I Shake Hands with Pride

See how Samantha was able to overcome a lifetime of bullying and four back surgeries

Samantha Rayburn, 24, Lost 47 lb*

*People following the Weight Watchers plan can expect to lose up to two pounds per week. Samantha lost 47 lb on a prior Weight Watchers program and SmartPoints®.

“I realized I was better than the bullies—I couldn’t let them define me. That’s what I’d tell anyone: You’re beautiful and you’re perfect just the way you are.”

I always wanted to blend in—to be just like everyone else. But I couldn’t. I was born with syndactyly on my right hand: It has only two fingers. The kids in junior high picked on that. I was growing up as social media was also blossoming, so the faculty had no idea how to handle the bullying because it was done off school property. And as every mean text message came in, as each stinging Facebook or instant message arrived, I immediately looked at myself and said, “They’re right.”

 As I got older, I started pulling back. I didn’t want anyone to notice me. I didn’t want anyone to make fun of my hand, so I’d hide it in my sweatshirt. I wouldn’t shake anyone’s hand. Then in college, I hit a speed bump when I ruptured a disk and fractured vertebrae in my back. I went through four back surgeries as an undergraduate, and I started gaining weight. I was actually grateful for that. I preferred having people make fun of my weight instead of my hand. 

 But I knew that feeling OK about my weight gain was temporary. After my back surgeries, my doctor said, “Now it’s time for you to lose the weight.” On top of that, around the same time I went on my first date with my now fiancé, and I had a feeling it was going to turn into something special. As it did, I realized that I didn’t want to be overweight in our future. He loves me, flaws and all, and I had to learn to love myself. I turned to my aunt, who’s a Lifetime Member, and started my journey on Weight Watchers. 

 Two years later, I finally feel like I have permission to be myself—to be Samantha, the girl who has two fingers on her right hand, the girl who is getting married in August, the girl who is shorter than most, the girl who has been through it all and can still smile, the girl who can laugh. Today, I feel like I am good enough. You know what? I’m more than just good enough. I feel worth it.