Learning to fully love and accept our imperfections can seem like a pretty tough thing to do. If there is one story that deserves to be heard about navigating through this, it would be Darya Alvarez and her journey with having eczema.
Eczema is a condition that causes inflammation of the skin. It causes uncomfortable redness, itchiness, roughness and cracking of the skin on various places throughout the body. Darya describes being diagnosed at a young age as “I was about 2 years old. After that, it was just kind of all I knew. There’s never really been a time of my life that I remember not having it.”
Darya’s story is especially important to be heard as it is her passion to bring awareness to eczema and fight what others think about it. From her own experience, a lot of times people do not know what it is. She says, “Eczema is very common…But it’s also a large spectrum”. Eczema can be light or mild— for Darya, she is considered to have a severe case.
Eczema isn’t gross, it’s not contagious, it’s not ugly. It’s part of someone.
She explains, “I think it’s important for everyone to know no matter what is on anyone’s body or skin, they deserve the same treatment as anyone else”. One of Darya’s most common questions she gets asked is if it hurts, her answer is, “…sometimes it does hurt, but it’s mostly just itchy”.
With having it most of her life, eczema has largely impacted Darya’s self-esteem. In middle school, classmates would ask about her arms or if she had poison ivy or something else affecting her. As the years went by, the eczema spread to many parts of her body such as her face and neck. It also has now spread to her back, stomach, and legs. Darya used to do everything she could to cover up the patches, but it has been tough to do that now as the eczema becomes more widespread.
I’ve been working so hard to see myself as beautiful and I’m not going to allow something small and trivial like this have a long-standing hold over me.
In her own words, Darya defines body positivity as, “…to come to accept and love your body no matter what it looks like”. From her experience she says, “…I think that means coming to terms with my body and my skin and knowing that I look totally awesome, no matter the state of my eczema”.
One outlet that specifically helped Darya when struggling with her self-esteem was seeing others who had eczema. She describes how there are, “…huge online communities of people with eczema…and I found a lot of solace…”
There is one special person in Darya’s life when it comes to her eczema and that is her sister Tira. She is someone that is able to hype Darya up and always make her feel better. When Darya comes home from college her eczema is usually flared up and Tira is always there with a helping hand. Darya says, “She has filled me with such light and made me feel so grateful to have someone like her…The rest of my family has been extremely supportive as well, but she really takes the cake with this one”.
This is something that I am more or less, have to deal with for the rest of my life and it’s just another part of me and if I don’t accept that then no one will.
Darya will be starting her junior year this fall at Penn State majoring in Advertising with a minor in Photography. Her minor has allowed her to express her creativity in a powerful way. Photography is something she pours her heart into and describes it as, “Being able to take my own picture or someone else’s picture and see that smile on their face afterward is really unbeatable…I love being able to bring out the beauty in anything I choose to”.
In her free time on campus, Darya is part of VALLEY Magazine and Movin’ On (both as a photographer), Photography Club and the Penn State Outing Club. She was also a Teaching Assistant for BiSci3.
She explains that being a Teaching Assistant for that class, “…was one of the most amazing things I’ve ever done”. That opportunity helped her truly begin her journey of self-love and acceptance.
As Darya has battled with eczema and the effects it has had on her confidence and self-esteem throughout her life, she is proud to say, “… I don’t think it controls me anymore”. Looking back at when she was first diagnosed and her early years, the advice she would give her younger self is that, “…no matter what happens to my skin, not to worry. Just keep on taking care of yourself and trying your best because everyone else is too busy worrying about themselves…And if they do notice and make fun of you, it’s because they have nothing better going on in their own lives”.
Darya’s journey of having eczema and being able to learn how to fully love her body holds many vital messages that we can all learn from and find comfort in. She is for sure a role model for others who are struggling to see their true beauty. If there is one piece of uplifting advice from Darya to remind ourselves it is this:
One must find the strength in their heart and their soul to overcome and welcome any imperfections that may come because they are a part of us and they are what makes us beautiful.