Loving your body, especially for a teenage girl, is always a struggle, but 19-year-old Cierra Swaringen proves that no matter what you look like being comfortable in your own skin is the best way to fight off the haters and gain confidence.
Swarigen was born with a rare condition called giant congenital melanocytic nevus believed to occur once in every 500,000 births that has left her entire body covered in moles and birthmarks.
Her birthmarks pose no health risks, but there is no cure for the disease and the moles cannot be removed since they span most of her body and continue to develop.
Ever since she was a kid, she has faced ridicule from bullies for what she looks like — especially from boys.
“One day I remember being on the school bus and hearing a young boy laugh at me and call me a spotty dog. That really knocked my confidence. I was only young and it made me feel different to the other kids, like something was wrong with me.”
Boys will typically be the first to poke fun at the teenager.
“Teenage boys are usually the first ones to comment. They say things like, ‘You look like you’re dirty, take a wash,’” Swaringen said.
But instead of sinking into depression and low self-esteem because of her condition, Swarigen has decided to defy the bullies and embrace her body as is.
Although the condition once rocked her confidence, she has since learned to love the skin she is in.
“I’m so proud to be different, and at the end of the day, we all have something about us that’s unusual, whether it’s on the inside or the outside,” Swaringen said. “Over time I’ve learnt to brush off negative comments and remember that most people stare and say cruel things because they’re not used to seeing someone with my condition.”
Swaringen has relied on help from her local community, online support groups and her family to help build up her self-esteem.
“I remember when I started school my mum told me that my birthmarks were angel kisses - and that really stuck with me,” Swaringen said.
While we all struggle with body image issues, Swaringen proves that your appearance does not have to cripple you emotionally and that confidence is ultimately stronger than anyone's cruel remarks.