As a toddler doctors tried to lighten her birthmark, now woman embraces it and teaches acceptance

We say looks aren’t everything, but how many times do you look at a person and immediately form an opinion, good or bad, based on their looks?

All her life, Tessa Schiethart has had to deal with people staring at her. Tessa, who is from Amsterdam, was born with Sturge-Weber Syndrome, a condition that affects certain blood vessels. It is characterized by a port-wine birthmark and neurological abnormalities.

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Today it is #internationalwomensday ! On this International Women’s Day, ask yourself what it means to be a woman. Or what all the women around you mean to you. This weekend, I went to an exhibition at @tropenmuseum. It was called A Genderful World and perfectly demonstrated how gender can be culturally defined. As being a woman is not only defined by sex, but also by gender, it was very interesting. There are so many countries in this world that have more than 2 genders, where gender is not a binary thing. What do you identify as? Is that accepted in your society and in your culture? How does the role of women in your society differ from that of men? In some cultures, some genders have a spiritual or holy role. In Mexico there is the ‘muxe’: men who take on the role of a woman, not because they identify as women, but because they take up all the ‘traditional’ roles ascribed as female. In many countries of South Asia, there are hijra’s; men-to-women transgenders. There is still a lot of inequality for women in many countries and regions. We still have a long way to go, and that is why it is so important to have a day like today. To look at where we can improve as a society, and as a global community. A lot is improving already too. Today is also a good day for me to announce that I am currently researching the difference of being a woman with a visible difference in comparison to being a man. Please send me an email at [email protected] if you want to share your views and experience with being a man or a woman with a visible difference. I am currently comparing it to the differences in beauty standard for men and women, to see if there are any conclusions to draw from this in tackling the #lookism issues (discrimination on the basis of looks)! All views welcome! 📷 by @sophiemayanne #womensday #8march #futurefemales #womenempowerment #femalemale #agenderfulworld #civilrightsforwomen #sexismofwomen #powerofparity #leanin #beboldforchange #i_weigh #diversityfashion #standforwomen

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When she was born, Tessa’s mother, Mariette Schiethart, main concern was how her daughter would be received in public and how her condition would impact her social life.

At three years old, Tessa’s doctor suggested to her parents that she undergo a laser treatment to lighten the birthmark. They went through with the treatment, but instead of lightening the birthmark Tessa ended up with scars. The treatment went horrible wrong and caused horrific damage on Tessa’s face.

“When I was six we stopped laser treatment because my eyes became more important and there was high eye pressure and we needed to lower it in order to keep my left eye from becoming blind as well,” she told Barcroft TV.

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Pain in pictures. . . I have thought long and deep why this picture often gets me to cry when I see it. Even now, as I write this, the tears burn behind my eyes and there is a deep sense of sadness that comes up. Why? I have contemplated my childhood traumas lately In this picture I see a little one, just burnt after laser treatment gone terribly wrong. The scars that came from it intensified the severity of having a birthmark even more. Mostly I feel my parents’ pain. It is hard to write, but what I feel when I see this picture is mostly the hard times my parents have gone through with all the medical treatments that were suggested by the doctors. Parents who have and still do everything in their power to grow me in a happy, confident girl. Following the advice of doctors in treating the port wine stain and one day be sent home with a little one with blisters all over from the laser treatment that was suggested is not ok. When I see this picture I feel their hopelessness, the doubt and questioning whether their little one would be fine, and the tears stream down my face. . . A picture captures a moment in life. On @instagram we forget that life is in flux and we change moment to moment. In this very moment I am totally fine, happy, strong, with lots of hope. Pictures can bring up feelings that are still a part of you, that remain a part of you. But the reality is that the past turned into future. And I realize, all turned out perfect as it is. Still riding bikes and sometimes looking behind and seeing what is there to remind me of where I am going. ❤️ . . . #pictures #past #future #burned #markedbyaburningflame #portwinestain #portwinestained #faceequality #lasertreatment #sturgewebersyndrome #scars #visibledifference #facialdifference #tofacetheworld #facetheworld #birthmarkbliss #lookingbehind #reminiscing #toddler #burnsurvivor #facialtreatment #face #skincondition #skincare #lifeinpictures #bodypositive #bodyawarenessproject #bodypositivity #consciousnessshift

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Since then she has embraced her birthmark, even going as far as becoming a life coach and studying people who have visible differences and the stigmas and discrimination they face.

