Anja Bürgel: Discovering Self-love with Rosacea

“I’m half German and half Croatian. I was raised in Germany in a little village in North-Rhine Westphalia. It makes no sense when I say the name of the village. Not even German people know it. In my village, there were only a few houses and cows, and it was really conservative. There was nothing, and it was really flat and boring. The nearest city to my village was Düsseldorf, and the city really focused on status. It was good for women to wear high heels there, and it was really posh. I moved there to study, and I remember the one time I got a septum piercing. People then kind of looked at me like - “whoa … that girl is edgy.”

“In Düsseldorf, you are someone when you have money and when you have cute, expensive clothes. As a village girl, these became the standards that I had to adapt to. It didn’t feel right, and I was very unhappy. In 2016, I moved to Berlin, and when I first arrived there, I felt overwhelmed. It was totally new for me because I only knew the standards from Düsseldorf. I needed to adapt again because this time, people were so crazily open-minded. There were these really crazy clubs I had never seen in my life, and all around me, I felt freedom."

“Particularly, in Friedrichshain, where I live now, it’s very cool, laissez-faire, easy-going, and a little bit edgy. You can even go out with sweatpants, and nobody will care! There’s a lot of vegan restaurants, and I chose to go vegan after I moved to Berlin. It is vegan heaven. Germans always say that Berlin is very different from the rest of Germany. It’s extremely multi-cultural, and I find it so refreshing.”

“Here, in Berlin, I started to learn more about myself. In 2018, I saw these bumps appear on my cheek. I was developing rosacea, and at the same time, I was dating my boyfriend. Every time, he saw my skin, I worried about what he thought. I think a lot of women worry about that in a relationship. Like - “What would happen if I got a crazy skin condition or acne or something that obviously looks different - would he leave me?” I was worried about losing him, and with therapy, I began to realize where my anxiety stemmed from. I worried about my boyfriend leaving because I had rosacea, but really, I worried because I knew that I couldn’t give love to myself. When I was a teenager, I went through an abusive situation that lasted for 5 years, and I had a lot of anxiety-based depression.”

I had experiences in my family with an alcohol and medication addiction. I was also in other relationships as well that were not supportive of the situation, and I developed a significant amount of trauma from this period of my life. Every anxiety that we have stems from something. When we go through experiences in life that make us feel unworthy when we’re not perfect, we get afraid of losing things. So, although I was worried about my boyfriend’s reaction to my rosacea, there was past trauma that was also connected to this fear. Eventually, I realized that if he would leave because of my rosacea, it’s not love. Because I had a lot of anxiety and depression in the past, I went to a lot of therapy, and I know now that love has nothing to do with how one looks.”

We just want to feel appreciated, to feel seen, and to feel loved, and that’s how I began my Instagram platform. My posts are made to ensure that people this way. When I first began, I used photoshopped pictures of myself. But one day, a friend came to me and said - “Anja, why do you post photoshopped pictures of your skin? Why don’t you share your real skin?”

“I had never thought about it, but I figured out that I could give people a good feeling and mentally boost them to a better place by being more authentic. Because I know how it feels to doubt yourself just because of how you look, I decided to share my real skin. At first, I was worried to share my skin, but then I was like - “no, why should I judge myself for looking a certain way? This is a part of my life, and it’s okay to be vulnerable.”

“Going through my rosacea helped me understand that I don’t have to be dependent on people, and I’m not lesser because I look a certain way. You can give yourself all of the validation that you need. Every time we’re dependent on someone, our self-worth comes from the outside rather than the inside of us. Every time we feel loved by ourselves, others can say what they want, and it’s okay. I have to say though that this is a long process. It’s not like you snap your fingers, and it is so. But, I think as a starting point, it’s good to accept that love comes first from the inside.”