3x + 5b – 6(10z)= True Beauty?

You’d be surprised to learn that a girl who failed algebra filled her diary with mathematical equations and formulas.

Scribbles of addition and subtraction dominated the loose leaf pages. Add more makeup. Minus hair frizz. Add whiter teeth. Take away love handles. For many of us its an equation similar to this one, always coming to equal the same outcome: Beauty. Desirability. Attractiveness.

Well I knew algebra well enough to see that I had a variable that canceled everything else out on my journey towards finding the true summation of beauty in this world. Psoriasis. My skin grows seven times faster than the normal rate. I experience what is called a build up, my skin builds up on top of itself, effecting the areas of my scalp and eyebrows. When I first found out that I had this skin condition, eight years ago, there was no real treatment on the market, just home remedies. Nearly every Sunday night I would sit at the kitchen table. My mother would apply tar to my scalp and then she would rip away the built up skin from the week before. I know… not a very pretty image. After the process ended an hour later she covered my head in baby oil to ease the bleeding of my scalp. One week later the skin had grown back and the tar rituals would commence again, each week for several years.

My peers did not look at me sympathetically, they looked at me and saw this plague of difference. I dealt with the labels I was given: the girl with lice, Head and Shoulders, greaser.  I learned not to expect the words I secretly wanted to hear: beautiful, radiant, gorgeous or even a simple, “you’re pretty.”

I just wish for the life of me that I could pin point exactly when I learned what constitutes beauty and how I came to dispel it from my reach.I look back on that young girl who was constantly etching equations in her diary and I cannot help but grow somber. I think about the tears that came from the harsh words of my peers and how with each joke and ridicule caused me to sink deeper into myself, more ashamed and more worthless.

I am still quite taken aback by the word “beautiful” and the power it seemingly holds. I think it is a dangerous word. I think it falls into hands in this society that delegate who really should have it. I think we all deserve it, not just when we get dressed up or when our parents pay us a compliment, I think we deserve it no matter what. With or without makeup. With or without losing 10 pounds.

Check out OperationBeautiful.com

We all know how easy it is to brush off that statement, “You are beautiful on the inside and that is all that counts.” It may be true but there is a magazine sitting next to me with a size 2 model on the cover who begs to differ. There are products on the market that I should be using, new applications of makeup that I should be trying. Beautiful is an industry that I tend to see as ugly.

It gets ugly when we forget to value ourselves, when we let our flaws become our most accentuated attributes. When we stare in the mirror and only see our blackheads or wish we could have better hair. Then we forget our inner workings, what really matters at the end of the day. Last weekend I saw a young girl in a circle with her peers grabbing at the baby fat on her hips, saying, “I am SO fat.” I wanted so badly to walk up to her, to tell her she was beautiful, to tell her not to waste her time with negative thoughts and to not put down her own best friend: herself. This coming from a girl who, as her mother ripped out the chunks of built up skin from her scalp, ripped out her own hopes of ever coming to life. Allowing ourselves to just be beautiful is easier said than done.

But I do think inner beauty is what we need to find at the end of the day; it is the only way to cling to something true inside of ourselves. What constitutes as “beautiful” or “desirable” is ever shifting and changing. We can beat ourselves up over trying but we won’t ever emerge as winners. And if we rely on other people to tell us that we are pretty or gorgeous then how do we cope when they are taken from the equation and we are left with only ourselves.

A friend of mine always laughs at me when I make a joke of standing in front of the mirror and giving yourself a giant hug. It sounds absolutely ridiculous and you don’t legitimately have to grip yourself in a bear hug fashion, but the takeaway is the idea of accepting yourself on a daily basis. It’s saying, “you know, I am going to have have Psoriasis for the rest of my life so I best learn to deal with it,” or “This is my size and these are my hips and this is what a curvy woman looks like.” There are a million different statements in each one of us, a billion proclamations of truth. But beauty to me, true beauty, no longer resides on a billboard or on page 76 of a magazine.

