A Virginia girl underwent pediatric cosmetic surgery after being relentlessly tormented by bullies.
Classmates would tease Bella Harrington, 11, for her protruding ears, which significantly hindered her feelings of self-worth.
"They would always point it out, but then the more people pointed it out is when I wanted to change it," Harrington told ABC local affiliate WRIC. "I thought that they stuck out way too much."
Her mother said her daughter's peers were ruthless in their taunts, which impacted the young girl's self-esteem.
"When people would ask if I would like to go swimming in the summer I'd be scared they'd show," Harrington recalled.
"They were being mean, saying different things," Harrington's mother Sabrina added. "One thing they said, she had elf ears."
Finally, after years of contemplation, she decided to have an otoplasty, a procedure that pins back the ears.
Harrington and her mother selected Dr. Joe Niamtu to perform the surgery, who said helping children like Harrington is his "biggest reward."
"It was my honor to help this beautiful young lady to escape the effect of peer bullying from her protruding," Niamtu wrote on Facebook. "Even small facial deformities can produce very negative psychological consequences in childhood that can lead to a lifetime of low self-esteem and negative body image. My biggest reward."
He also told the news network WRIC that it isn't uncommon for children as young as four years old to have a procedure done.
"We like to treat these children before they enter school, so it's not uncommon that I'm doing 4- or 5-year-olds," Niamtu said. "And the reason is bullying or peer pressure. It's been shown to psychologically to have the ability to affect their self-esteem or body image for the rest of their life."
Harrington's mother said she and her daughter love the positive results, while also likening the experience to getting braces.
"It's no different than getting braces, that changes your appearance," she said. "If it's going to make you feel better about yourself, so be it."
While I never had pointed ears, I'm all too familiar with the traumatizing experience of being bullied.
When I was 11, I had severe acne, and my classmates were ruthless. I was called every name under the sun from "pizza face" to "the ugliest girl in school." My skin eventually cleared up, but that didn't mean the bullying stopped.
With my pimples gone, the other kids noticed I had a mole just below my nose. Before their teasing, I never had a problem with my beauty mark (as my mom calls them), but then I became entrenched with self-doubt.
A few months later, I went to my family doctor and asked if he would be able to remove it. To my temporary glee, he said he could, but then added: "are you doing this for yourself or for someone else?"
The question was stuck in my head for the next few weeks, and I finally came to the conclusion that no, my mole didn't bother me and why should I feel pressured to change my appearance to fit other people's subjective ideas of beauty?
Since then I learned to be happy with my appearance, because beauty is only skin deep, and it's truly what's on the inside that counts.
Have you ever felt self-conscious over a part of your body? If so, what did you do about it?