Our eyes play an important part in how we communicate with other people and how we feel about ourselves. It’s not unusual to feel self-conscious if you have an eye that looks a little odd or different.
When we are with other people we give away lots of clues about how we feel about meeting them
how we feel about ourselves. We do this through smiling, frowning, laughing, the tone of our voice, pausing, hand gestures, how we stand and eye contact. It’s pretty common for people who have something unusual about their appearance to feel anxious in a social situation like having to talk in front of the class. If this is true for you, it might feel awkward to have eye contact with people. But if you don’t share eye contact with othes it makes it hard for them to get to know you. So what can you do?
Making eye contact and meeting new people
It’s easier to have eye contact with some people than others, but remember that if you don’t have eye contact people may think you are not interested. If you find it hard to look them in the eyes look at the bridge of their nose instead, which gives pretty much the same impression. Practice making eye contact by making a list of people you need to do this with regularly. Put those you know and trust at the top and practice with these people first. Build up the amount of time you can do this for (up to about four seconds is natural before looking away or aside and refocusing). Don’t beat yourself up if it doesn’t come easily or straight away – it takes time.
“Many people feel nervous about meeting new people. You might feel that you are the only person who feels nervous and scared but a lot of people do. Generally nerves calm down and subside once you get talking”.
Have something simple to say if people ask questions, stare, don’t know where to look or make comments
Having something simple to say, or a simple explanation, often puts other people at ease. This makes it easier for you to have a conversation as most people are just curious and may be embarrassed by this. Try some of the following;
It’s just the way my eye is”
“It’s the way I was born. It doesn’t bother me so please don’t let it bother you”
“I had an operation on my eye but it’s OK now”
“My eye patch is helping to protect my eye”
or you could explain and then move the conversation on:
“I was born with a condition that affected my eye / sight. How are you finding the English homework?
Having something to say when the attention is really unwelcome or rude
It can be really hard to know what to do when someone calls you names or goes out of their way to be rude. You may need some assertive responses such as:
“Please don’t stare at me. It makes us both feel uncomfortable”
This might work if someone’s staring in a shop, but you may want to try using humour in other situations to try and show you are not bothered, even if inside you really are. For example:
Wow. That’s so original!”
“Ha Ha you are so funny”
“Oh I hadn’t noticed!!”
“Really - when did that happen?”
“If it’s an issue you can always sit somewhere else!”
There will be times when you just want to walk away and that’s OK. Don’t be too hard on yourself. Talk to someone about what happened and then try to do something that helps you unwind or relax such as listening to music, playing with the family pet or talking to a friend.
Talking about it with a friend or boyfriend / girlfriend
These people will be some of your best allies so try to be open and honest about how you feel. They will appreciate this and it makes them feel you trust them.
“I’m really glad you brought it up – I don’t normally like to tell everyone the details but I do want to tell you”
“I really appreciate you asking, most people just guess the problem. Why does everyone think that they are a doctor?”
If you don’t feel quite ready try to discuss it or want to get to know them better first say something like
“I find it quite hard to talk about and I would like to one day. Can we talk about it another time?”
It can be helpful for your friends to know what to say and do if other people ask them about your eye(s) or if they are around when someone asks a question or makes a comment. Let them know what you would like them to do. They should have a simple explanation just like yours, but if you want to walk away from a comment they might like to know how they can support you whether it’s by saying something helpful, giving you a hug or distracting you by doing something together.
Deal with bullying
People get bullied for many different reasons. It’s never anyone’s fault that they are bullied. Just because one or both of your eyes look a bit different does not necessarily mean you will get bullied. However
should know how to help manage bullying.
Bullying takes many forms. It is repeated behaviour and may include physically hurting someone (e.g. pushing, punching, hitting, tripping up, slamming doors in faces), purposely hurting them emotionally (e.g. calling someone names repeatedly, ridiculing them, spreading rumours, purposely leaving them out or not talking to them) , taking or damaging people’s property, sending abusive texts or emails etc.
The important thing is to tell someone you trust so you can start to get support. Keep a diary of incidents and record who was involved, what happened, if there were any witnesses etc. You may need to show this to your school or the police. You can also seek support from the following organisations
Telling your school what you need to happen
Young people tell us there are certain things at school that could be different and would make life easier for them. You may need to give lots of clear examples as you are the expert on your eyes. State what the difficulty is and then if you have any solutions. For example, let people know if you need to sit somewhere particular in a classroom or need teachers to write in different colours so you can differentiate the lines when reading. Becky tells us
“P.E. was difficult and frustrating because I didn’t have the eye-hand co-ordination that other people did and the teachers did not seem to understand what the problem was. Eventually they started to adapt their teaching in lessons by doing things like using soft balls, balls that made a noise etc. Also I use different colours to print onto because I find reading black on white more difficult and I needed different graph paper. There are a lot of people who can help you and if you have the right people on your side it really helps”.
If, after leaving school, you go on to higher education there may be financial assistance available through the disabled students allowance too.
Everyone feels nervous about this, whether it’s because it’s your first kiss or because it’s with someone new. When you kiss someone both your eyes are normally closed but you may feel conscious as your faces move together before the kiss actually happens. The other person will probably be feeling as nervous as you are.
The most important thing for you to remember is to enjoy it. That’s what kissing is all about! If you were to ask your parents about their first kiss, it is likely they would tell you a similar story about how nervous they were.
Having confidence about yourself and your appearance comes with time and experience. The people who surround you can help you to explore yourself and the world around you. The more you do this and the more experience you gain, the more confident and competent in life you become. Confidence comes with time and grows as you get to know yourself as a person. At the end of the day, it’s important to like the person that you are. Believe in who you are and stand by the decisions that you make for yourself. Smile and take an optimistic point of view and you will notice the whole world around you change.
Having someone to talk to.
If you want to talk to someone about theses issues and how you feel about your appearance, you can contact Changing Faces by email
or call 0845 4500 275 and ask to be put through to someone in the Children and Young People’s Service. You can also visit our young people’s website for 11-21yr olds