How to Be Comfortable in Your Own Skin (Even When It’s Paler than Caspar’s)
As some of you have noticed, I recently installed an ‘Ask Me Anything‘ widget in the sidebar of the site, and I’ve had some really interesting questions come through, which I promise – I promise – I’m not ignoring: things have been just a little bit chaotic around here lately, so I’m even more behind with blog posts than usual – whoops!
I will get round to answering all of the questions that have been posted soon (And hey, if you have any others for me, ask away – the more the merrier!), but I wanted to start off with this one from Hayley: partly because it broke my heart a little, when it was posted last week:
Hi amber . I love your page . Im very pale with dark hair and im always being insulted . I get called albino and sickly. Im going on holiday soon and im so self conscious due to being pale and the people im going with comment on my skin as they all tan . Do you have any tips or advice . Thanks
So, first of all, Hayley, I wish I could reach through the screen and give you a hug right now, because no one deserves to be made to feel self-conscious about their natural skin colour – ever. Also, I’m sure I’m not alone in thinking that pale + dark hair sounds stunning, and so, so striking – not that it matters, of course, because… well, see above: no one deserves to feel uncomfortable in their own skin, regardless of what colour it is. Isn’t it depressing that this even needs to be pointed out to some people?
It does, though: and I know it does, because, like Hayley, I’ve had my fair share of comments too, some of which I listed in this post – the comments section of which, incidentally, is filled with other pale-skinned women talking about the insults they’ve received because they’ve had the temerity to show their (pale) faces in public without the obligatory suntan. So, Hayley, you’re not alone in this: but here’s the thing – it doesn’t really matter, does it? This is why I hesitate to answer this question with the usual inane platitudes about how, “We’re ALL beautiful!” and “You just have to believe you’re beautiful!” because I know from experience that it’s just not that easy. As proof of that, I submit the following into evidence:
You probably think I’m feeling pretty confident in this photo, right? I mean, I’m posing in a swimsuit (This swimsuit, just FYI…), and I’m posting it on the internet, for God’s sake, so I’m obviously not shy about my fair skin, am I? The fact is, though, I’m wearing fake tan here: not a huge amount of it, granted, and I don’t wear it all the time, but while I can talk a good talk, and I genuinely like having pale skin – most of the time – I’m still self-conscious enough about it to want to break out the fake tan for the pool or beach, and to have worn jeans all weekend, because I was worried about blinding people with the pallor of my legs, if I tried to wear a dress.
Hayley, you are not alone: and I know that me telling you to just hold your head up and wear your pale skin with pride probably won’t actually help you here, so I have three main pieces of advice to you, instead:
Please don’t be tempted to try to tan, just because of peer pressure.
It’s tempting, I know. Trust me, there were times when I was a teenager when I’d have lain out in the sun all day long if I hadn’t know it would just give more freckles, rather than an actual tan (I also used to hope the freckles would all join up, and LOOK like a tan: yeah, I was an absolute idiot as a teenager, seriously…), but it’s just not worth it. I’m sure you already know about the skin cancer risks caused by sun-damage, so I’m not going to get all preachy on you, but seriously: I once spent the day at a water park when I was a teenager, and, despite my very best intentions, I obviously didn’t top up the sunscreen on my left foot often enough, with the result that the skin on that foot has always been discoloured, and is actually a completely different colour from its mate. (So now I get to be self-conscious about THAT, too: yay!)
That happened by accident: I honestly shudder to think what kind of damage I could’ve caused myself if I actually had tried to get that golden tan I’d always wanted, so please, please look after your precious pale skin – it’s the only one you’re going to get! I don’t know you, obviously, but I DO know that your skin is exactly the colour it’s supposed to be, and that no one in this world has even the slightest right to make you feel obliged to change it, just to meet their – totally arbitrary – standards of “beauty”.
Understand that other people’s comments aren’t normally about you.
It’s taken me most of my adult life to really understand this, so I’m not saying it’s easy, but after many years of being asked if I was secretly a vampire (Answer: Yes, but I only drink the blood of people who annoy me with their stupid questions…), I came to realise that the people who say these things don’t actually care what colour my skin is: they’re just the kind of people who are uncomfortable with anything that seems out of the “norm” to them. They’re probably the same people who try to harass non-drinkers into joining them at the bar – not because they genuinely feel the non-drinker will have a better time because of it, but because they’re anxious to validate their own actions (“If I’m drinking, then I want everyone else to be drinking, too!”) and they find it hard to understand that not everyone is like them. It’s a kind of herd mentality that crops up time and time again, and the sooner you can see it for what it is, and stop taking it personally (Easier said than done, I know…), the easier your life will become.
Tell your friends how their comments make you feel.
One of the reasons I think people continue to try to “pale shame” is because those of us on the receiving end of these kind of comments are often afraid to challenge them, for fear of being branded “humourless” – which is the standard response any time you try to defend yourself, or point out that, actually, this is how your skin is SUPPOSED to look, thanks. So, first they tell you your skin is too pale, THEN they tell you it’s too thin: some people really are a delight, aren’t they?
The thing is, though, unless your “friends” really ARE terrible, terrible people (In which case, I’m guessing they wouldn’t be your friends?), they’re probably not deliberately trying to hurt you when they tell you that hey, your skin colour really isn’t all that flattering on you, and you should totally change it, just to please them! Yeah, I know it can be hard not to read anything OTHER than “intentional insult,” into a comment like that, but obviously, if it was that simple, and your friends really were just assholes, then the answer to this question would be simple, too: get new friends. Fast.
It’s not always that simple, though. As I said, most of the time people aren’t trying to be assholes: they’re either following the herd mentality, they think they’re being funny, or they’re just mindlessly repeating things they’ve heard other people say, and which they’ve come to believe are socially acceptable. And, unless you tell them to stop, they’re going to keep on doing it, too. So you really have to be honest with them. You don’t have to make a huge deal about it, or create a scene, but, next time someone makes a comment about your skin colour that makes you uncomfortable, just stop them mid-comment, and say, “Hey, I know you don’t mean it, but these comments you keep making actually make me feel quite self-conscious: any chance you could knock it off?” Or words to that effect.
And, of course, it goes without saying that if they keep on doing it, even after you’ve asked them to stop, then it really IS time to get some new friends!