I just wrapped up watching season two of Anne with an E on Netflix and after I finished I felt so inspired by this character. This little homely girl who takes life by the horns and lives it to the fullest regardless of what others say or think is quite remarkable, but here’s the thing, Anne isn’t your typical strong girl that we tend to see in literature. Snide remarks and adversity do not roll off her like water. She feels it. She hurts. She perseveres. This is what makes Anne an inspiration.
I relate to Anne on many levels, one being the fact that I was quite a homely looking child myself. I’ve often joked with my family that my elementary school days were my “ugly years” that I eventually outgrew. But I didn’t. I’m still me. I still have the same face and the same pale skin tone and the same teeth that I hated so much growing up. I’m still the same insecure girl that deep in her heart carries around those mean comments and rejections of my younger years. I wasn’t the pretty one.
Even in college when I went to school for theatre and was surrounded by beautiful friends who loved me like a sister I still felt so inadequate. I still felt ugly. I slathered makeup on my face and tried to compensate by being boisterous but even now at thirty years old I feel it. Every time I look in the mirror I criticize my skin, my teeth, my belly fat.
Each of us has those things about ourselves and our bodies that we zone in on and place under a microscope. The first on my list was my teeth. I was a snaggle tooth kid that suffered from an oral disorder that caused my teeth to literally rot and crumble out of my head. It’s a rare condition that took many years of extensive dental work to overcome and even still I’m self-conscious about it. This condition was the bane of my existence all throughout my school life. Every school picture I took was like torture because my mother would say, “I want to see teeth in your photo.” This is the worst thing she could have possibly said to me, but I did it, and I still cringe when I look back at them. There was a period where my front teeth were in dire need of caps and I felt embarrassed to even speak. I would often cover my mouth with my hand or try not to laugh or smile too much for fear of others judging my teeth.
Then, after college, when I finally got a handle on my teeth and started to rebuild confidence I developed a hormone disorder that caused me to break out in severe cystic acne. Oh, the suffering I went through with that. Can you imagine? Twenty-four years old and in the prime of my dating life and my face is covered with large painful zits. My entire face was red and swollen. It was absolutely awful. I have never felt more wretched in my entire life and nothing I did helped. It took years before my skin cleared and even then it left scarring that I still deal with today, at thirty. So, you can imagine as I’m watching Anne lament over her homeliness and going to great lengths to try and improve her appearance my heart breaks. It breaks for her, it breaks for me, and it breaks for every young person who has had to go through a similar experience of feeling inadequate in a world that values beauty above all else.
In the age of Instagram models and Kardashian frenzy what is there to be done? I, for one, have decided to be more conscientious about the compliments I dish out to my niece and nephews. My niece especially. I started noticing that it was instinctual for me to greet her with, “you look so pretty today!” And that’s okay, on special occasions, but I was doing it EVERY TIME I saw her. Now I try to just say that it’s wonderful to see her and I leave out the pretty part. I want her to know that I love seeing her because I love HER. Not her pretty face, or her adorable dress, but HER.
Even with that, I think it’s so important to remember that it’s okay to feel the hurt. The most admirable thing about Anne is that she feels unapologetically. Even when she gets a slap on the wrist or gets teased for being eccentric she still lives her life to the fullest. I want to be like Anne. I want to not worry about looking ridiculous or being judged or put down because I’m feeling silly or excited. Even my husband and I have noticed that we do this thing where when the other one gets really excited about something we make this face at them like, “you’re weird.” Why do we do this to each other? Why is our instinct to put one another down or dampen the other’s enthusiasm? No more.
I am not a perfect person, far from, but going forward I do want to make more of an effort to recognize the negativity I bring into this world. Instead of pulling someone down I want to build them up. Instead of dampening someone’s enthusiasm I want to inspire and feed the fire. Let’s live our best lives by shedding our insecurities and enjoying this life we’ve been given by pursuing our dreams and ambitions with no fear of other’s judgements. Life hurts. Other’s words and actions will hurt you. But let’s learn from Anne. Feel your pain, then persevere. Embrace your hurt, then persevere. Conquer your insecurities and persevere. If you do this, you will change this world.