Last week, Faith and I went to see the movie “Wonder” at our local movie theatre. If you saw the trailer for the movie, then you know it was real tear jerker. I saw the trailer and balled my eyes out-so I tried to mentally prepare myself for the waterworks I knew would happen in the movie theatre. I made sure to get myself some Ben and Jerry’s going into the movie to really help with my emotions (also because Ben and Jerry’s is my favorite).
For those of you who haven’t heard of this movie or seen the trailer- in short, “Wonder” is about a young boy, Auggie, who was born with several different medical issues and needed 27 surgeries done to his face in order for him to be able to see, hear, breath, etc. The movie tells the story of him going to public school for the first time. Auggie is extremely nervous and upset to start middle school because of his facial deformities. Auggie loves space and always wears an astronaut helmet every where he goes to cover up his face. He is smart, funny, loves science, and loves halloween because that is the one time in his life he feels “normal.” When Auggie starts school, all of the kids are staring, looking, and making fun of him. The kids are afraid to touch him, call him a freak, and laugh at him. Cue the waterworks for me (and yes these tears continued throughout the entire duration of the movie) After Auggie’s first day of school, he is sitting on his bed crying and asks his mom “why do I have to be so ugly?” To which she responds, “you are not ugly, and anyone who cares to know you will see that.”
This scene in the movie hit home for me. If you know me at all, then you know I have always had a connection to those with special needs and disabilities. Maybe it’s because like Auggie, I’ve always felt like I had a disability. For me, my face has always been my worst nightmare and my disability. Okay not always, but for many years now my face and my overall body appearance have been my enemies. Growing up as a kid and all throughout high school, I never thought much about my appearance. It wasn’t until I got to college and turned 21. Back in the U.S. turning 21 is a big deal, and everyone is given the gift of being able to legally drink. However, for my 21st birthday I received the start of lovely acne on my face. This was a big shock, as I didn’t have bad skin as a teenager so I thought I was in the clear by my 20s. However, I was sorely mistaken. Adult acne had hit me.
It started out pretty minimal so I thought it was nothing serious, however, by 22 it was coming in worse than ever, and by 23 I was devastated. I thought to myself how could this be happening, I am 23 years old! I saw every possible doctor and tried every possible treatment, and nothing worked. I felt so incredibly ugly every single day, thinking everyone thought the same and was staring at my face. As my confidence in my skin fell apart, confidence in the rest of my body did as well. I would then refer to myself as fat, and sometimes work out for 3 hours a day. I figured maybe if the rest of my body looked “good” then no one would pay attention to my face. I would also spend my days playing basketball, because that was one of the few times I wouldn’t think about my appearance and I could just be myself.
I felt my skin and my face disabled me from living my best and happiest life. I can remember multiple times calling my parents and saying “why me, I am a good person” and “why do I have to be so ugly?” Now, that is a crazy thing to admit in your 20s, and something even my closest friends don’t even know. See, I am pretty sure many people have no idea how much my skin has affected my personal confidence. I walk around very happy and for the most part confident. That’s the thing I am very happy in my life, I am so blessed in so many ways. Just the fact that my appearance is my biggest issue in life, means I am a lot more blessed than so many people who are dealing with way worse things. I also am extremely confident in who I am as a person, I’ve always been my own person, never got peer pressured, and I have strong values/beliefs. However, when it comes to confidence on my appearance I can tell you I have absolutely none.
So when I came to Ireland, as my skin got worse, I went to see a dermatologist here, who put me on the final stop for acne treatment. It is an extremely intense pill that makes you dry, itchy, moody, and just about everything else you can think of for 6 months. I am about halfway through my treatment, and things have definitely improved. While I still have a long way to go to get to the perfect skin I want, I also realize that I may never have it. Regardless of whether or not my skin improves in the next few months, the mental damage has already been done. After years of avoiding mirrors, calling yourself ugly and fat, you eventually start to believe it. If someone were to say I looked pretty, I genuinely wouldn’t believe them. And that is something I have been trying to work on mentally, and something I may be working on for the rest of my life. I hope that in time, I can once again feel good about my appearance.
In a world full of social media, we are encouraged to show only the BEST versions of ourselves, showing us happy and adding filters to look perfect in every picture. I am guilty of it myself. Society has conditioned us to solely judge people based on their physical appearances. However, throughout my time here in Ireland working with kids, I am learning that there are so many other important things in life.
We can learn a lot from Auggie in “Wonder.” By the end of the movie, Auggie has won the whole school over with his charm, jokes, and kind heart. The movie finishes with him winning the most prestigious award at the school- the one for overall character, and the entire school gives him a standing ovation. (Cue even more tears) This just reminded me that at the end of the day, people aren’t going to remember the way you looked, they are going to remember how you made them feel.
We all have a story. In a negative world, be kind, and remember we are all fighting our own battles. When my skin started to get bad, my mom always told me “do not let this define you.” While my skin might not be perfect, it definitely doesn’t define who I am as a person. That is why I am writing this blog, to share my truth, my story. To encourage anyone who is going through a tough time, anyone who struggles with appearance issues, weight issues, whatever it is you may be experiencing to not let it define you. No one was made to be perfect, and I will leave you with a quote that has gotten me through the worst of times, “maybe life isn’t about avoiding the bruises, maybe it’s about collecting the scars to prove we showed up for it.”
Special thank you to my parents and family for the constant support