The Ugly Duckling

A quick note here that this post was written by my sister, Robyn Brilliant, who will soon be a contributor on this site. I hope she will share her great stories and posts about her experience with bullying. But first, this very powerful story of overcoming what others think. ~Alan Eisenberg

Sometimes I think there would be less bullying if we were all blind.  So much bullying, teasing and outright racism comes from not understanding or being comfortable with what we see.  When I was a young teen all I saw when I looked in the mirror was an ugly girl with a big nose.  My bullies reinforced my belief that I was ugly by barking at me or making racist remarks about Jews having big noses.  At 14, my self-esteem was so low and I was so depressed that I asked my parents for a “nose job”.  They complied and I entered the 9th grade with a new nose.  It didn’t work the way I expected it to.  I struggled for years to feel good about myself.  The effects of the teasing and bullying stayed with me through my teens and twenties as I struggled to feel beautiful.  I often wonder how things would be if I hadn’t changed my appearance.  Would I still feel like the ugly duckling?  Would I ever become the beautiful swan?

I recently came across a story that reminds me of how people can be so cruel to someone who doesn’t fit the conventional standard of beauty.  Lizzie Velasquez is a 23-year-old student at Texas State University in San Marcos who suffers from a rare syndrome that blocks her body from storing fat.  She is 5’ 2” tall and weighs less than 60 lbs.  She has been bullied and teased all her life for her looks and was cyberbullied to the point of being called “The Ugliest Woman in the World”.  The most interesting thing about Lizzie is how she has channeled her energy into educating others about herself and has become a motivational speaker and author of two books.  Just watching Lizzie online inspires me and reminds me how hard it is to live in a society that over emphasizes physical appearance over inner beauty.  Despite the negativity and teasing she has had to endure, every picture of Lizzie shows a vibrant smile.  Lizzie helped to reinforce in me what I have learned over many years of struggling to feel beautiful.  Beauty is on the inside, and once you find your inner beauty, you can do anything.

For those of you who struggle to separate what you see from your beliefs about beauty, I give you the following challenge.  Listen to Lizzie.  Do it first with your eyes closed and just listen to her video.  Then watch again with your eyes open.  Either way, I think you will find her beautiful. ~Robyn Brilliant

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