You’re ugly.

I stared in the mirror. Unsure, insecure, second-guessing, I couldn’t fight the voice in my head. I sighed and turned away. It was time to go to school.

Later that week ugly was hissed at me in the hallway as I walked head down, to my class. It only happened once but it was enough to confirm what I already suspected. I wasn’t good enough.

Not good enough followed me through most of my childhood into young adulthood. Ugly waned and there was reprieve. I gained confidence, but the need for more grew. It was comparison’s turn to nag me. She has a great life. Why can’t you be more like her? What is wrong with you?

I smiled. I had friends, a job, a boyfriend. And I carried a secret. I served the facade of fine and together, hiding what I lacked. No one could know how emptiness gnawed and chewed me up, how I couldn’t fill the holes. I hurt and I didn’t know how to stop it, so I dressed carefully, arranged my face, and exposed vulnerability only if provoked.

As I got older the voices quieted, emptiness retreated, and edges softened. I got to know honesty and courage. No longer bound to a lie I was free, becoming more, joy and beauty found; unaware I would be tested in two years.

A nurse handed me a mirror. “Are you ready?” On my back, on my side, attached to machines I saw my body, raw and ravaged, every day. This was the first time I would see my face months after the fire. Angry, red scar around my chin. Bald head. Oh, my eyebrows need plucking! I met my 23 year old green eyes. Too wide in my hollow face. Too much. I handed my nurse the mirror. I’ll never be the same. But, each day there was enough strength to survive, to overcome.

At 37, a few days away from 38, I’m in front of the bathroom mirror blow-drying my hair hurrying, hurrying to finish. My face is splotchy, bumpy. I need a coffee. Hair-dryer in one hand I turn on my iPod with the other, find a song I like, turn up the volume. Doubt threatens, comparison teases. I glance at the foggy mirror.

You know who you are.

I curl my hair around the brush. Struggling with doing it all and not doing enough, I rest in the reminder. I know who I am. I’ve come a long way. There will always be change, noise, something I don’t like. Today I’m accepting. Today I’m human. Today I’m happy with my hair.

I’m joining the wonderful writing community that is yeah write today. If you’re new to writing or have done it forever there is a space for you, or if you just want to get cozy and curl up with some good writing, then come on over.

34 thoughts on “reflection

  1. IASoupMama

    You are lovely and human and perfectly you, which is perfect. This is a gentle and caring reminder that every day, there is something that is right — which is really all we need.

  2. gem

    It frustrates me that so many think beauty is so narrowly defined as to basically only include super models. Because beauty is everywhere, in everyone, and I think most people know this but subscribe to the pre-concieved notions of beauty to fit in, or to feel better about themselves. Regardless, your story was very touching and amazing. You are an inspiration!

  3. Harriet

    I love that phrase, “I rest in the reminder. I know who I am.” It’s the peace we all seek, and you’ve expressed it simply and beautifully.

    1. heidi

      Harriet, thank you for your comment. I was so worried this would come across as maudlin and depressing. And it really isn’t the point. I’m glad you got the ‘peace’ of it. That’s what I was after. Thanks for making me feel better and thank you for being here.

  4. Alexandra

    Oh my gosh.

    The very first time I saw a picture of you, I thought, “BEAUTIFUL. She is so beautiful.”

    And then I read your words and thought how soulful, introspective, kind, accepting you were.

    How can you be truthfully, beautiful inside and out?

    You are that.

  5. Christie O. Tate

    This is like a battle cry or an anthem. I love it, Heidi. I love that you weave in your own personal struggle and still talk about something we all deal with: insecurity, being pretty, hating our hair. I want to say something worthy of this post, but I don’t know how.

  6. Kerstin

    You are one of the bravest and most beautiful people I know. Honest, raw, to the point, kind and strong. If that does not spell beautiful, then I don’t know what does.
    Like Alexandra said in her comment – beautiful inside and out. That you are.

  7. Michelle Longo

    Forget your picture for a minute, which I think suits what I think of you perfectly, you are such a beautiful person inside. I hope that when you say you know who you are, that is what you see. Your beauty pours out of you in your writing every time I read it. This piece is no exception.

  8. stephanie

    Emptiness retreated, edges softened. That’s nice. And so is: I’ve come a long way. There will always be change… What you have come through most of us couldn’t manage. We would have given up, felt sorry for ourselves, but you didn’t. The peace in this is what is truly inspiring. You found it in spite of everything. Lovely writing as I have come to expect and find each time I visit. And Happy Birthday!

  9. Rachelle

    It’s only through getting to know honesty and courage that I ever started to understand beauty. Powerfully written post. You had me from the first line!

  10. Mary @ A Teachable Mom

    Oh, my heart hurts reading your powerful, poignant words. I relate to so much of the pain, comparison, self-doubt – you are a miracle. And your writing is a gift to us all. I look forward to reading more of your courage, strength and inspiration.

  11. Whoa! Susannah

    Wow, what a powerful post. You nearly had me in tears. I cried to God over a bout of acne this morning…I’m 31. Never had acne in my life until I got pregnant at 25. It’s something I’m coming to accept, as shallow as that may seem. I loved this one. It made me think, and it made me smile. A wonderful combination.

  12. Ashley Austrew

    “You know who you are.”

    I love that. It’s so simple, yet so difficult to remember sometimes. I find everything about your story so inspiring. This is a perfect, relatable, and genuine piece. I really, really enjoyed it.

  13. Gina

    We encounter mean kids all our lives unfortunately but you handled yourself perfectly and I loved the”you know who you are”. Many don’t and never will. You told this well and with bravery.

  14. Kathleen

    Such a heartbreaking, honest post. You truly captured the weight of women’s inner voices. I hope you know what a beautiful person you are, and what a talented writer.

  15. Galit Breen

    Oh Heidi, your beauty (that shines in all that you are) draws me in, gives me chills, and attaches me to you more and more with each read.

    This was stunning, as are you.


  16. Julia

    Oh my gosh, Heidi, you are gorgeous. Truly. Your picture, your heart, your words. I hope you had a lovely birthday and I hope you know that “beautiful” is the very best description of you.

  17. tara pohlkotte

    “i know who i am” – – let’s make shirts. for ourselves. for our daughters. a reminder to us when doubt clouds, when we need our chin tipped up a little to the sun. you are beautiful, you know that?

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