I used to wake up dreading the routine stares and whispers from strangers. Having to deal with all of that on a regular basis was tough in itself, but little did I know, it was about to get a lot worse – and all in the blink of an eye.
One day while I was in high school, I was playing around on YouTube instead of doing my homework. I was looking for some good music, but instead I stumbled on a video of a very familiar young girl. In what would turn out to be one of the biggest turning points in my life, I clicked on a link to open the eight-second video.
To my utter surprise and horror, the video – which had over 4 million hits, thousands of comments, and no sound – was called “The World’s Ugliest Woman.”
They were talking about me.
The pain I felt was indescribable. Imagine someone posting your picture on the internet and labeling you the world’s ugliest person. Now add thousands of strangers giving you tips on how to hurt yourself because of your appearance. How would that make you feel?
I kept asking myself: How dare they? How dare they tell me to put a bag over my head so people wouldn’t have to see my ugly face? How dare they ask why my parents didn’t abort such an ugly monster? How dare they offer tips on how to kill myself?
I thought about punishing them. I wanted them to know how much they had hurt me, to feel the pain I felt. Then I decided that, rather than sink to their level, I’d fight the video with my accomplishments.
Before I did anything else, though, I had to tell my parents. I didn’t want to – I was afraid it would hurt them more than it hurt me. And yes, they were very upset. They tried to get the video removed. But ironically, the video brought us closer. We decided as a family to use this situation as motivation to work harder. This was just another bump in the road, and together we would fight through it without retaliating.
Why must we go through so many painful experiences? Actually, I’m not sure. No matter how you look at it, some situations just don’t seem fair. Some days life doesn’t make sense and you just have to ask for help, change what you can, and pray about the rest. But how do you get through it emotionally? Here are some things you can do while working through any situation:
Don’t focus on your pain. It’s okay to feel pain and grieve a loss, but don’t focus on the tears. My dad always told me I’m allowed to have one good cry, and then I have to look for the positive side. My mom gives me a few days of feeling sorry for myself and having her help me, and then I need to get out of bed and start making myself feel better.
Be around people. Sometimes when really feeling down, people bring us happiness by making us laugh or just letting us know they care. But they can’t do that if you are locked away in your room. Find people to be around, and let them embrace you.
Find something to laugh about. Did you know laughing reduces stress hormones and increases and releases endorphins? Endorphins are hormones that reduce pain and cheer us up. It turns out that old saying is true – laughter really is the best medicine. It’s important to laugh no matter what kind of day you’re having, but it can be really hard to laugh when you’re stressed out. So force yourself. You heard me: when you least feel like it, force yourself to laugh for at least 15 minutes every day. Just smile and go, “Ha, ha, ha.” Research has shown that fake laughing sort of tricks the body into releasing the same endorphins you would if you were really laughing, which makes you feel better. No matter what you’re going through, resisting the urge to laugh isn’t going to make you feel better.
No one can (or should) handle everything alone. Ask for help. Choose a compassionate and thoughtful person who cares about you, someone whose advice you can respect even if it isn’t what you want to hear. I’m lucky to have two wonderful parents, and I hope you do too. I pray you have at least one person you trust, someone who loves you no matter what.
Cultivate a grateful heart. Count your blessings – pretty much any situation could be worse, so be grateful it’s not.
Not all problems are created equal, but they’re all meaningful. It’s what you do with your struggles that matter. If you’re involved in a situation that needs attention, ignoring it won’t make it go away. Neither will filling yourself with anger and frustration or blaming others and feeling sorry for yourself. Loving yourself does work. Accepting yourself and making a plan does work.
I pray you never have to go through what I did, but God never promised life would be easy. He did promise that his grace will transform the meaning and direction of your life. Believing he loves you will change your life as it has changed the lives of others through the centuries. His message is constant, his love unwavering.