From the time I was in second grade, I was bullied for my freckles and had a deep hatred of my skin. Other kids called my freckles ugly, and one boy told me that my face made him feel sick. Once I started middle school, the bullying morphed from finger-pointing and laughing to judgment and gossip. I was ashamed because I didn’t have a single friend who had as many freckles as I did, and I had never seen a celebrity or media influencer with anything less than clear skin—no freckles.
When I was in sixth grade, I discovered makeup. Foundation and concealer were my favorite products because they completely masked my freckles. My mom had a rule that I wasn’t allowed to wear makeup until high school. So each morning after she dropped me off at school, I ran to the bathroom, applied foundation, and went about my school day. When the bell rang at the end of sixth period, I removed the foundation and jumped in the car. Soon, I was completely relying on makeup to feel beautiful, and the more coverage I had, the more comfortable I felt.
A couple of years later, when my mom found out that I had been hiding my freckles, it broke her heart. She explained to me that my worth wasn’t based on other people’s opinions, and that I could love and appreciate my individuality. I had never thought of being “different” in a positive light, so I was taken aback. She reminded me of what I’d learned in the Christian Science Sunday School: that my identity is not a physical image in a mirror, but truly God’s perfect spiritual reflection, because God made each of us in His image. There is nothing ugly, gross, or despicable about God, because God is completely good. So there couldn’t be anything ugly, gross, or despicable about me, because I am the expression of God.
I was completely relying on makeup to feel beautiful, and the more coverage I had, the more comfortable I felt.
It was hard for me to see myself as a perfect reflection, because whenever I looked in the mirror, I hated what I saw. So I realized I had to make a choice about what I was going to believe. Either my identity was just what I saw on the surface, and could be defined by others’ opinions, or my identity was God-based and completely spiritual. If my being was spiritual, then beauty must be included in my identity, because beauty is a quality of God. This beauty is not my hair, my clothes, or my skin. I could also see that beauty doesn’t come from molding myself to fit what I thought my peers wanted me to be. Being fake definitely isn’t beautiful. My beauty is my God-given individuality and being true to the way God made me.
The summer between eighth and ninth grades, I prayed regularly about beauty and identity. I became more conscious of what I was thinking. For example, if I was scrolling through social media and saw a bunch of models with perfectly clear skin, how was I responding? Was I getting caught up in negative thoughts based on the concept that beauty is a physical characteristic? Or was I being alert to the thoughts coming at me and accepting only the ones that reinforced my understanding and appreciation of my true, God-given beauty?
That summer I also realized how me-focused I’d been when I was so caught up in hating my freckles and trying to hide them. So I tried to shift my focus away from myself by thinking more about God and about others. I spent a lot of time just being grateful for the love I had in my life, my caring mom, and the opportunities I’d been given—like being able to get a good education. Soon, these thoughts outweighed the self-focused thinking that had dominated for so long, and I began to feel a lot more secure, peaceful, and happy.
The first day of freshman year, I came to school with a makeup-free face. At least one person from each of my classes complimented my skin, and I made friends that I was able to be unapologetically myself around.
Now it’s four years later, and I almost never wear makeup. I embrace my freckles, because they’re a symbol of the way I’ve learned to love my individuality and to be OK with not conforming to other people’s opinions. I’ve discovered that what’s really important is learning more about, and being true to, my spiritual identity. After all, since I’m the image of God, why would I want to change that?