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Healing wounds -- and souls -- a tattoo at a time

By Basma Hameed, Special to CNN
April 16, 2013 -- Updated 1547 GMT (2347 HKT)
  • Basma Hameed was severely burned as a toddler
  • She struggled for years before deciding she needed to "work on my inside"
  • Today she helps others overcome their pain using tattoos

Editor's note: In the Human Factor, we profile survivors who have overcome the odds. Confronting a life obstacle -- injury, illness or other hardship -- they tapped their inner strength and found resilience they didn't know they possessed. Basma Hameed was severely burned as a toddler and lived with visible scars for a long time. Then she found tattoos and a way to help others overcome their pain.

(CNN) -- After 16 years of constant surgeries and pain, nothing can compare to the pain of people's stares and comments.

Imagine going through so many surgeries, then meeting someone and the first thing they say is: "What happened to your face? Have you tried surgery?"

People could not accept my scars and the main reason was because I had not accepted them myself. I couldn't accept that this accident did happen to me and this is my face forever.

I was in denial for so many years. I would lock myself in my bedroom and did not want to go outside because I was not comfortable with everyone's reactions.

I did not have anyone I could relate to growing up, and I did not look like what the media portrays as "beautiful." I believed that if you didn't look a certain way, then you could not be accepted and were not "normal."

Then I realized that the media's perception of beauty was not real. Beauty is something that is unattainable -- perfection does not exist, no matter how hard you try.

I had unrealistic expectations and I was setting myself up for disappointment and failure every time. Once you fix one thing, then another thing comes up, and it's a never-ending cycle. That played a big role in my life and my self-esteem.

Instead of me working on my outside, I really needed to work on my inside. I started to focus more on who I was and not what I looked like. I started to appreciate my life more and recognize all the positive things around me, as well as think about who I am and my purpose. I realized that I deserve to be treated equally, but it was nothing anyone could do -- it had to start with me first!

Once I accepted my burn and started to think positively, my life changed and I became much happier with myself. I am so grateful to be alive and to have gone through such an experience because it made me who I am today.

What is my definition of beauty? Being beautiful is being comfortable with yourself, loving yourself and never giving up on yourself. Everyone has a challenge in life and that was mine. I want people to be inspired by my story and never give up, no matter what happens.

I want us to set better examples for our children and be positive role models for them, so they do not let their insecurities take over their lives. Now I can help people who are going through similar situations and need someone who understands.

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