“Happy girls are the prettiest," is something Audrey Hepburn once said. I’ve seen this quote numerous times over the years. On posters, on t-shirts, on the Facebook pages of girls who have shared it. And each time I felt a pang of sadness and self-consciousness while reading it.
What does this quote really say? When I read it, I see more than one thing. I see “Be happy because you’ll be prettier.” I see “People who are unhappy are not pretty." I see “Depression is unattractive.”
Mental illness is not a stranger to me. Depression has dragged me under its heavy wing for months on end over the last 8 years. I have felt the pain of feeling like there is no way to escape your tortured mind. I have been smothered by that feeling night after night. Over the years, I’ve watched friends close to me struggle with depression. My beautiful friends, who have fought through so many things, and stand with bravery and strength, are some of the prettiest people I’ve seen.
As a teenager, when I first saw this quote, I thought to myself “Oh, but no matter how hard I try to be happy, it doesn’t work, so I guess I’ll never be one of those pretty girls.” It breaks my heart to think of any teenagers thinking this way right now. Depression is a monster. Depression doesn’t give you a CHOICE to be happy. When the chemicals in your brain are off, it is not your fault, and it certainly doesn’t make you ugly. Some of the most beautiful people I know are those who have known more pain than one person should endure, and are still standing tall. Some of the most beautiful people I know are those who fight the same demons every single day that leave them feeling exhausted and powerless, and wake up in the morning ready to fight them again.
So if you are one of those care-free, happy people, that’s amazing, and you’re beautiful. And if you’re fighting a deep battle with depression and can’t escape the darkness but still show your face to the world every day, you’re beautiful, and you’re a fighter with a story to tell. Just because you’re fighting a battle that others may not understand, it doesn’t take away from your beauty.
I prefer this quote by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross:
“The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths. These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern. Beautiful people do not just happen.”