It started out as a fever and a really sore nose. One day later, giant blisters covered my cheeks and nose, becoming so large that my eyes were swollen shut. I was unrecognizable. It was ugly enough to make anyone want to hide, but hiding was not an option.
I was in college at the time, and I had to go to class. At first it wasn't so bad. I thought I could handle the stares, the whispers, and even those who were blunt enough to straight out ask what was wrong with my face.
By the end of the day, after overhearing a woman passing by ask her boyfriend, "Oh my gosh, did you see her face?" I wondered if it would be better to stay home and not face people.
That is when something powerful happened. I realized that I am more than my face. As soon as I decided, and clung onto, this realization, I never felt more beautiful in my life. Truly never.
I was someone worth knowing even with all those red scars, blisters and swollen eyes. There is nothing more gorgeous than being grateful for yourself and your body.
Feeling beautiful is vital to being in a healthy relationship. Loving one's self is necessary to loving other people, and during this time I learned these four ways to feel beautiful.
1. Know your true identity
God knows you and cares about you. There is nothing that can help you feel more beautiful than understanding that the person who knows the most about you - the good and the bad - still thinks you are fantastic. Coming to feel God's love for you can be a process involving prayer and a realization of all the beautiful things he has put in your life. When you come to this realization, it radiates through you. It's a deep beauty that not only affects you, but affects how you treat others as well.
2. Own your personality
During the time of my face illness, I would combat the stares I received by mentally reminding myself of things I liked about myself. I cared about people, and tried to be kind to them. I reminded myself that developing a beautiful soul was the most important thing to me. Everyone has beautiful parts of his or her personality. Find what it is you like about yourself.
3. Appreciate your body
Your body is amazing! The more you learn about your body, and how it functions, the more you realize what a beautiful thing it is. It runs everyday with very little conscious thought on your part. But yet, we still seem to find so many ways to criticize it.
As I watched my face go through its phases of infection, and then healing, I tried to focus on how incredible my body was for being able to heal itself. I didn't know if I would permanently be scarred, or if this illness would be chronic, but I was grateful my body was fighting it.
4. Don't compare to others
With gorgeous Instagram photos, Facebook feeds, blog posts, and all the people we interact with day-to-day, it's easy to compare our looks with others. Comparing ourselves is poison. It will either result in feelings of inadequacy or arrogance, both of which have no place in developing and maintaining a healthy relationship with yourself or others.
Some days this means that I decide not to get onto social media, because I am feeling more vulnerable in the tendency to compare. Whatever area it is for you that might bring you down, learn how to cut down or eliminate it from your daily life.
5. Practice, practice, practice
We all have off days. These are things that take a long time to develop and maintain. It has now been over a year since those crazy blisters took over my face, and they have long since left, leaving only light scars, but I continue to practice training my mind to use these steps to feel beautiful.