When a Pretty Girl Burns Her Face

Beauty is weird.

Beauty is associated with value. Like if you’re not beautiful, you somehow lack value. And on the flip side, if you are beautiful, you can’t openly say that or you’re conceited. So you have to try really hard to be beautiful, all the while pretending you hadn’t noticed.

It doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.

And speaking of things that don’t make sense, people will go to insane lengths to feel beautiful. They’ll spend thousands of dollars. They’ll literally have someone cut on them in an operating room to change how they look. They’ll buy all the most expensive creams and clothes. Just to feel like others find them beautiful.

But at the end of the day, isn’t it just like wrapping paper?

Gifts are given in beautifully wrapped packages. But, when you get that beautiful gift, all you want to know is what’s on the inside. The same goes with a person, really.

Have you ever met someone and thought they were gorgeous? But as you talked to them and got to know them, they turned less and less attractive? Or you meet someone and think they look okay, but as you get to know them, you find them more and more attractive?

Beauty is the shiny wrapping paper. But you have to have something good under it, or it’s useless.

Many people, including myself, have been known to judge a person based on appearance. You’re judged for how you look. You judge others for how they look. It’s freakishly normal.

I haven’t felt like a beautiful woman most of my life.

To be clear, I haven’t felt ugly either. Just sort of middle ground-ish. I’ve been told I’m beautiful. But I’m what you’d call a late bloomer.

At high school graduation, I looked like I was graduating middle school. I was soft, round, young. REALLY young. Not in age, but in appearance. I was incredibly shy and insecure.

I often felt compared to my pretty friends, and the many gorgeous women in my family (most notably my mom and sister). I felt compared to them too. Like I was being lined up next to them, and fell short.

This led to many years of feeling self conscious. I’ve been alive over 30 years, and still found myself struggling with it.

For the most part, I was getting a handle on it. I was growing into myself. I felt as if I was aging well, and actually like I was getting prettier as I got older.

But that old part of me, the part that felt as if I didn’t measure up, was still hanging on in the background.

Growing up in a family full of beautiful women, a lot of value was placed on how you looked. And I mean a lot of value.

“Don’t cut your hair, you won’t look as good.” “Suck in your stomach during the day as you’re standing.”

My mom was extremely gorgeous. And she had no problem letting you know. And people treated her different because of it. Some better, some worse. But everywhere she went, someone commented on it. My friends would whisper “Wow! Your mom is sooo pretty!!”

That’s her, below.


As my mom has grown older, and her appearance has changed, she’s really struggled with it. She’s been angry. She’s been depressed.

She had her identity all tangled up in her appearance. She thought she was a “beautiful woman” and that’s it. That was who she was as a woman on this earth. So if she didn’t have her looks, what’d she have?

I could see it. I knew why it was so hard for her. It made my heart hurt for her. No amount of telling her she was still loved and she was more than that, would change her mind.

I couldn’t fix it for her. And I didn’t want that to be my story. I could see the pattern, I could see how important it had been my whole life. That’s why I’d had such a complex about it.

I’d reached a point where I could admit that I was pretty enough. Okay, maybe I still have a bit of a hard time owning that. But I wasn’t bad looking. I was in a place where I was learning to live in my own shoes. To feel as if I was measuring up okay.

There I am.


Then one day, God taught me a lesson. A big lesson. And like all lessons, I had to learn it the hard way.

I was cooking bacon to go with dinner. And I decided to save the bacon grease. I don’t usually do that. But a few people I know swear by cooking with bacon grease. So I carefully poured the grease into a jar in the sink.

It was sitting in the sink for about 10 minutes, and I needed to wash a dish. So I very carefully picked up the jar of bacon grease. There was a little grease dripping down the side, so I grabbed a paper towel to wipe it off.

I was moving slowly and carefully since I assumed it was still pretty hot. And it was. In fact, when I went to wipe the grease off the side, it burned my finger. And I jumped. Yes, I jumped.

What happened next was like an out of body experience. It was like it wasn’t even me. Careful Holly, could not have just jumped and splashed a jar of hot bacon grease on her face and chest. That can not have just happened.

