I’m uncomfortable with how I look. I have vitiligo, which causes my skin to have patches of different shades all over my body. All through high school I was bullied for it, but I’m starting college this semester. I am hoping that college will be a new start for me to embrace how I look and make new friends. With our classes beginning online, I am yet again afraid that people will judge me by what they see on the screen before they get to know me. I don’t think I am going to make any friends and no one will like me. All I want to do now is to hide away. How can I get over my fear of not being accepted?
— Bag Over My Head
Dear Bag Over My Head: We all want to fit in and be accepted in life, especially when starting a new chapter. Having vitiligo can be tough. Changing your attitude may help you a lot. The good news right now is that our culture is celebrating differences more than ever. There are several fashion models who are regularly featured on billboards and in fashion spreads who have vitiligo — people who are being celebrated for their differences. One, who is known as Winnie Harlow, has become an activist on behalf of people with vitiligo. Learn more about her here: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Winnie_Harlow.
I recommend that you choose to embrace your differences and to stand strong and beautiful as the person you are. When you walk with confidence, you create space to attract people who see that confidence and want to get to know you. Ground yourself by connecting to what you think is important. Why are you in college? What do you want to study? What kinds of experiences do you want to have at school? Seek out those subjects, individuals and opportunities. Believe that you will meet people who will be able to see you for who you are.
Dear Harriette: I was just assigned a project with a co-worker, and now we spend basically every workday and day off together crunching to get it done. She is a vegan activist, dedicated to transforming my life, as she says, and to stopping me from being a meat eater. She criticizes everything I eat. She explains how harmful the food that I eat is, and the processes that my foods all go through, and it is completely annoying to me. She is very aggressive anytime I eat something that she doesn’t agree with.
At our last meeting, we argued, and she stormed out. I just want to work without being judged for my lifestyle. Plenty of people eat meat and processed foods in America. I understand her concern, but she is becoming very mean and rude when the topic comes up, and she calls me names. How do I get her to understand that she needs to drop this topic? I fear she never will.
— Meat Eater
Dear Meat Eater: You have to stand up to her strongly. Let her know that while you have to work together, her food politics are hers — not yours. Tell her you are done with her constant lobbying about your food choices. Do your best to tune her out. Put on noise-canceling headphones if you have them. Ignore her.
If that still doesn’t work, report her to your boss. She is bullying you, and that is crossing the line.