For most of my life, I’ve struggled with being accepted because of a facial birthmark. Before middle school, I didn’t think much about it because I always felt accepted and included with my school and neighborhood friends. When I started the sixth grade, everything got turned upside down. That’s when my birthmark started to have a negative impact on my life. I was being picked last for playground games and classroom competitions. I started to be called names either behind my back or where I was close enough to hear. As much as I tried to not let all this bother me, it did.
Now, fast forward to my early 30s. I feel so self-conscious and helpless. I strongly believe I’m being passed over for job opportunities and promotions because of the birthmark on my face. Make-up doesn’t help much and plastic surgery isn’t an option. Regardless, I feel like I’m being judged negatively for something that should have no impact on my career aspirations. On a handful of occasions, I’ve been equal to or even better than my competition, but I’m not being selected for things.
I know there’s no fix for me. Even though I don’t have a disability, I do feel like I’m being discriminated against because my employer thinks I’m unattractive.
I’d appreciate your thoughts on all of this.
Birthmark holding me back
Dear Birthmark holding me back:
I am truly sorry this is happening to you. In a culture obsessed with the perfect physical appearance and selfies to capture it, it can be so difficult and damaging for anyone who has some sort of facial blemish or who feels lesser than when it comes to their physical appearance.
I would be disingenuous if I said I cannot understand or relate to what you have experienced. Although I do not have a facial birthmark, I am no beauty queen. Over the years, I have seen firsthand or was told about situations where it appeared that attractive female employees had a leg up when it came to career opportunities or advancement. On the flip side, I am also aware of circumstances where attractive female employees have been slighted because of other female employees’ envy or because of other employees’ negative perception of their actual capabilities.
To date, there are no federal laws prohibiting an employer from preferring attractive employees over unattractive ones, but there are advocates pushing for a nationwide ban on appearance discrimination. There are also several jurisdictions across the country (e.g., the District of Columbia and Santa Cruz, CA) that have laws prohibiting employment discrimination based on appearance (http://hrprofessionalsmagazine.com/can-an-employer-only-hire-beautiful-employees-what-the-eeoc-says/).
I have no doubt you have a lot going for you. Be mindful that your appearance is a combination of so many things, including but not limited to your intelligence, strong work ethic, and can-do attitude.
I know my feet have not walked in your shoes and I can’t tell you to not feel the way you feel, but I hope you will be able to focus your energy on performing to the best of your ability so you can obtain the positions and recognition you deserve.
If you see no improvement, you may want to consider seeking other employment. That being suggested, there is no guarantee that things will be better elsewhere.
Whatever career path you choose, I wish you the very best.
Workplace Woes – Roze Knows®