The 'Game of Thrones' actress struggled with low self-esteem while recovering from her two brain aneurysms.

By Faith Brar
Jeff Kravitz/Contributor/Getty Images
Credit: Jeff Kravitz/Contributor/Getty Images

It's been a month since Emilia Clarke first opened up about suffering two life-threatening brain aneurysms while filming Game of Thrones. 

"I'd never experienced fear like that—a sense of doom closing in," she revealed in a powerful essay for The New Yorker. "I could see my life ahead, and it wasn't worth living. I am an actor; I need to remember my lines. Now I couldn't recall my name. In my worst moments, I wanted to pull the plug. I asked the medical staff to let me die."

Clarke's body took months to recover from her numerous surgeries, ER visits, and ICU stays. But in addition to feeling emotionally shaken after surviving two brain aneurysms, Clarke battled with her self-esteem, too. At times, she couldn't even bring herself to look in the mirror. (Here's what every woman needs to know about self-esteem.)

"I was so full of drugs from being in the hospital that I had a lot of water retention, and one half of my face was quite swollen," the actress recently told Stylist. "I felt so deeply unattractive. What I can see now is that I could see the pain behind my eyes. And no amount of [makeup] can cover that."

In fact, when she would apply makeup, she did it without looking at her reflection. "I found it very, very difficult [to look in the mirror]," she said.

It took time and patience, but eventually, Clarke learned to feel confident in her skin. During that time, though, her mindset toward beauty changed entirely. "My face didn't change, but my feelings about myself changed," she told Stylist. "[Now] I always err on the side of wearing less makeup."

While there's certainly no rule that says self-love and wearing makeup are mutually exclusive, Clarke learned that no amount of makeup can hide what you're going through or how you feel about yourself and your body. "If you look emaciated and tired and full of self-loathing you do not look beautiful, no matter how perfect your hair and make-up is," she said. (Related: 7 Things That Might Happen If You Stop Wearing Makeup)

These days, Clarke defines beauty not as a look or aesthetic, but as happiness. "Beauty is laughter. It's being inspired," she said. "We should be celebrating having a giggle a bit more. Laughter is free as well, which is good."

Her simple, yet powerful message is a reminder that beauty doesn't have one definition. At the end of the day, self-acceptance is more important than anything else. Clarke says it best herself: "When you can look at yourself in the eyes and feel OK with what’s looking back at you, then what more do you need?"


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