By Rebecca Drew
THIS STUNNING British teenager has embraced the disfigured hand she was born with as she hopes to inspire other youngsters to accept their insecurities after it left her struggling with self-hatred and depression for years.
Fashion and textiles student, Courtney Howes (18) from Dudley, UK, was born with only a thumb, index and little finger on her left hand, much to her parents’ surprise, and after her thumb didn’t grow a bone, her index finger was made into a thumb. During primary school, Courtney’s hand did not bother her, and she often joked about it herself and was confident with being different from her peers.
It wasn’t until she reached secondary school that things started to change for Courtney as more and more people would stare at her, ask her about her hand, and even poke it, she started to feel alienated from everyone else.
Courtney hid her hand for five-years in any way that she could; underneath long jackets and clothing or her school desk, conscious that people might have been looking at her. This insecurity grew into depression and left Courtney hating school and herself, controlling her life in every aspect.
Her turning point came when she joined college and she decided to make the most of her fresh start and be open about her hand, making a conscious effort not to cover it up. She hopes to help other children and teens to focus on their dreams without letting their insecurities get in the way.
“The journey has been a long one and it’s still not finished yet, but the most important thing is that I’m happy with it and have accepted it. The hardest part is getting out of the habit of hiding it,” said Courtney.
“I realised that my hand does look odd and funny, some people may laugh or stare, but I can’t do anything about it. That’s just the way I was born and I’m not going to spend my whole life hiding it or pursuing to get it ‘fixed’ or changed just because some people don’t like it.
“I’m very blessed to say I have little struggles with it, even though they aren’t too bad to deal with, sometimes it can be tough to cut meat or cut paper but those are small disadvantages.
“At this point in my life I’m just trying to be more comfortable in front of a camera because I tend to unknowingly hide it and also when I see my reflection or shadow when I’m outside walking I suddenly begin to feel uncomfortable.
“I do still get those moments though, I’ve come to terms with it. Despite it not affecting me as much, I do get reminders, but I’ve prepared myself in those times to say positives things and to think that it has its purpose.
“Hopefully one day I can help other children and teens who feel like hiding away or who have insecurities to worry less about them, to strive in school and focus on their dreams without the pressure of an insecurity weighing them down.
“I’m sometimes baffled at how I overcame it all, I was seriously depressed for many years over it. This one insecurity turned it to a full hatred of myself and some other things happened at school which made my life feel worthless and pointless.
“I hated school, I hated who I was and didn’t see myself amounting to anything in life. I envisioned myself being at a desk continuing to hide my hand. It was an extremely dark time for me which amazes me how I pulled through.
“I remind myself that if I overcame that I can truly overcome anything.”
Courtney hopes to go to university to study styling or fashion buying – she went into depth about how she finally accepted herself for who she is.
“It was when I joined college, I told myself that it was a new start, no one knows me, so I can be open with my hand then move on and it worked. I met two amazing friends who accepted me straight away and made me feel so comfortable, they asked me questions and that was that, it wasn’t a painful experience at all,” she said.
“The rest of the class sort of found out by themselves, and even though they didn’t ask about it I felt less anxious than I did in sixth form, I felt happy to be myself. My teacher never knew about my hand; it goes to show people don’t pay attention at all to those things, something which I realised earlier.
“My friends and family make it known that they are proud of me, especially people from my high school because they know truly how far I’ve come, they’ve seen it all, so they realise the drastic change that happened.”
Finally, Courtney shared her words of advice to others who are struggling to overcome and accept their insecurities.
“I would explain that the situation is not as bad as your mind is telling you it is, mature people will not bother as much as you think they will about it. Most people may not even notice, if they do you kindly explain what happened and if they don’t respect that or say a nasty comment then try not to let it affect you,” she said.
“They aren’t someone you need around you, you say bye and leave them to it. The journey to showing it may be short or long like mine, but take little steps, like I did.
“I started to hold my phone in my left hand, so I was showing it but without it being out fully. Another example was just swaying my arm when walking because it was uncomfortable and a foreign feeling due to having it in a pocket all the time.
“Reward yourself when you start to realise you’re getting better, for example I would buy myself a new top or treat myself to cake. Also, start saying more positive things about your insecurity or yourself. Whenever you get that feeling that you need to hide it replace your thoughts with encouragement.
“The message I want to convey is to love who you are, you were made wonderfully and fearfully, don’t allow anyone to dull your shine. Every single person has purpose, use it to better the people around you and others, firstly though you have to better yourself.
“Focus on yourself first, make sure you’re okay then go on to chase your dreams and use your wisdom to help others. We all go down different paths that teach us certain lessons, mine teaches me to be more confident and kind.
“It teaches me to help others. I know a lot of us have differences which we all love to hide but it doesn’t do anything but damage you.
“I hope my story helps people who are held down by an insecurity that they hide to let go and find the peace that they deserve, I know its tiring so just admit to yourself you want to change and start there.”