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How to Use Your Flaws as Creative Inspiration

Beautiful Flaws

“If you are always trying to be normal, you will never know how amazing you can be.” ~Maya Angelou

I love my skin because not only does it protect and make me human, it also inspires me to make art.

Being an artist, I’m always finding inspiration in my day-to-day life. Well, ten years ago that came in the form of irritating and weird looking welts that appear on my skin when I barely scratch. It was so embarrassing when people would see the itchy welts and ask, “What’s wrong with you?”

I have dermatographia. It’s a skin condition in which histamine is released when the skin is lightly scratched, causing capillaries to dilate and welts to appear. While it’s not life threatening and doesn’t hurt, it sure can be uncomfortable and annoying when those red marks manifest.

Rather than let it get to me, I decided to make dermatographia beautiful by drawing patterns on my skin to photograph. At first I did it quietly, not showing anyone, then slowly I let others see what I’d been working on. People really liked the photographs, so I kept making them and eventually made a website.

Pretty soon the images spread online and I got emails from other dermatographics thanking me for helping them realize they’re not alone having weird skin. Now when people see the welts they say, “Your skin is so cool!”

By sharing something that was a source of shame, not only did I transform my own relationship to my skin, I also helped others feel more comfortable in their own skin. If I had kept this skin condition to myself I wouldn’t have been lucky enough to communicate with some of the 5% of the population that also has it.

Over the years I’ve learned that creativity comes from within, from exploring your own interests of course, but also from exploring what you dislike or find annoying about yourself and others. What might be considered a weakness can actually be your greatest strength!

Creative inspiration exists everywhere; you just have to pay attention.

Your body is a gift, your life is a gift, and we are meant to learn from all of it. Our ‘flaws’ teach us about self-acceptance and love. Every person is a miracle, including you. Shift your perception to see yourself as the beautiful, creative, and inspired person you are.

Here are some suggestions to transform something you may have considered a flaw into a source of inspiration:

1. Make a list of physical and/or emotional traits you consider to be strengths. 

Identifying these can help you also identify weaknesses by adding contrast to the exercise. You may want to interview someone you trust, asking what they like and admire about you or what they consider to be your strengths.

2. Now make a list of things you consider to be weaknesses or flaws.

Pay attention to the things you dislike or find annoying about others. The world around us acts as a mirror, so if we see something in another that is bothersome, odds are there’s some of that in ourselves. Conversely, if you see something you admire, there’s some of that in you too.

3. Recognize how these flaws limit the way you show up in the world.

Are any of these weaknesses things you’ve told people about? Or do you tend to keep them to yourself or hide them? Really own up to what you may be ignoring or ashamed about, and what you may be trying to hide.

For instance, if you snort when you laugh maybe you try to contain it for fear of drawing attention to that sound. Or, perhaps you don’t like the shape of your legs so you always keep them covered. More than likely, if you feel there’s a ‘flaw,’ you’ll try to cover it up.

4. Now let your imagination run wild!

I like to call this free association brainstorming. No thought is too small or insignificant, so write down whatever comes to mind after doing the previous exercises.

Here are some things to consider:

How can you do something positive with this perceived flaw?  What do you find compelling or beautiful about it that others would also find interesting? What might be possible if you stopped trying to hide it? What would you do differently if you believed this flaw to be a strength that makes you unique?

Try to write a little bit each day as more things come up based on your experience. This writing could be the source of a great big idea!

5. Choose a creative outlet that leverages your flaw.

Find a form that feels good to you, whatever medium that might be. It could be a blog post (start a blog if you haven’t already—it could be private for only select people to view), write a story or essay, make art (drawings, sculpture, photographs, paintings, etc.), or even just speak with your friends and family about what you consider to be a flaw, and how you’d like to transform it into something inspiring.

People you choose to share with may also have helpful input that can be further inspiration, and they will be touched by your willingness to share. They may even be moved to transform their own flaws because of you!

And above all, love your body, personality, and of course, your skin—because it loves you back.

What’s your flaw, and how can you use it as creative inspiration?

About Ariana Page Russell

Ariana Page Russell, author of Skin Tome, is an artist that explores the skin as a document of human experience.  Seeking to build community around skin and creativity, she makes art with her skin condition, finding inspiration in what might otherwise be seen as a flaw.

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  • Some girl

    What would you do with dandruff? Mine scalp is a nightmare during winter.

  • Danielley

    Oh my goodness!!! I also have that skin condition and I didn’t know the name for it.

    Thanks for sharing!

  • dragon

    make a snowman?

  • vektro

    mix egg whites with olive oil and massage the mix in your scalp, leave it there for about 15 minutes!

  • JodyLynn

    I have this condition also! My sister writes her name on me all the time! 🙂

  • vektro

    nobody likes dandruff so just get rid of it

  • Some girl

    I’m going to try this tonight! Tea tree oil is rather great, I wish I knew how to get it on the cheap.

  • Some girl

    bwhaha good idea!

  • cici

    Wow! Talk about making lemonade out of lemons. That was really positive & inspiring. Thanks 🙂

  • Talya Price

    This was awesome and inspiring. Thank you for this, this made me feel great! I am saving this because I will use what you suggested to help me make my first film. 🙂

  • Thank you Cici! Glad to hear from you.

  • You’re welcome Danielley! If you’d like to be a part of the Skin Tome community (that’s my blog), please send me an image and story and I’ll feature you there (skintome.com)

  • That’s great news Talya! Thanks for the feedback!

  • Cool! Thanks for sharing JodyLynn ;’) If you’d like, please send me an image and story and I’ll feature you on SkinTome.com, my dermatographia/skin health blog!

  • Actually, my friend made a cool video with his dandruff. See, anything can be inspiration! ;’) http://vimeo.com/19014083

  • Hmmm, I’ve always wondered why my skin did that, and now I have an answer. It mostly shows up when I graze my face and then 20 minutes later everyone is asking what I did to my face. I just kind of shrug and say, “it does that.” This is a very neat way of looking at flaws, thanks for sharing.

  • Excellent points and ideas! Thank you for sharing.

    I went through something similar, but internal. I have spiritual skills that made me feel like a freak growing up, and I tried to hide them for a long time. Fairly recently I came back to them, accepted them for what they are, and am now helping others by utilizing them.

    It has been a liberating and enlightening experience. 🙂

  • Guest

    I have dermatographia too! I used it to get out of class in middle school but now I can be more creative 🙂 Thanks for sharing.

  • Hi Ryan! Thank you, and welcome to the dermatographic club ;’) !

  • It is liberating to not hide uniqueness, isn’t it? Congrats for embracing yours!

  • Thank you! If you’d like to share your new medium for creativity, please send a photo for SkinTome.com ;’)

  • Alex Bilinski

    Another name is chronic hives right?

  • Brandon

    You forgot point #4. Guess you’ll have to add counting skills as a flaw.

  • Hi Alex! It is a type of chronic hives, but most people call it skin writing or dermatographia. I like calling it ‘skin writing’–this way it sounds fun ;’)

  • dragon

    good to help