We are proud to announce the winner of the 2014 SweatBlock Social Confidence Scholarship. Her name is Nadia, a student at UC Berkeley, who tackled the question “How might excessive perspiration influence one’s perception of self? Or, how might viewing someone else’s excessive perspiration influence your perception of them?”
The world needs more people like Nadia who show compassion and demonstrate true friendship like she did to Saad (you’ll have to read the essay to get the back story).
Nadia, SweatBlock is honored to contribute $2000 toward your education. Congratulations!
Here is her essay:
During the fall semester of my sophomore year I meet a fellow college student named Saad,
who was a college freshmen. He always wore black, he was very reserved, and kept to himself. His hair
and his hands always looked wet. I remember when I first met him in the residence halls that I lived on
my sophmore year I raised my hand to shake his and he abruptly moved back. I thought to myself he
must be either antisocial or had germophobic tendencies, not knowing that he had a condition he could not control.
In November of that year the Christian group that I was apart of went to a conference. I invited
Saad and a few other friends with me We arrived at the conference grounds and our first task was to
share things we were struggling with in our lives and what aspects of our lives we needed support and
prayer in. Students shared many personal and devastating issues they were dealing with such as a loss of
a parents, struggling to do academically well in college, and being diagnosed with terminal illnesses.
When it was Saad’s turn, Saad began sweating profusely and he said in a quivering voice, “I know my
struggle may not seem as serious as you all’s struggle but I sweat a lot. At first it was not a big problem
but it has been getting worse. I always wear dark clothes to hide my sweat stains. I stay away from
people so I do not get to ask questions. I keep to myself and my sweating problem has taken over my
life. I just want to be cured of this problem so that I can have my life back.”
After the retreat, I decided to spend a little bit more time with Saad to learn how I could be
supportive and also because I was curious about what hyperhidrosis was exactly. I had never heard of
anyone struggling with sweating and I thought it may have been a social anxiety issue. As I spent more
time with Saad I witnessed some of my floormates calling him dirty because he always seemed to look
wet or greasy or not invite him into their rooms. With each passing insult Saad isolated himself from the
rest of the floor. It wasn’t until he broke down one day and I happened to be there that I began to
somewhat understood what he was going through.
We had came back from eating dinner at the dining hall and some of our floormates had
congregated in the lounge to watch a video. Everyone was standing in a group close to each other so
that we could all see the video. Saad stood close to another male floormate. Suddenly the floormate
jumped and said “Dude you are wet!! Can you please go and take a shower? Have some courtesy and
don’t come around people when you know you have been sweating. Dude you are so disgusting!” One
of our other floormates, responded saying, “Mark chill. It is only sweat.” Saad obviously looked
affected by what had been said and quietly left the lounge as everyone continued to watch the video. I
decided to follow him. He went to his room and I saw him quiver, collapse on his bed, and cry. I
thought to myself, “Its just sweat right. I do it all the time. I don’t get what the big deal is.”
My first reaction in this situation would be to hug anyone who was in the state of despair that
Saad was in. But I found myself hesitating. Sweating was an action that I thought was done during high
intensive activity in order to cool the body and is sometimes associated with a pungent body odor. I
looked at his wet face and wet arms and saw his need for consolation and acceptance despite his
condition. I raised my hand to put it on his back. Before I laid my hand on his back I thought to myself,
“Maybe my hand will smell. I have been taught to see sweating as disgusting and as a sign of filth.”
Before I knew it my hand was on his back as he sobbed away.
As I touched his back I began to listen to what he said as he cried. Saad stated how he was
afraid to hug people and shake hands because he thought people will be repulsed by his sweat.
Whenever he was around people he would sweat more for fear that they may ask him why he was
sweating. He loudly said, “The doctors have given me everything but nothing seems to work. I just want
to be normal. I just want to be a normal human being. I want to be comfortable in my own body. There
are so many times I felt so alone, isolated, and depressed but I couldn’t talk to anyone because no one
would understand.” I could hear how this issue affected his mood, confidence, and mental health. The
last thing I remember he said was, “I can not imagine myself living the rest of my life with this
condition.” At that moment I hugged Saad because all he wanted was to be treated like a normal human
being. For me at that moment I saw how serious his disorder was and how much I did misunderstood
his disorder because of my perceptions of sweat. I gave him a hug because I knew he rarely received it
as what I thought of in order for me to understand he was human but also for him to feel supported and
loved in that moment.
This was with any disorder that any human developed. It was uncontrollable but misunderstood
by society but at that moment by me. This moment I spent with Saad helped me to understand Saad
and the condition he had more. Saads’ excessive perspiration helped me to see how bravery and
boldness takes different forms. He took the step to come to a place where few people understood what
what was negatively impacting his life.