Having a birthmark is no big deal to most people, especially if they aren’t particularly noticeable, but for one North Carolina teen, her birthmarks (hundreds of them, in fact!) are one of her most defining features. And while she’s faced a lot of grief over her unique appearance, she wants the world to know she’s not ashamed.
Meet 19-year-old Ciera Swaringen, who was born with Giant Congenital Melanocytic Nevus, a dermatological condition that leads large moles to appear on more than two-thirds of her body. The birthmarks cover her legs, torso, and face, giving her skin a very unique appearance that she has, sadly, been bullied for throughout childhood.
“One day I remember being on the school bus and hearing a young boy laugh at me and call me a spotty dog,” the teen told The Daily Mail. “That really knocked my confidence. It made me feel different to the other kids, like something was wrong with me.”
The bullying continued into her high school years. “Teenage boys are usually the first ones to comment when they see me,” Swaringen added. “They say things like, ‘You look like you’re dirty.'”
But the recent high school graduate doesn’t let the cruel comments get her down and is “so proud to be different.” According to Swaringen, her small town of Richfield (population: 600!) also has been a supportive place to grow up — most people already know about her birthmarks, she said, so she feels perfectly normal there.
And you’re probably wondering: Can she have the birthmarks removed? She can’t because they are continuously growing — in fact, more and more will appear over the years. But other than needing to be extra careful about sun protection — something we should all do, of course — Swaringen doesn’t let her skin condition stop her from acting like any other teen, wearing fancy dresses and cute swimsuits.
And her self assurance is something we could all take cues from: “At the end of the day, we all have something about us that’s unusual, whether it’s on the inside or the outside. Everyone is born to look different, and we’re should all feel beautiful in our own skin.”