Beauty is no longer something I treat as a complicated math equation but rather a love letter; a love for my legs, for they help me to walk, a love for my eyes, for they help me to see, a love for my mouth, for it allows me to speak my thoughts, a love for these fingers, because through them I reach all of you, a love for my smile, because it holds immense power to brighten a room, and a love for myself, because I am unique and independent and oh yes, I am beautiful.

How do you define beauty?

31 thoughts on “3x + 5b – 6(10z)= True Beauty?

  1. I am admittedly terrible about the way I talk to myself. I am known for making jokes about being fat, etc. I wish it was different. Still, I love the Audrey Hepburn quote, “The happiest girls are the prettiest girls.” So, I’m trying to start there.

  2. “Allowing ourselves to just be beautiful is easier said than done.” Soooo true. Thinking rationally, the word “beautiful” means the same to me as it’s come to mean to you, but sometimes, it’s so hard to actually believe it for myself. Sometimes I don’t feel beautiful when I know I should…

    On another note, I love Operation Beautiful. I’ve been a follower of Caitlin’s blogs for a while now, and the concept she created was so simple yet so ingenious and powerful.

    1. Hi Samantha:

      I just found Operation Beautiful and I think it is so great! I plan to leave some post-it notes around sometime soon.

      But I am in the same boat as you girl, I feel like I should wake up every single day and just feel beautiful but some days it just is not happening.. I think it is something that we all struggle with.


      Hannah Katy

  3. Hannah this is so beautifully written! I’m sorry you went through that as a child. I can only imagine how difficult that must have been. But you are truly inspiring and I admire you SO much!

    1. So good to hear from you Mara! It was definitely difficult but I have learned so much from it, and it really allowed me to define my own standards of beauty. So for that I am eternally grateful.


      Hannah Katy

  4. Oh darling Hannah –

    My favorite line, “I think we all deserve it (to be called beautiful), not just when we get dressed up or when our parents pay us a compliment, I think we deserve it no matter what. With or without makeup. With or without losing 10 pounds.” That is exactly how I feel – and that was such a hard practice for me to put in place in reference to myself.

    I used to be very self-deprecating, and still am some of the time, and it’s amazing how damaging that “self-defense” mechanism is. I can’t tell you how many time I hurt myself more than anyone else ever could have. It’s an ugly habit, one that I try to break every day.

    And not to sound too cheesy, but you – your life, your words, your dreams, your smile, your wisdom, your everything – are true to the definition of beauty.

    You are beautiful – and thank you for sharing it with us 🙂

    All my best,

    1. Carolina:

      I cannot thank you enough for this comment. I am literally welling up just reading that last part, it means the world to hear that from you.

      And you certainly deserve the same compliment right back lady. I have loved so much getting to know you through your words and your experiences. You are such an inspiration to me.

      And I always here for you if you ever want to chat love.


      Hannah Katy

  5. Hannah,

    I agree – you ARE the definition of beauty. “It gets ugly when we forget to value ourselves, when we let our flaws become our most accentuated attributes. ” That hit home with me so hard because it’s so easy to slip into that pattern of allowing ourselves to be defined by the first things we “see” when we look in the mirror, by everything we wish we could change because “society” tells us it’s not beautiful. I think this is something far too many of us struggle with far too often – thank you for being the voice of wisdom and truth 🙂

    1. Thank you Emily! You never fail to brighten my day love. And I totally agree with you, I think it is horrible how society’s image of beauty can make us think less of ourselves. Have you seen Jessica Simpson’s show? I have to admit that I like it and she brings out a really good point by visiting all these different cultures and talking to them about their standards of beauty. I have learned so much from it, which I was not expecting.


