Broken Girl Behind the Airbrushed Smile
“We are all broken, that’s how the light gets in.” ~ Ernest Hemingway
I buried this calendar in a storage box long ago, too ashamed to share the truth behind its airbrushed illusion. But, more and more, I’m reminded how swiftly attacks on one’s character can escalate to levels that elicit rash, unthinkable decisions. If revealing my public humiliation and personal meltdown could help even one person — I’d be a petty coward not to do so…
💔 💔 💔
In the spring of 1987, I was honored to represent my sorority competing in Pi Kappa Alpha’s annual calendar contest to raise money for United Way. What should have been a highlight of my college days would soon turn my little world upside-down.
The contest was at the end of my junior year, and this photograph was taken shortly thereafter. The photographer creatively captured various settings and wardrobe swaps. Perusing the proofs, we agreed the best shot was one of me leaning against a white picket fence, long dress billowing in the breeze. But the ultimate selection was not ours to make.
I returned senior year to this surprise cover. Not my choice — but I was proud to be part of such a great cause. I attended all the PR events, signing calendars and whatever else I could do to support the PIKE’s wonderful philanthropy.
And then it happened: I became the poster child for the date rape problem we were having at the university. Our campus newspaper featured my “suggestive pose” above a female journalist’s scathing article. This quickly morphed into a free-for-all forum, prompting a seemingly inexhaustible rant from those who disliked the Greek System. Their harsh criticisms grew more derogatory with each passing week.
Making matters worse, I’d been elected pledge trainer that year, which meant promoting academics, philanthropy, and — yes — code of conduct to our newest sorority members. As my good reputation was being ambushed, I stood week after week in front of girls who must have wondered who the hell I was to lecture them on morals. Walking around campus, I’d hear snickers and see people point and whisper. Suffice to say, I became quite crafty at fabricating excuses to hide in my room.
Stress ravaged my exterior to match the ugliness brewing within. My hair fell out, and my face erupted. People I’d never met had decided I was a promiscuous tramp perpetrating a deplorable issue — and in my silent suffering I relinquished the keys to my soul. I felt irrevocably tarnished, sinking into a pit so vast the surface was no longer visible. I deferred final exams, returning to my parent’s house prematurely for Christmas break.
But how did the girl who appeared to “have-it-all” explain my torment to anyone?? I was surely a trite fool with zero excuse for being depressed. Shame engulfed me. This girl was down for the count but mortified to ask for help, fearful of disappointing those who believed I had my act together. Stubborn pride made escape seem the only viable option.
Fortunately, a force more powerful than my ego swooped in that dark day — something I still struggle to adequately verbalize — and saved me from my utter hopelessness…
In hindsight, I have nothing but gratitude for those who drop-kicked me out of my superficial existence. Because of them, I boldly reject careless judgments, unfair generalizations, negativity, and hearsay. Because of them, my life has been enriched by countless genuine, upbeat, supportive, humble, loving souls I may have otherwise failed to fully appreciate. Because of them, I can spot pain behind the cheeriest smile. And I will forever defend the downtrodden and voiceless, breaking my arm if that’s what it takes to hoist another upward.
So, for those convinced you’ve fallen so low you’ll never claw your way out, I say this: Get help now!!! Talk to someone — anyone! There’s absolutely no shame in admitting your load is too darn heavy, and so many of us are right here, eager to help. But don’t you dare allow a misguided few to define you. You’re far too powerful and wise to be caged in their pathetic traps.
The good and decent people in this world love you!
💞I love you!!!💞
And the story of your irreplaceable soul has untold chapters remaining…
“Place your hand over your heart
Can you feel it?
That is called purpose
You’re alive for a reason
So don’t ever give up”
Oh, Shauna, I have tears and I am covered in goosebumps. Your story had my Heart up in my throat. How this world judges is horrible, just horrible. Yet, out of your pain and incredibly nigthmarish experience, grew Compassion and Love for others. How I see this in you, and my tears are now smiling though a huge smile. In order to understand, and I mean really understand, another’s pain, we ourselves have to live it. You are SO brave to post this!!! I mean that! HUGE (((HUGS))) Amy ❤
I have been blessed with so many earth angels — like YOU! Not sure what I did to deserve such fortune, but I will always be grateful. Indeed, the world can be a cruel, cutting place — and yet, there are many more kind, loving, supportive souls to balance out the one’s carrying such anguish in their own hearts that they recklessly lash out at and belittle others. I have nothing but sympathy for them…Thank you Dear Amy for sharing your generous spirit and love with me!!!
