I’m not conventionally pretty.

This isn’t me looking for compliments or validation. I am simply stating a fact. People have had something to say about my appearance for as long as I can remember. Women would look at me with sympathy and tell me about miracle products that could ‘fix’ my uneven, often acne spotted, skin. “I told you her face looked like a plate,” someone typed on social media about me a few years back. During a Periscope for the podcast I’m a part of, a couple of trolls commented on my gummy smile and that my bottom teeth are crooked. Tell me something I don’t know, guys. I’ve heard it all before.

Then there’s the people who don’t say anything at all. The ones who fall all over themselves complimenting my gorgeous friends while telling me how funny I am. All of these things are true. My friends are gorgeous and I am funny. You see, from a fairly early age, I realized good looks were just something that wasn’t going to happen for me. So, instead of allowing other people to make fun of me, I beat them to the punch. I made fun of myself and in general made people laugh. People want to be around the pretty girls, but they also want to be around the funny ones.

Over the summer I saw the Amy Schumer flick I Feel Pretty. It would be the first of many times that I would watch that movie. When Renee said to the gorgeous girl from her spin class, “I always wondered what it would feel like to be undeniably pretty,” my heart broke. Because that’s exactly how I have always felt. From that point forward, I was captivated as I watched Renee’s journey through seeing herself as she always wanted, to realizing that the ‘magic’ she thought she was experiencing had lived inside her all along. In that theater, with my sides hurting from laugher and my eyes filled with tears, something in me shifted.

At 34 years of age, I finally saw something in myself I had never seen before: beauty. I felt pretty. But more than that, I realized I actually was pretty. I started to see some of my ‘flaws’ as pretty quirks instead of things that needed to be fixed. My gums may show when I smile, but it shows how happy I am. My smile is genuine and warm and full of love for those around me. My skin isn’t perfect but it’s healthy. And my crooked teeth are quirky and cute.

I stopped counting calories and started eating what is delicious but also what fuels my body and helps me to feel better. I began working out regularly so I could feel stronger and lessen some of my physical pain. I started listening to my body, respecting it, and appreciating it. I realized that beauty is so much more than how we look. It’s how our faces reflect our lives and our emotions.

Beauty is throwing your head back in laughter because you are so lost in the moment, you no longer think about what your smile looks like. Beauty is reflected in the lines that form on our faces when we are happy or heartbroken. Beauty is everything you are and everything you will ever be. Beauty doesn’t have an age, a race, a gender, or a number on a scale. It has a face and it’s the one that stares back at you when you look in the mirror. Beauty is timeless. Long after our bodies are one with the earth, our beauty will linger in the echoes of our smiles and the legacies we leave with the lives we touch. Beauty is realizing that someone else’s beauty doesn’t take away from your own. Your beauty is there just waiting on you to find her. She is patiently waiting for you to discover her, revel in her, and live with her. It just so happens that I met my beauty at an Amy Schumer movie. And honestly, that makes perfect sense.

People may try to tell us we aren’t pretty. They may try to hurt us by pointing out our flaws. The thing is, I already know what those are. Hell, I could probably even point out a few they missed. And it’s okay. I don’t need their validation to tell me what I am or what I’m capable of and neither do you.

I’m not conventionally pretty, but I’m beautiful. And so are you.