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I would like to think that the challenges I have been faced with in my short life have molded me to be the person that I am today. One of my biggest challenges in life was being bullied, from middle school until the time that I graduated college. I’ve had my arm broken, been threatened, had coins thrown at my head, had gum put in my hair, had to switch buses and almost switched schools. I was told I was ugly and fat and not pretty enough to date my eighth grade crush – and having pimples, frizzy curly hair and braces certainly didn’t help my cause.

There is a general consensus when you go to art school, that we are all those weird kids in the back of the class that were picked on and made fun of in high school. However for me, I felt like I was in high school all over again with those same jocks and cheerleaders… only it was worse – it was the hipsters. Immediately I was out casted by most of my fellow classmates, once again being made fun of for the way that I dressed and the kind of music that I listened to. Then it went even further – brutally insulting my artwork for no reason, stealing my art supplies, ignoring anything I said during class time, writing Facebook posts making fun of me and harassing the few friends that I had managed to make. It eventually got to the point where I literally could not take it anymore. I was skipping classes to avoid them, and when I did go to class I would have panic attacks and even contemplated dropping out or trying to transfer to a different college. Finally, enough was enough. I had been bullied all my life and was so sick of people putting me down – and at this point the anti-bullying campaign for high schools was all over the news. I wasn’t running anymore, but I also wasn’t going to stoop to their level. That’s just not the kind of person that I am.

With the assistance of some fellow classmates, teachers and faculty members I was able to openly talk about what was going on with the authority figures at the college. I had them organize a meeting where I sat face to face with my bullies at a big round table – me and one other faculty member against five bullies. I took a deep breath and let it all go, confronting each and every person at the table one by one. They were all forced to apologize to me and were put on academic probation. The weeks following were very interesting and stressful. Was I now known as a “rat”?

As the weeks after the meeting started to unravel, things in school started to finally get easier. The whispering and funny looks stopped, the unnecessary snarky comments stopped, and they started responding to my questions and opinions in class. I got praise for my “bravery” from fellow classmates who have dealt with similar issues with the same group of people. I even got a heartfelt personal apology in the alleyway next to my school from one of the group members – I had no words other than to express how much I appreciated his apology.

After a whole childhood filled with being bullied and picked on, my self-esteem was completely non-existent. However I started noticing, once I finally was able to face the monsters on the outside, I could also face the ones that were on the inside. I was a beautiful person inside and out and I could never admit that before because I had too many other monsters telling me otherwise. Now a young adult, I feel confident. Confident in my looks, confident in my work, confident that the rest of my life may not be easier – but I know that I have found a way to push through and come out on the other side. I find myself smiling more in pictures, and laughing more with my friends. I only hope that many other girls and women can figure out a way to do the same with their own lives.

Don’t let anybody tell you that you aren’t beautiful.