Woman Born with a Bone Disorder Fights Back with Selfies after Being Told She’s ‘Too Ugly’

Woman Born with a Bone Disorder Fights Back with Selfies after Being Told She’s ‘Too Ugly’

In 2019, an Illinois-based blogger named Melissa Blake went viral for putting up a unique fight against online trolls and bullies. [1] The 38-year-old journalist had written and posted a thought-provoking article about Donald Trump. When it was featured in a YouTube video, a lot of the audience weren’t interested in the article. They focused on Melissa’s appearance, dropping extremely heart-breaking and harsh comments all over her page.

Melissa was born with the Freeman-Sheldon syndrome, a rare congenital bone and muscle disorder that restricts movement in the hands and feet, also causing abnormalities of the head and face. [2] It affects 1 in 3,000 children and some of the physical abnormalities may be corrected by surgeries and therapy.

Melissa embraces her condition with her head held high, often reacting indifferently to people’s stares and comments. She’s lived her entire life being unfairly judged and underestimated because of her looks. However, the comments on that particular post struck a few deep nerves.

There were comments from people calling me ‘ugly’ and saying ‘she looks like a parade balloon,‘” Melissa told Newsbeat. [4]

Melissa says she was motivated to post her pictures when an especially horrifying comment hit the section. Someone said she should be banned from posting her pictures entirely. Melissa was hurt, but she decided to give them something to be really pissed about, and proceeded to post three of her selfies on Twitter.

A surprising turnout of positivity

Melissa was ready for the barrage of negative comments, only to be surprised by the complete opposite. Thousands of people flocked to her comment section with the most encouraging and positive words. While there were still a few bad eggs trolling her, the positive comments were so many that she barely noticed the harsh ones.

Since September 2019, Melissa’s post has garnered over 314,000 likes, 36,000 retweets and almost 10,000 comments. She went viral in a matter of days with credits to countless media channels and TV stations around the world. Melissa’s victory against the trolls was a victory for everyone who has ever been bullied because of the way they look.

I find this is something a lot of women who put themselves out there face — they are subject to visual attacks,” Mellissa said.

Melissa boasts a 14-year career as a journalist, a writer, and a positivity blogger. Although she’s been setting the bars for herself, Melissa explains that she’s used to not being taken seriously or given the same opportunity as others to prove herself. She’s developed a thick skin and a loud voice, but the hurtful words still get to her sometimes.

“I’d be lying if I said they didn’t bother me and it’s hard not to get down on yourself,” she said. “These people are just sitting at home hiding behind their keyboards. I don’t think they would say half of what they say on the internet to someone’s face.[4]

It costs nothing but means everything to be kind to people

Melissa started the #MyBestSelfie challenge on Twitter, encouraging her now 83,700 followers to share their selfies and write gentle, kind words to themselves. She hopes that people would finally begin to see disability for what it truly is: a state of existence and not a punishment. People with disabilities are not asking for normalized pity. All they want is inclusion, respect, and the dignity they deserve in society.

“I hope this starts a conversation about disability. What we consider beautiful is so narrow,” she said.

Melissa has not had an easy life so far, but she’s blatantly refused to be beaten down or be restricted in any way. She’s undergone 26 correctional surgeries over the course of her life to fix the contractures in her hands and knees and the scoliosis causing her spine to twist. 

She continues to move forward and make excellent strides for herself, changing the narrative about disabilities with her inspiring articles. To the trolls and cyberbullies, Melissa had a few parting words for them.

I hope my selfies help them see there is a human on the other side of the computer they’re insulting. I think it just goes back to treating people how you want to be treated. I know that sounds so simple and cliché, but I think it’s true,” she said.

Social media has severally been confirmed as one of the most powerful triggers of depression, self-hate, anxiety, isolation, self-harm and subsequently suicide. [3] Especially among the pre-adolescent and teenage populations, teasing people about their lives or appearance can destroy their mental wellbeing and leave them feeling empty. Social media is a way to stay connected to your family, friends, and the rest of the world, and it’s simply wrong to make it uncomfortable or scary for others to use the media.

It costs absolutely nothing to be kind to people. We must learn to refrain from thinking wicked thoughts about others, let alone typing or saying them. People are going through enough on their own without external opinions worsening their struggles.

If you’re out there and you’ve ever been bullied or shamed for your appearance, we want you to know that you’re truly perfect and special. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. There are over 7 billion people on earth but there’s only one YOU. You are SIGNIFICANT. You are LOVED.

References

  1. Writer with Disability Told She’s ‘Too Ugly’ on Twitter — and Then Fights Back with 3 Selfies.” People. Caitlin Keating. Retrieved August 2, 2020.
  2. Freeman Sheldon Syndrome.” Rare Diseases. Retrieved August 2, 2020.
  3. Social Media and Mental Health.Help Guide. Retrieved August 2, 2020.
  4. “Annabel Rackham for Newsbeat. Disability blogger: ‘Trolls said I was too ugly for selfies, so I hit back’.BBC. Retrieved August 2, 2020.
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