My name is Chloe Howard, and I am 18 years old. I’m also a bullying survivor.
I just graduated high school, and because of that have spent quite a bit of time reflecting on my life up until this point. A lot has happened, and it’s been really hard at times. But I’ve come to learn that God is faithful and has a plan for everyone; that He sees us in all our brokenness and calls us beautiful, even in our imperfection. I’ve realized that God doesn’t make mistakes, and that gives me hope for the future.
I wanted to share part of my story with you. It’s a story that changed my life. In some ways, it could be your story, or your child’s story, especially for those who may feel different or live with certain challenges. And even though it’s a story of great pain, it’s a story of great triumph. You can read it all in my new book “Stand Beautiful.” And feel free to contact me at www.standbeautiful.me.
I didn’t even have time to process what she said. Allie grabbed me from behind and wrapped her thin arms around my trunk. She was lean but strong. Squatting down, and straightening back up, she restrained and lifted me so Cece could take off my shoe and sweaty sock. My arms were stuck to my sides. I was fully and completely frozen. Immobilized. Without saying anything, I watched my little foot be uncovered and held up. My mouth was dry, my eyes weren’t blinking, I wasn’t really seeing or breathing. I could only stare straight at it.
Scars from four surgeries were exposed for inspection. Five toes, four of which are without toenails, became entertainment for others’ eyes. Some girls had their mouths open, staring at my foot like it was simultaneously the most interesting and disgusting thing in the world. All I could do was stare. It was like I was looking at my left foot with new eyes. I’d never seen it before in this light. And it was confusing. I looked at the scars from those four surgeries and the tight etchings in the skin they made, curling all over and distorting my previously innocent foot. I saw this foot and I wasn’t proud. I was
annoyed. Hurt. Betrayed by my own body.
When we got home, my mom had me write down, word for word, what happened and what everyone said. Later, when my dad got home from work, she had me repeat it to him again. All I really wanted was to check out and watch Netflix. I was exhausted. I had no idea what any of it meant. I had no idea what it would lead to; that it would come to completely consume me and my family.
I had no idea it would change my life.
It gives me hope every time I hear my crazy birth story. It gives me hope that God will continue to be with me, throughout anything and everything I’ll go through in life. Because if God could protect and save a growing little girl who couldn’t even feel yet, it meant He would be able to protect and save a big girl whose feelings could get in the way of her living. It gave me hope that if things in my life got crazy and confusing and people stopped showing up as support, God would stay with me. Because He stayed before I could even defend myself. How unstoppable would we be together, me and Him?
I was born with a clubfoot. I’ve had surgeries. Because of the surgeries, I’ve had and the pain I’ve
endured. And I can look back and clearly see that even though the surgeries have been hard, and my life hasn’t been the easiest, and I live with the constant pain and a desire to just fit in for once. When I recognize that I am not disabled but enabled, I say yes to God using the superpower He’s given me for good. And I’m able to embrace that superpower like no one’s business.
Despite being obviously different, and the pain it sometimes caused me, I didn’t grow up ashamed of my foot. For as long as I can remember, my parents told me that my foot made me special. And I believed them (because your parents are always right, duh). Honestly, growing up, I felt like I had a superpower—that there was something secret and unique about me that no one else had, that only I had the power to share with others. It was, in so many ways, my superpower.
I don’t know if you’ve ever experienced this—but maybe you have. The completely empty feeling of knowing that the people who do bad things get away with it. Or seemingly get away with it. There are people who play dirty, ditch friend groups, do anything they can to rise to the top of the high school hierarchy, and it works for them. Students cheat on tests, break the law, and somehow never get caught; it happens. It all does. And if we’re on the other side, we’re left feeling empty and alone and worthless. Like we did something wrong, we’ll never succeed by following the rules, like no one
sees our pain. We are the unseen. But that’s just what they try and tell us.
That’s not who we really are. We are seen by the eyes that really matter. God sees us and loves us—and, no, I didn’t realize that at the time. Few people do.
But I can see now that God is the King of justice. I’m not saying that karma’s a thing, because I don’t think it is, but I do believe that God doesn’t let people get away with their unjust actions. And it might not happen immediately, or within a couple years, or even in a way that we can see, but I truly believe that our God is one who makes things right. And I don’t have all the answers.
Actually, I have none of the answers. I can only tell you what I see and feel and believe in my heart, and I’m trusting that God doesn’t want bad things to triumph, so, ultimately, they don’t. And sometimes it isn’t necessarily about seeing those who wrong you or wrong others get punished—it’s about believing and knowing that we are seen and we are worth more. We are greater and stronger than those evil, unjust things that happen to us and around us every day. Because if we follow God’s Word, and trust God when He tells us He is our refuge and that He will never forsake us, we can have the assurance the
wrongs in this world will be overcome.
Taken from: Stand Beautiful: A Story of Brokenness, Beauty & Embracing It All. Copyright © 2018 by Chloe Howard. Published by Zondervan Publishers www.zondervan.com Used by Permission.
Chloe Howard is on a mission to empower people of all ages to embrace their uniqueness and boldly face their beautiful selves. Born with a foot deformity, Chloe had five major operations by the time she was 15. Through her hardships, Chloe learned that differences are unique, bullying needs to be stopped from the inside out, and worth is most valuable when it comes from within. Today, Chloe is the voice of Stand Beautiful, a movement promoting the acceptance of self and others. She has been featured on NPR, Teen Vogue, and was recently a TEDx Speaker. She has been the subject of two documentaries and toured internationally with CURE.org