Health and wellness touch each of us differently. This is one person’s story.

For over 20 years, I’ve lived with psoriasis. And most of those years were spent hidden. But when I began to share my journey online, I suddenly felt a responsibility to myself — and to those following me — to try things that made me uncomfortable… or even scared me.

One of those things? Getting a pedicure.

I’ve had psoriasis on my feet for around 10 years, mostly on the bottoms. But as I’ve gotten older, it’s spread to the tops of my feet, my ankles, and down the front of my legs. Because I thought my feet were ugly, I went to great lengths to stop others from seeing them. The only time I even considered exposing them without stockings or makeup was when I was on vacation, to get a tan.

But one day I decided to step out of my comfort zone.

I made the choice to stop using the statement: When my skin is clear, then I will.

And instead, I replaced it with: This is hard, but I’m going to do it.

I’m going to do it

My first pedicure was in August of 2016. Before I went in for my very first visit, I called the spa and spoke with one of the women who worked there. I explained my situation and asked if they were familiar with psoriasis and felt comfortable taking me on as a client.

Doing this really helped calm my nerves. If I’d had to walk in without any prep, I probably wouldn’t have gone at all, so having a discussion ahead of time was essential. Not only was I able to go in knowing that the person giving me a pedicure was okay with my psoriasis, I was also able to make sure she knew not to use products that could irritate my skin and cause a flare.

I also felt it was important for them to understand my situation, in case other clients saw my psoriasis and thought it was contagious. People who have never seen it before can sometimes misunderstand.

I’m doing it!

Even though I’d prepared for my first visit, I was nervous going in. They put me in a chair in the back for more privacy, but still I found myself looking around to see if anyone was staring.

Sitting on the chair, I remember feeling vulnerable and exposed in so many ways. Getting a pedicure is a very intimate experience. Someone sits in front of you and begins washing your feet, which for me was awkward because it wasn’t something I was used to. Now that I’ve gone a few times, it’s much more comfortable. I can actually sit back and relax.

The whole process takes about an hour and a half. I choose my nail color — usually something bright — then Cathy, my nail lady, begins to soak my feet and prep them for the pedicure. Since she knows about my psoriasis, she chooses a gentle aloe-based soap. She removes the old polish, clips my nails, then files and buffs them.

Cathy uses a pumice stone to gently smooth the bottoms of my feet and also cleans up my cuticles. After that, she massages some oil on my legs and wipes it down with a hot towel. Sooo relaxing.

Then comes the color! Cathy puts on three coats of my favorite pink. I love watching the polish go on the nail and seeing how shiny it is. Instantly, my once “ugly” feet go from bland to beautiful. She seals it with a top coat, then it’s off to the dryer.

Why I keep doing it

I love getting pedicures. Something that’s so small for most people is huge for me. I never thought I’d do this and now they’ve become an important part of my self-care routine.

Having my toes done gave me the confidence to show my feet in public. After my very first pedicure, I went to a party with a group of people from high school. It was cold outside — I should have worn socks and boots — but instead, I wore sandals because I wanted to show off my gorgeous feet.

I hope sharing my experience will encourage others to do something outside their comfort zone. It doesn’t have to be a pedicure — find something you’ve been stopping yourself from doing and give it a try. Even if it scares you… or especially if it scares you.

Opening up can be a way to push through the embarrassment and discomfort. As someone who was held back by psoriasis, putting myself out there and overcoming my fear of pedicures has done wonders for my growth, my self-esteem, and my ability to rock sandals!

This is Reena Ruparelia’s story, as told to Rena Goldman.