A portrait of Chi.

The Skinny on Confidence

Eczema is hardly something anyone wishes upon themselves. Within our social media maze of acceptance and what is deemed 'attractive,' we voluntarily filter out every flaw on our body. Rashes smudged out. Pimples eradicated. Scars made unnoticeable. In an attempt to be accepted, we hide what makes us human.

Meet Chi

My friend, Chiquanna "Chi" Villines, knows this all too well.

Growing up with eczema, Chi has been assessing her skin in the mirror for years. However, when her talent as a dancer and model became lucrative, trepidation took a firmer grasp.

For someone in the commercial world, the pressure of perfection looms over her.

The lights and cameras show everything

"I'm always nervous on set with my skin condition. The lights, the camera, lenses, and flashes all pick up so much. My skin will never be 100% 'normal' or clear to the naked eye, so it's a mental game while working. I have to exude nothing but confidence while seemingly being camera ready," she asserts.

An example of courage

Just thinking about being in front of a camera frightens me. The judgement, the intimidation. Nonetheless, Chi is a prime example that your skin is not who you are, even when you're getting paid to show it off. Under all of the lights and scrutiny, it is still a place to be human. She builds up the courage that most of us abandon. It takes so much to allow another human being to see us, the real us, our skin illuminated under pouring light.

Chi a model with smiles towards the sun in a bikini top

Beautiful with eczema

Chi is gorgeous; there is no denying it. That bright smile, those vibrant eyes, the silky brown of her skin, and a joyful soul that shines through every photo. That still doesn't alleviate the doubt that muddles her mind.

She recently shot a photo campaign with Champs Women's Sport, and her legs were flaring. Flares are definitely a touchy subject for us all. But, to her surprise, they embraced her skin and didn't erase any blemishes. When we bring down our wall of shame and allow others to see us as we are, it can be exhilarating. Still, our heavy armor doesn't just fall after a few victories. It takes time.

Chi a model poses in a bathing suit in a bathroom

Am I missing out?

"Although I do feel like I've been lucky with the campaigns I've booked, there is a part of me that feels like I'm missing out on bigger opportunities due to my insecurities," Chi remarks. "For example, this week is Swim Week in Miami. It's basically like Miami's Fashion Week, but for swimwear. I would absolutely be honored to walk in a show, but due to my skin and my current flare on my legs, I just don't see myself gaining that much confidence to audition for a bikini line. It bums me out, and I don't know if I'm saving myself from embarrassment or just holding myself back?"

Aren't we all just holding ourselves back? Looking at Chi and her accomplishments in a world filled with fierce dissection gives hope that our humanness will continue to break back into the spotlight. Chi isn't employed despite her flares but in spite of them.  She continues to push back the fear of shame in the face of living her best life. It is never easy, but a constant rehearsal we must attend daily.

Be you

"'Where there is no struggle, there is no strength.' If you have eczema, you know struggle. It's molding you into a powerful character. Don't spend your days wishing it away," she warns. "The more you embrace it - the more it will reward you in some of the most unexpected ways!"

Chi is right. Our skin ailments are something to embrace.

Embrace your eczema

Part of the reason our world is so hard to live in is because we have conformed to this repressive and unattainable belief that we are to be perfect at all times. But when has anyone ever been perfect? Our ability to reshape our hips, thighs, chest, and even our eyes' size by using an app is nauseating. Take pride in who you are. Wear your eczema, your scars, your insecurities. If we all could concede to the notion that being flawed is part of our humanity, then we will learn, collectively, that we have nothing to hide.

Remember, you have eczema. You aren't eczema. There is more to you than just this skin.

Be mindful

Now, in order to obtain a healthy mindset to combat the outside world, we must practice it first. Yes, practice. Much like building muscle, it takes time before this becomes a habit. Chi is a strong believer in finding your compass.

A healthy mindset

"I understand that my skin responds well when I am in a healthy mindset, exercising regularly, and feeding my soul with all the goodness. Now, this isn't easy. The catch is, we all have unhealthy habits, negative vices, and traumas that pull us in the wrong direction at times. You learn discipline and discernment. When I indulge in unhealthy habits and allow myself to feed into stress, it seeps through my skin."

Evaluate your own expectations

We must learn not only to drown out what the world thinks we should be but also to grapple with our own expectations. Find things that bring you peace. Surround yourself with people who leave you energized, not beaten down. In order to gain confidence, work must be done. It doesn't just come when you hit that ideal body weight or clear up your skin. It comes from within. Confidence is a journey, not an endpoint.

Put yourself at the top of your list. Allow your body to be a part of your daily routine of love and compassion. Just like Chi practices balance and navigates her way through a tough commercial industry, so should we build ourselves up in our own daily lives.

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