”My birthmark and my different look has never stopped me from pursuing my dreams. I have studied the studies I wanted to, I work, have many friends and have travelled the world extensively all by myself. I love the little things in life, and practice yoga every morning to set my intention for the day”, she says.

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Pain is an interesting thing. Whether it is physical or non-physical pain. Some say pain is our biggest teacher, because through those moments we learn the most about ourselves, our actions and reactions to it. The last week I had a bit of a physical setback. I feel fine, but my back hurts when I practice yoga in the morning. The pain triggered a lot of resistance, doubt and sadness towards the practice and my body. It comes to everyone at some point. It triggers a lot more though, and I sometimes become a bit hypogondrous with it and start to doubt a whole lot of other things. Like my eyes, I start to think “Do I still see clearly?” and then I doubt that, and think I should obviously go to the hospital to check my glaucoma if the pressure is good. When I was young, there were times I was in the hospital every single day for my eyes or my port wine stain. Over the years it went from daily slowly to weekly, bi-weekly, monthly, and now since a couple of years my eyes have been so stable that twice a year is fine. But from going so often to the hospital, and now not, makes me panic sometimes. It requires much more self-inquiry to seperate false visions from right ones. Seperating doubt and insecurity from actual setbacks and, whenever something intensely physical comes up, work gently with it to figure out what it is you should clearly see. . . . . #glaucoma #eyes #thinking #treatment #birthmark #portwinestain #sturgeweber #portwinestainbirthmark #bareyourbirthmark #bodypositive #awareness #bodyawareness #flaws #yoga #ashtanga #practice #breathe #doubt #fear #practiceandalliscoming #walkthewalk #talkthetalk #hospital #checkups #eyes #vision

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“I chose not to spent two hours of my morning in front of a mirror putting on a mask of chemical make-up to cover my stain so that ‘society’ would accept me and I would fit some ‘standard of normalcy.’”

While she has put on makeup before, it was only a handful of times and neither time was she satisfied with the look.

“I didn’t recognize myself at all without my stain, and that was such a weird distorted feeling.”

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What do we believe? We can be called certain words by certain people. It is only the words of the other we believe in that will hurt us. Before they have even said something, we already believe “You are not good enough”, “you look weird”, “you are too nice”. These are all examples that I have been told. In good situations, but also in abusive situations. The first and the third are things that I have believed. And have acted on. I have let things pass because I thought I wasn’t good enough for it. And I have done things for people where later my friends would say ‘you are too nice’, and I agreed. But only because I believed these words myself already. • . . At times I have been called the second one too. But with this I strongly believed, from a young age, there must be something with the person who speaks these words and I better act on that belief and stay the hell away. And I did. Maybe this is why I can recollect the truly abusive words that were spoken on my look to be about 7. 7 too many times, but I consider it quite a good number. 7 great lessons too. In these 7 incidents I can truly remember having felt hurt. In all those situations, I remember already having felt vulnerable on those days before it happened. It were confrontational moments, some intimate with (no longer) loved ones, other with total strangers. I think it is about our own beliefs we already have prior to what is said to us. . . .Often the words we use say a lot about us. The same accounts for the words that are spoken to us; it is a reflection of the person who says them. The only thing you are responsible for is how seriously you take some people’s words and how you weigh them onto yourself. • The thing I want to give to you is the question: do you really believe the words that come out of other people’s mouths about you? Why were you listening in the first place? Are you acting on those words? Do they influence your present moment? Why? And what are you without those words now in your mind? . . . • 📷 by the talented @jurian1975 • #words #wisdom #looks #mindovermatter #birthmarks #undermyskin #birthmarked #portwinestain #sturgewebersyndrome #faceequaljty #diversiteit.

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Tessa, whose goal is to inspire others to be their true selves despite any differences, recognizes that one day everyone will encounter some type of obstacle, but that shouldn’t hinder lifelong dreams.

“We live in a world where we identify too much with our bodies,” she said. I think we judge outside appearance too much and there is a sense of ‘normal’ that just are not real.”

“The term normal is so overrated, there is no normal we are all different and some of us look a bit more different on the outside.”

Great work, Tessa. We need more positive people like you in our world! Just remember that God has a special job for yoy that no one else can do.

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