I remember the first day I looked at myself differently. My hair a disheveled mess, my glasses a bit too big for my face staring back at me in a smudged bathroom mirror. I knew this was as good as it was going to get. This was the face God had given me and for the time being, I had to make it work. Little by little I started to put together my face, establishing which angles looked “pretty” compared to others, how to diminish the size of my nose in proportion to the rest of my face and to attack the monster inside consistently expressing hate for myself. I was miserable and while I knew that the person staring back in the mirror was me, I was unhappy with the reflection.
I was born with a Clef lip, which is a facial deformity that causes my lip and nose to merge into a twisted “S” shape often pushed onto one side. While most cleft lip patients end up becoming clef palate patients (where this merger forms into the roof of the mouth also), I was deemed “lucky”. For the longest time, however, I felt the farthest from that.
Watching all of my closest girlfriends get boyfriends quickly in middle school to being picked on and told a “dog attacked me” was the beginning of my troubles. But no matter the amount of ridicule or bullying I faced, it was myself that ended up being the most damaging.
I would come home daily from school and instead of crying in my room by myself, I would bully myself further.
“you will always be alone”
“They’re right about you ”
As if the scars on my face were not proof enough of my shame, my sadness continued to spiral. My family and friends started to notice me spin out of control. I will never forget my mom coming up to me one day, tears in her eyes because she knew something was not okay. I had been distant and not acting like “Lauren”. Mom always knows there is something happening before us do oftentimes and while my mom sat there with me trying to talk, I had yet to fully realize what I was doing to myself. My mom saw what was happening before I could even grasp it and ultimately, pulled me from the hole.
After that night I began talking more. More to my mom and my dad about my self-esteem, to my closest friends about how to feel beautiful. And rather than criticism (as I was fully expecting for “overreacting”), they were supportive and helpful but most of all, they were loving. I learned from the eyes of those who care most about me how to love myself. Flaws and all.
Flash-forward to today and I continue to struggle with finding my true beauty and accepting the body and face God has given me. While I learned to let go of the hate I was treating toward myself, I continue to face the daily opportunity it could bring. I know I am far from perfect; my nose is a bit big, my teeth not as white as snow, and my hair is a constant curly mess. But I love myself because I am strong and beautiful in my own unique way and because I let go of the monster inside.
Written By: Lauren Elden