I frantically stuck my face under cold water in the kitchen sink. I ripped my grease soaked shirt off. It was pressing against the skin of my chest. And when I wiped the water from my face, the skin came off in my hands.

With shaking hands, I called my husband. He took me to the Emergency Room. And to their credit, they got me right in. They cleaned me up the best they could and referred me to the burn center a few hours away. I had second degree burns on my face and chest.

This is what it looked like at that point:


Not too bad at first. Just some skin missing. But this was skin from my face. The face that up until this point in my life, I was told was VERY important. In fact, when I called my mom, her first question was “Will you be scarred?”

It wasn’t that she didn’t care. She loves me very much. But anytime anyone ever treated her like she was someone, was because she was beautiful. That’s her perception. And she desperately wanted her daughters to have any advantage they could.

Now, what was I thinking during all this? If you’d asked me to predict it, I would have guessed I’d be really worried about scarring and about how I would look for the rest of my life. And that thought did flash through my mind in those first few seconds in my kitchen with skin in my hands.

But on the way to the hospital, my mind surprised me. I was thinking how thankful I was it didn’t get my eyes. I remember thinking “If I’m going through this, it’s for a reason. And maybe it’s to teach me, there’s more to me than my face.” I wasn’t going to let this defeat me in any way. I’m more than my face.

If I was lucky, I wouldn’t be scarred, but if I was scarred, I was going to show the world it’s okay. I was going to be that positive person I always was and I was going to rise to shake the hand of this challenge. I knew deep in my heart, no matter what the outcome, I was going to be just fine.  Because I’m more than my face. I am MORE than my face.

Funny how it took bacon grease to get me to see that. All my life, growing up with beautiful women around me. All I ever wanted was to feel as beautiful as I thought they were. And here I am in this horrible freak moment, and I come to my truth, that I am more than my face. That deep down, I don’t really care if I’m beautiful. There is so much more to a person than that outer layer.

Even as the healing got uglier:

I didn’t waver in my confidence that all was as it should be. I walked into doctor’s appointments with my head held high. I did feel a little squeemish about showing so much of my chest. Normal shirts weren’t an option. I was rocking soft bras and a zip up sweatshirt.

But I had my head held high. I smiled at people as they stared. I couldn’t blame them for staring. I looked funny. I’m sure people couldn’t help but be curious.

Curiosity is natural. You know what else is natural? Getting older.

We’re all growing old. Even now, in this very moment, you’re older than you were, and you’ll keep getting older. There’s no going back. Your looks will change, good or bad. You’ll get wrinkles. You’ll get saggy. You’ll get old.

And yet, the world has come to view beauty with so much reverence and so much value. Despite the fact that it was never designed to last forever and says nothing about who we are as human beings. At the end of our lives, we are souls in a body. We aren’t bodies with a soul. We have it backwards.

I don’t expect to change many minds with this post. I don’t know that it would have changed mine. But I do know that my mind was changed that day. My perspective was changed that day.

I was lucky enough that I didn’t scar. I still get a little red, and I have to be careful in the sun, but my skin is good as new.

But while I look the same, I’m not. I’ve learned some pretty major things about myself. I know there are people out there that have gone through much harder things than this. People that have been faced with truly horrible, hard things.

If you’re one of those people, I hope you know you’re more than that outer shell too. I hope you can look at yourself in the mirror and say “I”m more than my face.” I hope you can smile at the people that stare.

Each and every one of us, is more than our faces. You are more than your face. And this world will tell you otherwise, in the form of stares, or comments, or the distance they put between you and them. If you let the world, it can make you feel less than. Less than someone else, less than what you think you should be. But I hope you’ll know better. You are exactly where you should be, looking exactly as you should. Not good, not bad, just a candle holder for the flame that resides within.

You are more than your face.


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2 thoughts on “When a Pretty Girl Burns Her Face”

  1. Oh my gosh!!!! Sweet sweet Holy I had no idea. Wow what a horrible experience. Your words about your moma I completely felt. Completely. I am in awe of your courage. You my dear are not only absolutely gorgeous on the inside but exceptionally beautiful on the outside. Wow! Big love!

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