Aw, Shauna, you truly are putting tears in my eyes. I am the fortunate one who has crossed paths with you. It is people like you who have made all the negative hurtful experiences into only a bad dream that is now fading away. To be accepted for me, to be “seen” for who I AM, is the Greatest Gift to me. Some day I shall relocate to a place where the energy is much lighter and the people are more on my wave length. The locality of where I live has so much dense energy yet lately, and I rejoice for this, my path has been crossing with truly delightful souls. Bless YOU for being in my Life. You are one of those who I hope to meet in person one day. Your light and your energy is like drinking champagne … all fuzzy and full of LIFE. (((HUGS))) Amy ❤
You followed exactly what the unknown quote stated, You braved through the tough brutal world that you were exposed to and came out strong in the end, You are an inspiration to all that read this post. ❤
Your gracious words are so appreciated. I never thought I’d find the courage to share this and sincerely hope it does inspire and lighten the load for anyone suffering in any way out there. Thank you for your kind visit!!!
Thank YOU for sharing this story and inspiring all of us today, Have an awesome day / evening ahead 🙂
I love the way you’ve narrated the story. Using your pain and triumph to inspire and edify others. Bravo! A banana that will get ripe will do even if put in water. Ours is a world of all kinds of people. Those who want the good of others and those who have PhD , Pull Him Down for everyone they see shining. Keep shining Luggage Lady!
Hard to express how honored I am by your continuous and uplifting presence. Just knowing you’re out there (albeit a loooong way from me) shining your own brilliant light is oh-so-comforting. Thanks for being a man of such inspiring integrity!
Sweet words from a sweet lady sweeten my heart, thus making it sweet.
I think I understand a little better how you have become the compassionate person you are. How sad but true that compassion often develops from adversity. I think you were so unfairly treated. You had nothing to be ashamed of and I wish it wasn’t so difficult for women to enjoy their beauty and sexuality without fear, shame or judgement.
Every time I’m lucky enough to see your beautiful face here, I know I’m going to find positive, intelligent, heartfelt commentary. Thank you, Chia for being a lovely soul in every way!!!
Yay…good for you for overcoming such a challenge and turning into something positive! You should be proud of your contribution in helping bring awareness and needed attention to such an important issue-even if it didn’t come out exactly how you might have intended or wished it to. And it’s a beautiful photo, by the way. No need at all for any shame there!
You GO, girl…
My Treasured Stargazer, YOU are such an ideal example of the genuine, humble, supportive, loving souls I write about — AND precisely what I want others who are struggling to shift their focus toward. I cringe to imagine, in this age of social media, how swiftly negativity could consume a person. BUT the perpetrators are the miserable ones — if only we can remember that — & have compassion for how lost and confused they are — rather than taking it personally. Easy for me to say at this ripe old age, I realize, but oh-so true!!!!!
Thank you for your sweet LOVE — coming right back to you…
Dearest Shauna. My, how you shine! I admire you, your courage, compassion and joy. I know your story will help many others. You are an inspiration and model for me. I’m grateful to know you and hope that I can LIVE my values as you do. Giant hugs and kudos my friend.
This is the post I’m certain I would never have published without YOU. Each week, you somehow manage to find collections of uplifting stories that speak to and inspire me on so many different levels. In between, you courageously share your ow story and personal challenges. You’re a blessing to this world, Brad, and I’m elated to call you friend!!
Wow Shauna. Thank you for your kind and empowering words. ❤ I'm awed that I might have contributed in any way to you sharing this story. I am most grateful to know you. Maybe one day in person. 🙂
Dearest Shauna, As sorry I am for your pain, I am ever inspired and heartened by your tremendous grace! Truly. Like your other readers, I am inexpressibly grateful for your courage, compassion, generosity, radiance. Thank you so much for burnishing this world, and my world, with your boundless spirit. You have helped me more than you will ever know. Hugs and love….
