Chloe Howard, 18, was born with a severe and atypical form of a common foot deformity called clubfoot. About one in every 1,000 babies is born with clubfoot. She underwent two extensive operations on her foot in California before her first birthday. After she and her family moved to Seattle, she underwent a final corrective surgery at Seattle Children’s. Throughout her childhood, she wore corrective casts and braces and spent countless hours in the hospital.
After being bullied and assaulted by her classmates in high school because of her deformity, Howard bravely decided to stand up and share her story in hopes that her words would inspire others to embrace their imperfections and end bullying. Today, she’s the author of the book “Stand Beautiful,” and is on a mission to redefine beauty. Below is her story and powerful message to others.
As I just graduated from high school, I find myself reflecting on my journey that has made me the Chloe Howard I am today.
I was born with a severe clubfoot, and have had five major surgeries throughout my life to help correct it. While we lived in Seattle, Dr. Vincent Mosca was my surgeon. When I was 3 years old, he performed one of the most important surgeries I’ve had in respect to my clubfoot. I fondly remember sitting in the cast room watching “Finding Nemo” as I was outfitted in my amazing pink casts. I remember going on ‘Daddy Daughter Dates’ to go to my foot check-ups, and I of course remember Dr. Mosca’s kind voice and amazing mustache.
My personal journey with my clubfoot was very positive until my freshman year. I believed I was beautifully and wonderfully made and felt that my difference made me unique. It was my super power. But, when I was 14, I was assaulted on my high school campus because of my clubfoot. I was restrained, and my sock and shoe were ripped off to expose my deformity. And in that moment, I for the first time, saw my foot as something negative. Ugly. Something worthy of being ashamed of. The year ended; I changed schools; the perpetrators were charged with a hate-crime and sentenced with misdemeanor battery. But I was broken, and I didn’t think I would ever feel anything but empty.
As I slowly began to heal, and was inspired to tell my story by one of my heroes – Bono, from the band U2 – I started to think about what it would mean to “stand beautiful,” to inspire people of all ages to embrace their uniqueness and boldly face their beautiful selves. I realized that the STAND Beautiful message was important and incredibly necessary. Everyone needed to know they were beautiful and special and worth so much. That they were made with purpose, and their situation was no accident.
In the darkest part of my journey, I found myself writing the world “beautiful” over the biggest scar on my clubfoot. I wrote it so often that I began to believe again that my foot was special; I slowly started to associate beauty with my deformity.
This past summer I got the word “beautiful” tattooed on my foot. And now, every time I look down at my deformed foot, all I see is beauty. All I see is strength, power and resilience. I look down at my little clubfoot and I am proud.
I want everyone to be able to feel that. To believe that whatever part of them society has deemed “imperfect” is beautiful and uniquely perfect.
To other patients like me, remember you are special. Nothing about you is an accident. You are so very loved, and many people believe in you. Believe the truth that you are beautiful and one of a kind. Life is bigger than just this moment, and it will get better.
And to their parents, know you are doing the right thing. Your job at this time is to believe in your children and love them, and I know you are fully equipped to do so. It might be scary right now, and I don’t know what the future holds, but believe in this moment that the world is beautiful. Although cliché, it’s true that there is always beauty to be found in brokenness. This time of loneliness, confusion and hardship will not last forever, and good will always triumph – even if not in the way we expect it.
I encourage others to fight the brokenness that at times can be so very overwhelming, and choose to believe the truth that you are beautiful just the way you are.
STAND Beautiful with me.