After suffering severe burns as a child, Sylvia Mac founded her campaign and support network, Love Disfigure, in the hopes of reaching others with skin disfigurements. Here, she shares the things she’s learned along the way
Mental health matters to me because… I suffered for years with severe depression, anxiety, and low self-esteem due to the scars on my body. Learning about my mental health and wellbeing has certainly helped me become the survivor, or thriver, I am today.
When I need support I… talk to family members to get their advice, but more importantly get their hugs and love.
When I need some self-care, I… recover by resting and spending alone time, or have spa treatments with my daughters. Reading positive books on self-care always helps. Sometimes you’re pulled from all different directions, but I know how to deal with this by knowing my self-worth.
My biggest tip for self-love is… remind yourself every day just how beautiful you are. Look in the mirror and repeat: ‘I am beautiful, I am worthy’. Keep hold of that positive mindset and carry it throughout the day.
The best lesson I've learned in life is… always accept a compliment. All too often, we deflect positive messages such as, “You look great!” We reply, “Oh no, not me.” Replying with a simple ‘thank you’ not only makes you feel good about yourself, but it should also help keep that positive mindset.
The moment I felt most proud of myself was... when I received my Point of Light award from Theresa May. The certificate came through the post with ‘10 Downing Street’ marked on the envelope and I couldn’t stop reading it over and over. It was definitely one of my biggest and proudest moments.
The main thing I want people to know about dealing with disfigurement is... no matter where your skin differences are on your body, it still affects many people mentally as well as physically.
When I’m lacking motivation I... take ‘time out’ and switch off from everything. Sometimes I turn off my phone and relax in a calm environment - a bath or a swimming pool - or pop to the gym and listen to high-energy music until I’m back on track.
One thing that being a burn survivor has taught me about myself is... just how strong I am emotionally, physically and mentally. I count myself as a thriver, which is third in line after ‘victim’ and ‘survivor’. I no longer have ‘down days’ worrying about what people will think about me and my scars. It’s truly amazing.
Visit lovedisfigure.com for more.
Sylvia Mac will be speaking on ‘Finding Your Confidence – Inside and Out’ at Live Well London (28 February to 1 March). Visit livewelllondon.com for tickets.