Hello Earth Angel…How do I properly thank a woman who puts the ‘A’ in authentic and the ‘G’ in grit? A divine soul who has walked so much of this crazy blogging journey alongside me? An enormous heart who presses me to stick with it and move forward to a new day, while setting an admirable example through her own struggles and successes? Impossible to do so adequately — but here’s a start:
Thank you Dear Chloe for the role model that you are and the tireless supportive love you give to me and the world. We are truly in this together, and I thank all the powers that be for sending me the gift of your beautiful friendship!! xoxo
Ya know, Julie Cook frequently leaves me speechless and stunned, and now you’ve done it! This is such a stellar opening of the heart and revelation of a deep hurt that it defies adequate words to praise it. I hate that that happened to you, but as you said we don’t have to let such things define us. I’ve always said that I will not be defined by what has hurt me or brought me down to my knees. In the end those things have only made me stronger and more determined to rise above them and they have opened wells of grace and compassion in my heart and soul. Shauna, this is such a moving story and I thank you for the courage it took to tell it. I pray there are many who it will encourage and bless. A teacher did something that hurt me deeply and embarrased me in front of a whole hallway full of other 8th graders. As a result I carried bitter feelings about her and the incident for a long time. It finally took a mentor to teach me about forgiveness, that it doesn’t excuse the wrong nor the perpetrator, but it does set us free and stops the incident from hurting us over and over again. The woman was ignorant and unwise and I let that make a difference in my life for a long time. But ya know what, as much as I hated what she did and as much as it hurt me, it made me a far better teacher than I might have been otherwise. So whose to say that that which tries to break us does not in fact have the opposite affect. Love and hugs, Natalie 🙂 ❤
Thank you so very much for your continuous loving support and unbelievable kindness, Natalie. And for sharing your painful experience. I’m betting everyone out there has endured hurt at some stage in their lives — hurt that feels insurmountable at the time. Although I’m a firm believer in Eleanor Roosevelt’s quote: “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent,” we are all only human. But doggone it — she was spot on! And what a valuable and empowering sentence that is to say to oneself in a moment when another is treating you with disrespect or unleashing a lifetime of anger/unhappiness. For a long time now, whenever I find myself a target of such behavior, I pour out as much compassion as I can muster. It’s so easy to get offended, but that simply sucks the life out of me, and the alternative — spreading kindness, even if just a quick word and smile before dashing away, lightens my heart and fills it with joy rather than animosity. It’s a conscious choice I make every single day…Sending blessings, love, & hugs right back to you my luminous friend!!
I try to do the same thing, Shauna. I love making people smile who really don’t want to smile or those who might judge me to be other than I am. I’ll not waste another minute of my life being angry or hateful. When the Lord gave me back my life after my stroke nearly three years ago, I vowed never to take anything for granted and to be a blessing whenever and wherever I could. So it is my honor to be your friend, and friends are meant to keep each other lifted up. Now, I should have said this last time. Shauna you are a beautiful woman and that photograph of you was stunning.
My guess is that much of the grief that was thrown at you about it had ever so much more to do with jealousy than anything else. There’s not many women out there who wouldn’t love to have that beautiful face, that beautiful smile, and that beautiful body. I know I certainly would have. Thank you for being such a lovely and loving visitor in my world. Love and hugs, N 🙂 ❤
Not broken – cracked…and that was where the light gets in. Blessings 🙂
I love that!! Thank you for the gracious edit and uplifting reminder — and for taking your precious time to stop by and read this. Blessings to you as well 💞
This posting was an excellent reminder to see beyond the surface of things. How frequently we project all sorts of things upon others, only to learn later, the story that existed behind the scenes. Excellent posting.
Amen! I’m sad to admit that — even after my experience — I’ve been guilty of doing this from time to time. I always feel awful in retrospect. I read the perfect quote from Dr. Wayne Dyer just this morning that said ” When you judge another, you do not define them, you define yourself.” What a brilliant man!! Thanks, Kimberly, for always taking your time to offer such respectful insight.
Reading your story I’m overwhelmed with grieve for those who are put in this same situation, but joy in the fact that you have shown them there is a way to benefit and learn from your cercumstances. You are an inspiration to others.
