(Photo Courtesy of David Kafer)
Q&A: Chloe Howard
By Sarah Komisky
Would you consider your deficit a strength? Chloe Howard certainly does. In fact, she’s taking inspiration to the next level by not only embracing her deficit, but using it for good. Born with a severe foot deformity, Chloe became a victim of assault and bullying in high school. However, after having the opportunity to meet U2 front man Bono, she was encouraged to find her voice and to use it to make her mark on the world. At this time, Chole began to work out her recovery and started sharing her overcomer story. In turn, the courageous speaker also penned a book entitled, “Stand Beautiful: A Story of Brokenness, Beauty & Embracing It All.” Now that’s what I call turning a negative into a positive and letting God turn brokenness into beauty! Today, the TedX speaker and Teen Vogue featured guest stopped by Marked Ministry to talk about her book, overcoming bullying, and what it means to embrace your beautiful. Take a look.
You managed to keep your faith in God even when life was far from easy or painless. What advice do you have for those who are struggling with their own faith? What about those who feel guilty for struggling with their faith in the face of difficulty?
Chloe: I would remind people of the truth of Acts 26:16; “Now get up and stand on your feet. I have appeared to you as a servant and as a witness of what you have seen and will see in me.” God has worked in your life and He will continue to do so in the future, so stand up out of the pain and confusion and brokenness and be confident in God’s plan for your life. Hebrews 11:1 says, “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for, and assurance about what we cannot see.” It’s so hard to be confident in the midst of Something Big and Confusing and Scary that God is in it; everyone struggles with that. But there’s truth in the Bible that says God never leaves you and that He knows every part of you – so stand firm in the reality that God is working in your life, and know that He will continue to show up in the future.
So many people say “accept yourself as you are.” What advice do you have for those who are unsure of HOW to accept themselves or uncertain as to what accepting themselves means? What does it mean to you?
Chloe: A couple years ago, I got the word “beautiful” tattooed on my deformed foot, and now, whenever I look down at my clubfoot, all I see is beauty. I’m reminded of God’s purpose, God’s plan, and God’s overwhelming love. Accepting yourself means acknowledging just that; the reality that God made you just the way He wanted you to be made. That our bodies are purposeful and hand-crafted proclamations of praise. And I get that “accept yourself” is a rather large and daunting task to try and achieve, so you just take it day by day. You have to – seeing yourself the way God sees you is a constant battle against our unforgiving society. Wake up every morning and choose to believe the truth that you are beautiful just the way you are. God didn’t make us to be perfect; He made us perfectly.
You experienced the cruelty children and teens are capable of. What advice do you have for children and teens today who are dealing with bullying? What about their parents? Their school administrators?
Chloe: To those that are being bullied or maybe even are the bullies: Only you have the power to determine what your labels are. You are not stuck as the victim, and you are not stuck with the “bully” identity. God looks down and names us as His children, which makes our identities not in what society tries to make of us, but in Him. As His. You are more than this; believe that there is more for you. God gives you the power and the courage to be resilient, so rise up and recognize your truest label as His.
To parents: Sometimes things happen that are out of our control. Kids fight and hurt each other and hurt themselves, and sometimes it happens in unexpected and unconventional and unseen ways that we are unable to stop before it’s too late. If this is your reality, know that you have done nothing wrong. It is not your fault. Although there are things you as parents are not going to be able to protect your children from, there are ways you can prepare them and prepare yourselves: Communicate with your children. Talk to them about bullying and suicide and isolation and pain. Do not shy away from hard topics, and acknowledge how real brokenness is in our world. Recognize when your child is isolating themselves from you and from their friends – I did this following my assault at age fourteen, but my parents sought after me and found me in my hurt and in my pain. They recognized I needed help, and they saw me. Most importantly is to listen; when going through something hard, all people want is to feel heard. Acknowledge the feelings your children have, and affirm them in their pain. It is only when we recognize brokenness that we can search for the beauty behind it.
To school administrators: Do not make the same mistakes those at my school made. Fight the pressure to maintain your school’s name and reputation, and please, please, please take time to acknowledge the pain that your students endure. You are heroes to your students, and have the power to do incredible things. Do not waste your role in their lives. Set an example of what it means to be an up-stander, and fight back against injustice on your campus. Every day at your school you have the capability to change the life of a single student – make that change a positive one.
Why did you decide to turn your story into a book? How do you hope people react to your book?
Chloe: I’ve always been a big reader, so when Zondervan approached with a two-book deal, I was incredibly honored! What excited me most about publishing my story is the hope that no one would have to feel as alone in what they were going through as I did after my assault. Although I was surrounded by an incredible group of family and friends, I felt extremely isolated in what I was going through. To have had a book published by a girl around my age – with a story similar to mine – would have changed everything for me. I want that for young people everywhere.
What advice do you have for other people who may want to share their stories but are unsure of how to do so or afraid to take that step?
Chloe: It’s scary. I was once asked if it’s hard to tell my story knowing that so many people can use it against me, and I’ll leave you with what I told him: I don’t know what the future holds, but I believe in a God who does. Just as the truth of Acts 26:16 reveals, God has worked in your life. So why not speak out about it? After all, this story was never ours; it has always been God’s. Let yourself be a disciple and spread the message – tell your story. Join the movement, and believe you are part of God’s plan.
How did you decide on the three action points of Stand Beautiful?
Chloe: While I do write out three action points to standing beautiful, at the root there is only one: be confident. In all aspects. Let confidence seep into every poart of your life: your relationships with others and with yourself, the way you view the world, and in your faith. Be confident that God is using you for His glory. Recognize that your world is bigger than this moment, and live in the beautiful reality that we love a God that doesn’t make mistakes. Be confident. You were made for this. You were made to Stand Beautiful.
Find out more about Chloe at beautiful.chloehoward.com