What if I didn’t have a birthmark? What if I didn’t have laser surgery for 12 years? What if I had never been bullied about it, or if I had never had to explain that I haven’t been ‘jumped’? Who would I be?
Would I still be me?
Yes, I have thought about all of this, because let’s face it (no pun intended), we all have something we don’t like about ourselves.
Sometimes we have thoughts like, “Hey God, so I really love the color eyes you chose for me, and the size of my finger nails are nice, but you see the way you created my hair, well I think you could’ve done better.” For me, some days I thought, “Hey God I have a birthmark, and I am like one of the few people who do… did you mean to do this?”
When I was born, the nurse told my parents that I had a port-wine stain birthmark. When I was little, I thought that it was called a port wine stain birthmark because my mom drank too much wine!
Well, I hate to say it because it’s a way cooler story but it called a port wine stain birthmark because it looks like the area on the skin was stained by port wine. (buzzkill! It’s way cooler the other way but whateva).
Anyway, the doctor’s told my parents that there was hope. That I could get rid of the birthmark over time with laser treatment. So when I was 6 months old, I had my first laser treatment. Now because my birthmark is over my eye, they had to put me under anesthesia every time.
Can you imagine a 6 month old baby being sedated and being zapped by a laser? Well, that was me. I had treatment around 5 times a year for 12 years. To be honest, it was kinda fun going under anesthesia because I would always try to count down from 10 and see how low I could get (I think my record was 6). So after the treatment, my birthmark would be dark purple and swollen for about 2 days, then the swelling would go down, and then about a week later it would be a dark pink and then after two weeks my face would be back to normal, soft pink.
Now I have a lot of respect for my mom cause when we walked out of that hospital and would go get a Donut, she would be holding the hand of a little girl who had a swollen, dark purple face. People thought that I had been beaten, or that I had really hurt myself.
This was my childhood.
I got constant questions like “What’s wrong with your face?” or “Oh my gosh, did someone hit you!?” These were things that my fellow students, teachers, friends and even my own cousins would ask me. I was polite and replied “No it’s my birthmark!” and of course, flash a super cute smile!
But you know what, my heart stayed soft. I was constantly being affirmed by my amazing parents. They engrained it in me that I was beautiful, special, unique, amazing and that my birthmark was a gift, it was my special mark.
Your value doesn’t decrease based on someone’s inability to see your worth.
My childhood memories are special, not painful. I was a warrior. (still am a warrior) I mean c’mon, how many kids have minor surgery 5 times a year? I decided when I was really young, that I was never gonna let my birthmark be the reason I didn’t try something new, or make friends or in any way make me feel inferior to others.
So my whole childhood, without hesitation I would walk up to people and introduce myself. I oozed confidence and I looked past the ignorant questions. I was known for being kind, inclusive, funny, warm, spunky and of course confident!
No one ever treated me differently because I didn’t let them. No one looked at me like I was ugly, because I didn’t look at myself as ugly.
Then came the days of makeup. I knew that makeup was gonna cover up my birthmark, but I didn’t know if I wanted to. When I was 14, I remember the first time I covered my birthmark with foundation and concealer. I looked in the mirror and I didn’t even recognize myself. It was like I was looking at a stranger. And somehow in all of this amazement / confusion I heard a voice whisper, “Thats how you should’ve been made.”
Well, you know what I did, the strong warrior who was so self-confident, believed that lie.
I started wearing a lot of makeup everyday, but it wasn’t for good reasons, it was because I thought that no one in High School would like me if they saw my face.
I thought they would judge me and reject me.
I thought I won’t make sports teams, I won’t be popular, I won’t fit in, and no boy will ever want to love me.
I believed the one little lie, and it turned into so many more lies: I am not good enough, I will be rejected, I am ugly and I am deformed. No matter how much I covered up, I still felt this deep ache inside like something wasn’t right. But of course I never let it show. I kept those thoughts to myself, buried so deep in my heart. I portrayed this image of a confident, passionate, smart, secure girl on the outside, and on the inside I was being bullied by lies. I felt so weird when I wasn’t wearing makeup, and I didn’t like going without it.
Then, I got a job at the local YMCA as a swim instructor and we all know that water and makeup do not mix (ladies: can I get an amen?).
Well the little kids I taught how to swim would say things like “What’s that on your face? Did you color on your face with markers? Did you put juice on your face? These questions didn’t really bother me, because kids are curious and they don’t know about port wine birthmarks!
But this one time, I remember one of the kids was crying when she saw I was her teacher, so I went over to her and her mom and said, “Hey sweetie, it’s okay, I am Miss Abby and we are gonna learn how to swim!” and she said, “No, mommy, I am scared of that thing on her face! What is that? It’s so gross and scary!”
As you can imagine I was not only so embarrassed, but I was so deeply hurt.
Scary? I never want to seem scary to someone, especially a child. Well it took a lot for me to not run off that pool deck crying my eyes out, but you know what I did? In that moment, I looked at her and said, “It’s a birthmark! It’s my special mark, my special star! Do you have a special star?” She looked right at me and said, “My brother has a beauty mark on his arm!” And she smiled.
I then asked her if she wanted to touch my face where my birthmark is. And she did, and actually it was a really sweet moment.
You know what we as human beings are good at? We are professionals at being horrible to ourselves.
We will say the most hurtful things to ourselves when we look in the mirror and see things that are different, or things that are unique to us. We seriously hate on ourselves and be our own worst critic.
I was so hard on myself. I FORGOT how loved and beautiful I was. I tried to hide who I was and mask myself. I found that when I hid a piece of me, I ended up hiding all of me.
I lost that little girl who loved life, and didn’t let anyone bring her down or trample on her beauty. I forgot about her, but when I spoke to that little girl at the pool, and I chose mercy and grace instead of being angry and offended I remembered the soft-hearted Abby, the warrior.
It is totally possible for me to reject my birthmark, because to be honest society tells me that because my face isn’t flawless and I am not a size zero, I am weird and not good enough.
I could definitely do whatever it took to get rid of my birthmark, have more laser treatment or put paint on my face to cover it up.
Or… I could choose to embrace it.
Oh my goodness the shock, the horror! Hollywood, the media, celebrities and Instagram have created this BS idea of what beautiful is.
Why do we have to listen?
Why do we have to compare ourselves to this idea?
What if I want to wear sweatpants, with my hair in a messy bun wearing no makeup and sitting on the couch all day binge watching Grey’s Anatomy… does that mean I am not pretty? Cause I don’t meet the standards of beauty? That is so dumb. I think I would prefer to have a beautiful heart and soul than be depressed trying to be someone I am not.
The reality is that we can be mean to ourselves and others. But you know what is nice? It’s really nice sleeping in later because I am deciding to not put makeup on and not feeling guilty about it, or eating a really awesome cheeseburger and not throwing it up afterwards because I am concerned about the extra calories.
It’s nice to be happy, to be shame free, guilt free.
It’s really freeing to not try to fit a mold you were never created to fit, but actually learning what it’s like to accept and love yourself.
I could’ve hidden my face my whole life, or let people’s ignorance affect the way I see myself, or hated God for creating me this way. But I have lived such a happier life choosing to believe that I am special, I am created for a reason and a purpose, I am beautiful inside and out, and I do not have to conform and believe the lies that society tells me.
I am unique.
I am happy.
I am marked with beauty.
Now, say that about yourself.
(insert Hailee Steinfeld’s song “Love Myself”)
*What’s your “ugly” story? Share with me in the comments below.
Read another life-changing article: The Statements that Saved my Wife from Bulimia