Thanks for making what we do here on WordPress all worthwhile. Each time I meet another loving soul here, it reinforces my faith in humanity. We are truly a fabulous bunch if we take the time to connect in a meaningful way. Thanks for your kindness — and for finding me! Look forward to reading more of your work!!!
Likewise, hugs coming at ya.
It’s no wonder I always come back here. I can read beautiful poetry all night long without blinking an eye and then come across a post such as this one and wonder what in the world just moved me. Thank-you so much for sharing a part of yourself.
Gulp. Blink, blink. My greatest fortune in life has been amazing souls like you, who give and give and give — oh-so-freely of your heart! Thank you.
The experience, like all of ours, has shaped who you are today and that person is awesome. Certainly it would be better if you didn’t have to go through that to get here and I wish I could have helped you during those tough times.
You’re too thoughtful, Dear Joe!!! I can’t imagine enduring this today — particularly in the current social media frenzy — but wanted to write it for those with precious children coming up in this age. “Hold them closely,” I want to holler — but something tells me, in your case, I have nothing to worry about!!! xoxo
It is so sad these things happened to you, and still happen today. I’m sure sharing your experience will help someone who is feeling life is slipping out of their hands. You have become such a beacon of compassion, inspiration and love, Shauna! XOXO
Thank you ever and always, Dear Tiny. Sadly, with today’s social media frenzy, the hurt that can be unleashed upon another is tenfold — and then some! I cannot imagine…
I pray for those heartless souls whose lives are so empty they feel the need to tear another down. What an awful place they must be in to stoop so low!! But mostly, I pray that my experience will ease the anguish of those beautiful, innocent, wonderful souls suffering in even the smallest way. Love & Hugs to you!
That is wonderful, Shauna. I believe people who inflict such pain on others are themselves victims of their own limitations, pain and fear – empty, disconnected souls, as you say. many hugs to you too ❤
Ohhh Shauna, I just came across your blog and this post. Even though this calendar was produced 27-28 years ago, I can still sense the hurt, pain and devastation through your powerfully articulated words.
Our reputations are one of the most important things we have. It defines who we are. When it is wrongfully destroyed, I can’t even imagine what it must be like. I am so, so sorry you had to go through this.
Such a reminder and lesson to all of us, about judging others, with surface information.
Thank you for sharing from the depths of your heart. I can feel your genuineness and compassion. You are a beautiful human being. So glad I found my way here.
My Dearest Carl,
What a lovely treat to find your generous and loving comment awaiting me today. My lingering anguish is more in defense of those currently enduring similar circumstances. While there are certainly a plethora of amazing souls (like you!) out there — sadly — there will always be a miserable sector with nothing better to invest their unfulfilled lives in beyond tearing others down. Add to that the advent of social media — sure it connects us in many positive ways (like here!) — but it also provides a far-reaching outlet for negativity and harm. I’m truly grateful the internet did not exist when I was coming of age!!!!
Enough of that already! So, so happy you found me! I will be exploring your blog very soon. I’ve already discovered a divine quote from your “about” page:
“The important people in our lives leave imprints. They may stay or go in the physical realm, but they are always there in your heart, because they helped form your heart. There’s no getting over that” ~Rachael Cohn~
Thank YOU for taking your precious time to visit, for leading me to you, and for your astounding kindness!
My absolute pleasure Shauna, and yeah I do agree. Am so glad there was no social media when I was in my late teens and early 20’s. Had such a low self esteem those days.
Please take care! 🙂
I’m so sorry you were ambushed this way!! I get it…I get exactly how it happened. The thing is that going through that difficult time is one of the things that have made you the beautiful soul you are!!
Seeing your lovely face and reading your gracious words put a big smile in my heart! Thank you Dear Lorrie. I must apologize for my delayed reply as I’ve been off the grid, traveling for nearly a month throughout Turkey, Israel, Egypt, & Greece — look forward to catching up… 💕
Ah! Smiles in hearts…it’s a wonderful thing 🙂 🙂 No apologies necessary…I hope some of your travels were fun & relaxing! Have a blessed weekend ♡
Thank you for sharing this story. I love the way you conclude this post. It is so encouraging. Really like the quote at the end.