Hey there, my name’s Beth!
I’m 20 years old and I study English BA at the University of Nottingham. I love going to the theatre and acting in my spare time. I also love to dance and enjoy taking my two golden retrievers on long walks over the fields near my house.
I am also proud to say that I was born with a unilateral cleft lip and palate and that I am cleft proud.
However, it’s taken me a long time to get to this point: I’ve struggled a lot with anxiety over the years and found it hard to accept myself for who I am. Internal self-image has been (without a doubt) the hardest part of growing up with a cleft. For years, I would put up a wall and show people a confident charade of ‘me’, whilst inside feeling nothing like the character I was pretending to be. I felt trapped and isolated by my cleft, and was so scared of being judged for the way I looked, not the person I really was.
However, I have recently started to see myself in a whole new light…
I know people say the way you look doesn’t matter, it’s what’s inside that counts, but this feels like quite a harmful way of looking at yourself and others. Yes, we should NEVER judge someone on their appearance, but to say it doesn’t matter means a clear part of someone doesn’t matter. To me, this feels wrong, especially in our world that places a lot (albeit far too much) focus on appearance.
As a proud cleftie, I say the way you look DOES matter!
Your appearance shows who you are, how you were born, what you’ve been through and how beautiful you are. Beauty is such a slippery social concept and it is often used incredibly negatively. Let’s redefine ‘beautiful’ – it is what YOU make it.
If you are a beautiful person, you will look beautiful inside AND out. Beauty is so often used to describe images that make others feel inadequate or ashamed – this surely should make them some of the ugliest pictures out there. I’m proud of my appearance, my scars and my differences. They show people who I am and what I’ve been through to become the stronger person I am today. Without my cleft, I wouldn’t have found my inner strength, self-love, self-acceptance and self-confidence.
Although I fought this idea for many years, being born with a cleft lip and palate has made me who I am today: someone who doesn’t judge others based on appearance, who’s compassionate to the struggles someone is going through and who looks for the positive even in the most ‘unfair’ of circumstances.
Looking different MATTERS, because looking different makes you BEAUTIFUL: be proud of who you are AND what you look like.
Please feel free to check out my full cleft journey (treatment timeline, psychology and general advice) at: https://bethsclap.wixsite.com/beths-clap.
Beth, 20, is a student studying English from the U.K. She was born with a unilateral cleft lip and palate.