain positions making sure my feet and ankles were out of sight. If anyone asked about my skin I would freeze inside and become all tense. I would not open up or admit that I had eczema and at times became defensive.
I didn’t have much confidence either in my 20’s. I still lack confidence now but it’s not as low as back then. For instance, I thought that no one would accept and love me. I had limited beliefs on how I’m not good enough to go on dates or be in a relationship. The negative thoughts I had included ‘I have eczema so who would want me?’ or ‘what if they don’t accept because of my eczema?’ At present I sometimes worry about my skin condition. However, I have learnt that everyone has their own faults. I think that some people are more likely to worry about themselves more than other people’s faults.
My biggest eczema identity crisis was in 2016. I developed eczema on my scalp which resulted to hair loss. My hair used to be in locks which took 4 years to grow to shoulder length. This was definitely part of who I was and how people recognised me. Losing my hair was like losing part of my body and my identity. I had to learn and adapt to my new look/appearance as well as others. On a positive note I knew that having short hair was temporary and that it would grow longer again.
Christianity and identity
Having a Christian background has given me a new perspective about identity on how we should see ourselves. Our identity should not be in our career, social status or illness etc. but instead in our creator. Based on this, l slowly began to learn not to see eczema as my single identity. I have listed some examples of identity scriptures below:
Genesis 1:27 ESV – So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.
Jeremiah 1:5 ESV – Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.
Psalm 139:14 ESV – I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.
Ephesians 2:10 ESV – For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
Steps to take to ensure your identity is not in your skin condition/eczema
- I believe that we either see identity as a positive or negative label. One may say ‘the beautiful woman with blonde hair’ or ‘the man with multiple businesses’ as a positive identity label. A negative identity label may include ‘the old woman who can’t walk’ or ‘the one with cancer’. We tend to focus on negative identity labels on ourselves and others. In order to resolve this issue is to transform the way we think. Therefore not labelling ourselves negatively and but instead replace them with positive thoughts.
- Not allowing an illness or health condition to become our identity allows you to open up. I agree that the more we open up the more confident we become. I launched my website in 2018 and started online discussions last month. Taking initiative to start an online group and talking to strangers about my eczema has made me more confident.
- Self-love and acceptance is a very important step. Once we learn to accept ourselves then the more we don’t let something affect our identity. Eczema may change our outer appearance but it shouldn’t affect who we are on the inside.
- Do not over-identify or label yourself only as an eczema sufferer. Over identifying eczema will make us focus too much on negative things about ourselves. This also takes away positive things about us. In addition, our thoughts are more likely to wonder and may become resentful. Thoughts may include ‘why me?’ or ‘It’s not fair’ and ‘Am I being punished?’ My blog post ‘why me?’ expands further into this so I would recommend reading if this issue applies to you. Allowing eczema being our identity means that we own it and then that’s how we see ourselves. Yes, eczema is a condition I have but I’m not allowing it to define who I am any longer.
- Accept and apply the life changes that we need to make due to eczema but not becoming the eczema. This may include having a skincare and moisturising routine and being mindful of clothing and cosmetic materials. In addition working out what things triggers our eczema and then avoiding those things.
I hope that this blog will help and bless you all. My plan is to at some point organise a discussion event about identity in the near future. Therefore please keep an eye out on my website and social media pages for announcements.