This Brazilian woman is not letting anyone define what beauty is for her.

Mariana Mendes was born with a birthmark on her face. But even as a young girl, she believed the mark didn’t take away from her appearance but rather enhanced it. 

“I don’t want to seem stuck up, but I feel beautiful, and part of the reason is because I have the birthmark,” the 24-year-old stylist assistant told Brazilian newspaper O Globo, in a piece published Monday. “It makes me special, more beautiful. The birthmark gives me self-esteem and I think that, because of that self-esteem, some people also like it.”

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As a child, Mendes underwent several laser sessions to remove the birthmark, known medically as a Congenital melanocytic nevus. By the age of 6, however, she told her mother she didn’t want to do anything to get rid of it. 

“My mom was worried,” Mendes, who currently lives in Juiz de Fora, added. “She didn’t want me to suffer any bullying, but I don’t remember ever having any problems in school. When I was 6, she asked me if I wanted to continue with the birthmark removal procedures that I did in Sao Paulo. I told her no.”

Mendes says she makes it a point not to pay attention to any negative comments about her birthmark, though she knows not everyone likes it as much as her. Still, she hopes embracing her own birthmark will inspire others to do see the beauty in what makes them different. 

“When people don’t know me they just stare and ask what it is, but the people who know me say that they don’t even realize I have the mark, to them it’s just another part of my body,” she told Metro UK. “I find living with a facial nevus very easy because I like it a lot and I want others to feel as confident as I do about their nevi.” 

Mendes told O Globo that despite the fact that she stopped the procedures to remove the birthmark, she still makes sure to go to the doctor to monitor it in case there are any changes that could point to serious skin conditions. 

“I haven’t had any changes, yet,” she said. “And the birthmark doesn’t affect my health. If it’s stable it’s because there’s no sign of risk.”  

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There’s nothing more beautiful than self-love. 

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