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Certified Health Coach, Award Winning Author, Motivational Muse

I Was (Not) Born This Way

I love Lady Gaga. I love her anthem of individuality “Born This Way.”  I applaud anyone who can accept they way they are, be tolerant of others and accept them as they are.

I have a mother who believes in individuality. All my youth she preached to me the importance of being true to yourself and to think less about what you look like on the outside and more on who you are on the inside.

For years I did not listen. I thought I was ugly and wanted to do whatever I could to fix my looks and blend in. I had a long, awkward adolescence: bad skin, a bump on my nose, skinny, angular face and  tangled, unruly dishwater-color hair. Boys teased me and called me names.  I had lots of gal pals because I was smart, witty, non threatening in my looks and my parents looked the other way when we snuck beer into the house, made frozen daiquiries my the pool, and stayed up all night giggling and gossiping.

It took many, and often strange, dermatological treatments, coloring my hair, fixing my nose and developing a dancer’s physique to gain confidence about my looks by the time I was seventeen. I started getting dates and the teasing stopped. But I was still booted off the cheerleading squad at the local boys school for not being pretty enough (I was orginally voted on for my agility and rhythm). It was hurtful. 

To retaliate, I kept diaries, wrote for the local newspaper and kept up my dancing and workouts. I left Tennessee for good for college and then a career and focused on becoming a success: “I’ll show them some day!”

And I became a success. Built my own PR and events firm from scratch. Created amazing programs, made hundreds of contacts and defined myself by my achievments. But I went through another awkward stage pushing 40. I was dumped by a man who broke my heart and my self-confidence. So, I underwent another round of shots, surgeries and expensive treatments to sooth my spirit and freshen up my exterior. Then I set to work on my interior: taking on new clients, having international adventures and supporting various charities. It was an interior-exterior makeover.

I felt beautiful inside and out! And during that time, I fell in love with a great man, who didn’t steal my heart or my sense self-worth but instead gave me strength and support and unconditional love during the ups and downs of my life to come.

Cancer in 2009-2010 took away my breasts, my hair, my eyelashes, my eyebrows, my skin tone, and gave me fresh new scars. It was a study in being stripped bare physically and emotionally.   But by this point in my life I learned to focus inward on staying strong and resilient and outward on thinking about other people facing similar or different challenges and how to use my experience to help them. I learned to work around and through the physical challenges and used it as an opportunity to reboot myself.  My emotions were written down in a diary, unloaded onto pages, now on a shelf.

Today, I don’t look like the same person. On the outside I have new breasts, new, shorter and blonder hair and a smaller, more slender body. Inside, I am different as well: more tolerant of imperfections in myself and in others and less tolerant of people who are insensitive, rude and intolerant. My perspective has changed as has my definition of “achievement,” “beauty” and “perfection.”  

I was not “born this way.” I am one part original Melanie, one part medical intervention and one part new person, “Mighty Melanie.” I am “reborn this way.”

The definition of “born” is “to begin one’s life.”  We all have one true “life” but many ways to live it and to view ourselves in it. We can’t go backwards. But we can choose how we begin anew.

3 Comments
  1. A beautiful and inspiring perspective.

  2. I have known you for a number of years. All of those years I have admired you and respected you for all of your stamina, perseverance, and good nature. Even in the worst of times you always had a great outlook and disposition. I want to get to where you are both spiritually and emotionally. We all want an extra serving of “real”when we reach fifty. I hope by reading your blog I can get there without going through the frightening health issues you have faced and successfully beat! Thank you from the bottom of my heart for being my dear friend and the best example of human-kind I know, and for looking so hysterically funny on the back of an elephant! You rock Mel!

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