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I used to hate my big ‘ol freckle face. I was chubby growing up, with a “basketball head” as I called it, and the freckles made it stand out even more. All I wanted as a child was to look like my friends. They were thin and knobby and tan and perfect. I felt like I stood out from them. My pale freckled body didn’t belong. My grandma always told me that freckles were angel kisses, but this didn’t make me hate them any less. Along with the freckles, I also had unruly eyebrows that my mom helped me pluck. It was painful, embarrassing, and I thought I was the only one who had to deal with the misery. I thought there was something wrong with me. I was picked on for looking different and it helped solidify in my mind that I was broken. At eight years old I would stare at myself in the mirror and cry because I felt so ugly.

As I grew up, I was lucky enough to be on the beginnings of the body-positivity movement. I started to occasionally see women with similar body types to me, and it made me realize I was too harsh on myself. There are women out there with stretch marks and cellulite just like me, including the girls I thought were “too skinny” for it. There was also a defining moment in my hatred of freckles that I experienced as a teenager. In an issue of Teen Vogue, I saw one of the prettiest girls ever, and she was covered with freckles. Her whole face was spotted and she even had a few on her lips, which struck me as totally magical. I cut out the picture and added it to my collection of fashion photos. It was the first time I thought freckles were beautiful and it was the first time I saw a model with distinctive freckles.

The movement to accept more types of beauty gained momentum and I started to notice that not only were some of my features accepted, they were the latest trends. The first style that came into vogue with my face was the bushy eyebrow look. I am “blessed” with naturally caterpillar-like brows. I know the pain of plucking one day and waking up the next day to a new crop of hairs. What was once a devastating problem, gradually turned into a nuisance, and now it’s a fashion trend. People used to tease me for my unibrow as a kid and now girls are telling me they’re jealous of my naturally thick and luscious brows. Seeing all the online tutorials of how to apply brow makeup and even seeing women go to the extreme of having hairs implanted into their eyebrows is a strange feeling. Something I hated about myself for so long is now desirable in the fashion world.

An even stranger feeling than my eyebrows being in style is waking up to an article saying fake freckles are the newest thing. I immediately searched for images of these fakes. I thought “Are there really women who want freckles bad enough to draw them on? Is my face really in style??” It was a mixed feeling of excitement, undeserved success, and confusion. I had come to terms with my freckles many years ago and had grown to love them, and now the fashion industry is loving them too.

Along with the feelings of happiness that my face was finally in style, I felt a tiny twinge of anger. I kept thinking about how much I suffered with these features growing up, and how overnight suddenly girls wanted to look like me. They didn’t have to deal with the teasing about freckles! They didn’t have anyone call them caterpillar face! But then I calmed down. I thought about all the other features women have felt ashamed of that have come in and out of style, and it seemed a bit silly. I was beautiful before my features came into style, and I will still be beautiful when they fade out of fashion.

The important thing to take away from these trends is that we are able to appreciate a much wider variety of looks than we have in the past. A photo of one model with freckles had enough impact to change my opinion of my own freckles. I finally started to see beauty in myself where I never had before. If we continue to celebrate different styles and appearances, young girls everywhere will be able to see themselves in fashion and on TV. The changing of trends and styles isn’t ever going to stop, but hopefully more women will get a chance to see their own style on a billboard someday. One image can help start the process of turning self-loathing into self-loving, and that can save a young girl years of unnecessary pain.

Kate McDonough is an illustrator and writer currently living in Mason City, Iowa. She creates a series of comics called Pretty, Pretty Ugly that focus on living with anxiety and trying to see the humor in awkward moments. With much practice, she has become an expert at laughing at herself and hopes to help others do the same. To see her comics please go here. To buy encouragement cards, comics and other fun things click here.

[Image via Warner Bros]