Although living with CMN can be challenging, it’s can also be positive for some young people too. Ella Guest, a researcher at the Centre for Appearance Research in Bristol, has been working with Caring Matters Now to find out more about the positive aspects of living with CMN by using photographs.
What did we do?
Ella asked some young people from the charity to choose photographs of things they felt showed the positive aspects of having CMN. The young people included selfies, photographs of family and friends, holidays, Caring Matters Now events and more. Ella interviewed the young people and asked them to tell her about their photographs and how they related to the positive aspects of having CMN.
What did we find?
Ella found that the young people had learnt helpful ways to cope with the challenges of living with CMN and had lots of positive experiences because of it. Some of the key findings are:
1. CMN is an important part of who you are
Although some of the young people had felt self-conscious about their CMN when they were younger, they now accepted that it was an important part of who they are and appreciated that having CMN gave them the chance to be unique and stand out from the crowd. They were also proud that having CMN helped them to celebrate appearance diversity and challenge the narrow societal appearance ideals that put pressure on everyone to look the same.
2. The importance of support from friends and family
Having practical and emotional support from their friends and family helped the young people to cope with the challenges they faced in relation to their CMN. Their family and friends also celebrated the positive aspects of looking different and helped to make them feel that they were no different to anyone else in many other ways.
The young people thought it was particularly important to have friends with CMN. Attending Caring Matters Now events like the ‘How Do you C Me Now?’ exhibition, the annual conference, and other support events helped them to appreciate CMN and feel supported. Their CMN friends understood them better than anyone else and made them feel like they were not alone. The Young people also spoke about how it felt good to be able to support others too.
3. CMN had led to new skills and opportunities
The young people had learnt coping skills that helped them deal with negative attention from others and could be used in other aspects of their lives. They had also learnt techniques to help them feel more confident about showing their CMN, worry less about their appearance and what other people might be thinking about them, and had developed a more positive outlook on their life in general.
Having CMN had also allowed the young people to help other people by raising awareness of the condition and using the coping skills they had learnt to help others with CMN.
What does this mean for young people with CMN?
The findings show that for some young people having CMN can be a positive experience, which helps them to develop strong friendships, use helpful coping skills, and have unique opportunities and experiences.
Finding out more about young people’s positive experiences in relation to their CMN can help Caring Matters Now better support young people with CMN and understand how to promote psychological wellbeing and helpful coping strategies.
Thank you to the Vocational Training Charitable Trust Foundation for funding this research and to the young people who took part and shared their photographs.