Five ways to deal with ‘visible difference’

Do you or someone you know have a ‘visible difference’?

Unwanted comments and stares can be an everyday occurrence for those living with a disfigurement.

Dealing with this is not only hurtful, but harmful to self-esteem and body image.

If you’re affected by visible difference, I’ve got five strategies you can use to deal with unwanted attention.

And, if you aren’t affected by disfigurement, hearing these strategies will help you be kinder and more understanding towards people who are.

Watch or read below:

Living with a visible difference

According to Changing Faces, a charity that helps people living with visible difference, there are 1.3 million people in the UK affected by disfigurement to their face and body.

For people with a visible difference unpleasant comments and unwanted stares can be a source of anxiety that can lead to feelings of isolation and result in depression.

If you’re living with a visible difference and don’t know how to deal with unwanted comments and stares, I’ve got five strategies to share with you.

Even if you don’t have a visible difference, listening to these strategies will help you to be kinder, more understanding and inclusive when you meet someone with a visible difference.

Dealing with unwanted attention

Understand the reactions of others

When you understand what motivates people to stare at visible difference, it makes it easier to deal with.

People are naturally curious, especially when they see or experience something new.

If you feel able to, explain your condition to curious onlookers.  For example, you might say, “I have _______.  It makes my face look different, but I’m just the same as anyone else.” 

Taking this step alleviates the natural curiosity that created the interest in the first place.

Be assertive

If you find the looks or comments of others offensive, you can assert yourself.

This may mean that you walk away from the situation, or make an assertive statement such as, “Please stop staring at me, it’s rude” or “I didn’t ask for your opinion.” 

Use humour

Humour can be used to lighten a situation or put someone in their place.

If you find someone is staring too much, you might say, “You must find me really interesting!”

This may open up a dialogue about your condition, illicit an apology or make the other person think twice about staring in future!

Reassure yourself

Visible difference does not define you.  It has no impact on who you are as a person.

Reassuring yourself of this fact will help you deal with the reactions of others.

Distract yourself

When you find yourself in situations where the curious looks become too much, change your focus to something else.  Doing this will help distract you from unwanted glances.

Focus mindfully on whatever it is you’re doing whether that’s shopping, or enjoying a drink in a pub and not on the actions of the people around you.

How to treat someone with a visible difference

For the rest of us, it’s important that we treat someone with visible difference in the same way we treat anyone else (because they are the same!).

Be mindful of staring or passing comment either to the person or as an aside to someone else.

When we lead by example, we make the world a kinder and more inclusive place!

If you’re looking for further advice or support to deal with a visible difference, go check out the excellent charity Changing Faces.

I’d love to hear your comments, experiences or views on visible difference.  Please leave a comment below. 

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