Last week, I got my head shaved at a St. Baldrick’s event. The idea behind the organization is to raise money for childhood cancer research. Many participants choose to get their heads shaved in order to show support for children and families affected by childhood cancer, and to raise awareness of the funding gap between childhood and adult cancer research.

I got up on stage to get my head shaved, not fully realizing what I was doing. I had finally found the perfect routine that made my hair look great every day. After years of struggling, I had found the magical ingredients that made my natural, bouncy curls stay all day. For years, my self-confidence has been wrapped up in my hair. If my hair didn’t cooperate, I felt like I couldn’t get through the day. I felt most beautiful when my hair looked good. It sounds crazy! I didn’t realize how much my self-image was related to my hair until it was all gone.

It wasn’t until a few days ago that I processed the magnitude of what I had done.

I raised $775 for childhood cancer research and have been showing support for people affected by childhood cancer, as well as raising awareness of the funding gap.

For the first time in my life, I feel beautiful.

Before this incredible change, I saw a pudgy body, unruly hair, and sharp features. I felt ugly. I walked down the street hoping that people didn’t see in me what I saw in myself—a fat, ugly, loud, annoying woman. I tried to disappear everywhere I went. It worked. Wherever I went, my existence went unnoticed. I was happy with this because I was afraid of what people would think of me, but it still hurt sometimes.

I’m ugly. Fat. Annoying. Bossy. I don’t deserve to love or be loved. I don’t deserve to live.

These are all thoughts that constantly swam through my head because I felt worthless. I couldn’t see what I see now.

I walk around with my head held high because I feel good. I feel good about raising money for research. I feel good about supporting friends and families near and dear to my heart. I look in the mirror and I see beaming brown eyes looking back at me. I feel more confident than ever. I am starting to understand that I am important, irreplaceable, and kind. I am beautiful and talented. I deserve happiness, love, and life.

I am beautiful and I am loved.

If someone had told me that a few weeks ago, I would have laughed in their face and said, “You’re kind, but you’re lying.” But they wouldn’t be lying, they would be right. I am beautiful and I am loved.

It’s crazy that it took shaving my head for me to understand this about myself, but I’m so incredibly thankful for my bald and beautiful head.

I hope you feel beautiful and loved, because you are. You are important, you are irreplaceable, you deserve to love and be loved, and you deserve to be happy.