      Hannah Katy

  6. This is wonderful!! Thank you so much for sharing. And for making me think, as always. It’s something that has been on my mind for a while now, this notion of beauty, and what it is. To me, beauty is accepting yourself. It’s learning to love yourself, as you said, because the minute you begin to do that it shows on the outside. It creates a glow that is more beautiful than any bronzer could offer. ❤

    1. “It creates a glow that is more beautiful than any bronzer could offer.” I love this Lisa! Love love love. But you are right, it so true… Nothing beats a smile, thats what I genuinely believe. Joy is a girl’s best cosmetic.


      Hannah Katy

  7. Wow this was an awesome post that was also very moving. People have lost control of themselves. The media and propaganda doesn’t help. I really hope more people find and focus on what makes THEM beautiful and stop comparing themselves to other people and especially to the airbrushed & photoshopped models.

    1. It really is a shame when the media grips us… And then what happens when it does not let go? We become obsessed.. Look what happened to poor Heidi from the Hills… I look at her and grow sad, she was so beautiful before all that plastic surgery… Thanks for the comment!


      Hannah Katy

  8. What is beauty? I think it can be as simple as a smile. I think people who smile are beautiful, people who embrace what a smile truly means are beautiful. It’s not about facial features or clothes, or the numbers on the scale or the freckles on your back. It’s about being a happy, shiny person.

    (I have a good friend with psoriasis. I don’t know that she had to do some of things you had to do, but I know she’s struggled with it all her life, since it’s especially bad on her arms and legs and we know how cruel middle & high school students can be.)

    Beautiful post, as always!

    1. Thank you Nora. Throughout middle school my psoriasis was the worst, hence the scalp treatment. But I do know a lot of people who have developed it on their elbows and legs.. Thankfully dermatology has made such strides in medication and I no longer have to deal with it on a daily basis.


      Hannah Katy

  9. Such a lovely post, Hannah. I’d never heard of this “Operation Beautiful” cause, but I’m thoroughly intrigued!!

    I think the beauty of beauty is that it truly is defined individually. And so long as we are comfortable and confident in our own, unique definition, nothing else matters.

    1. Right with you on that. And I just discovered the Operation Beautiful initiative and I think it is remarkable. What a simple but profound way to brighten someone’s day and get the wheels in their brain turning…


      Hannah Katy

  10. Thanks for coming to visit my blog. 🙂 I loved this post a lot. You are beautiful inside and out and I commend your efforts to help others believe the same about themselves.

    Regards… H.

  11. I’ll admit I have my good days and my bad days, and most of the time my bad days outweigh my good days. I don’t normally view myself as beautiful but constantly say to myself, “Well, I’m not UGLY!”

    I have major, major confidence issues and it’s funny you wrote this post because I was thinking about starting to talk about it on my blog. I want to break out of this confidence shell and view myself as beautiful, even if I’m not classically gorgeous or model-thin, but because of who I am on the inside.

    Yet again, your writing astounds me. Love, love, love.

    1. Stephany:

      I was inspired to write on the topic by Lisa, she opened up and I took the lead to do the same. I definitely think it is an inner struggle, one that I still face all the time as well. But I think you are quite beautiful lady!


      Hannah Katy

  12. Hey Hannah! Love your name and loved this post. Thanks for the comment on my blog earlier. My last name is Brescher..I saw yours is very CLOSE! One letter difference. Anyway, I’m pretty new at this whole blogging thing, but pretty excited. Can’t wait to see it blossom as I go.

    Keep being beautiful!

    Hannah B

    1. That is very freaky. Mine is Brencher… Kinda crazy. And good luck with the blogging! It is a lot of fun and a great experience. I have loved every second of it.

      You keep being beautiful as well!


      Hannah Katy

  13. i did not rip things from your head i recall massaging the medicine in and gently picking through your scalp it was a long grueling process i remember having tears in my eyes for you love your mom

  14. What a wonderful reminder to all of us who fall into that trap of thinking beauty is this defined, unchanging, impossible-to-obtain thing. Thank you!

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