True Beauty This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

March 19, 2012
It's everywhere. You can't escape it. It's sprawled across flashy billboards with alluring models. It's plastered throughout all kinds of magazines and books. Celebrities ooze with it. And it's all too friendly with teens; it overpowers their being like too much Axe body spray in the gym locker room. It's the pressure of beauty.

Now, I wouldn't say that I'm an insecure person. I mean, yes, sometimes I get a little fired up about my height (I'm 4 foot 11 and not growing any more), but overall I'm happy with the way I am. But there was a time in my life when I didn't feel this way.

In April 2008 I was diagnosed with scoliosis. I found out during a routine checkup at my doctor's. At first I was scared. In the back of my mind I was grateful that I hadn't been diagnosed with cancer or something deadly, but I was scared.

I had first learned about scoliosis in my fifth-grade health class. My teacher had showed us pictures of deformed backs and how disgustingly twisted the bodies were. My friends and I were worried that we might get scoliosis, but my teacher assured us we would not. “You girls could never get scoliosis,” she laughed, as if we were immune to the condition, as if we were too good for that ugly disease.

As I found out a year later, this wasn't true. I was embarrassed that I had scoliosis, so I only told a few of my friends. I didn't think that people would make fun of me, but I wasn't taking any chances.

We made an appointment with a back specialist who would lead us in the right direction for my specific diagnosis. When I got to the doctor's office, I had to get X-rays to see the curve of my back. The light illuminated my black-and-white skeleton, and I was disgusted by what I saw. My back was curved like a tree bent over by the ice in the winter. I was horrified that I looked like those deformed pictures from fifth grade.

The doctor told me about my options: wear a back brace or get corrective surgery. Because of the particular curve of my spine, he recommended the brace. I nodded bravely, but when he left the room, I burst out crying.

There was no way I was going to wear a bulky back brace, especially at school! I begged and pleaded with my mom, trying to convince her that surgery would be a better option. I thought a couple of scars would be easier to hide than a brace.

My mom consoled me, but I saw how her eyes glistened when I begged for the surgery. She didn't want me to have the surgery for many reasons, but mainly due to the risk. Instead, she suggested a special shopping trip to find outfits for school to hide my brace. I jumped at the chance. We found baggier jeans and sweatshirts, and even a couple of blousy tops that concealed the brace.

I suffered through wearing the brace for a year and hated every minute of it. It was sweaty in the summer, and the hard plastic forced me to sit up super straight all the time so no one would notice. It was awkward and bulky, and if someone tried to poke me they would nearly break their finger on it. But even though the clothes hid my brace, I still felt like the whole world could see that something was wrong with how I looked. It was like I wore an armor of guilt, constantly fearing being judged in the death trap called middle school. I knew people would understand, but I was terrified of the harsh remarks that might snake their way down the halls – a fear my plastic suit of armor could not shield me from.

Finally, the year was up and I returned to the doctor. He told me that my growth had leveled off, so I could stop wearing the brace. I was so relieved. No longer would I have to hide my flaw.

Although I was overjoyed at the news, there was a nagging feeling in my stomach. As we walked out through the waiting room, I saw a girl of about six. She was in a wheelchair and had braces on her legs. My heart ached for her. She would probably have to be like that for the rest of her life. But I felt more than pity for her. I looked into her beautiful brown eyes and her smiling round face and I felt admiration for her true beauty; her poised confidence showed the person she was inside.

It was then that I realized how stupid I had been. I had convinced myself that because I had scoliosis and wasn't cookie-cutter beautiful that I had a dirty secret to hide. I was blind to the fact that I was still the same person inside. I went through so much to conceal my brace instead of realizing that no human is perfect. It was through that little girl that I finally opened my eyes to true beauty.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.

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BloglessBlogger said...
May 29, 2012 at 4:27 pm
This is so sweet. Remember beauty is within and you need to love it and yourself...
beautifulspirit This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Apr. 12, 2012 at 5:27 pm
Our society is centered around beauty---every culture has their own idea of what beauty. I think that sometimes we are so preocupied with looking our best, appealing attractive to the opposite sex, etc. that we forget where the true beauty lies. I'm not saying looks don't matter, but just that they are not what really counts. Reading this article, I pictured myself in your shoes, having to wear a brace on my back---really, I absolutely loathed the idea of having to wear braces for two years. I l... (more »)
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