Book Reviews

Am I Ugly? by Michelle Elman

I received a copy of this book from Midas PR in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts and opinions expressed here are my own.

Goodreads synopsis:

Am I Ugly?

In today’s world of supplements, celebrity diets and social media, it’s very easy to be hard on ourselves about the way we look. With all this pressure to strive for ‘perfection’ aesthetically, it is easy to forget how damaging this can be psychologically. Michelle Elman is a leading part of the body positivity movement that has been gathering momentum to liberate people from these unrealistic standards, recognise that all bodies are equally valuable and broaden the billboard definitions of beauty. 

Am I Ugly? is this inspiring woman’s compelling and deeply personal memoir that describes her childhood experiences of life-threatening health problems, long stays in hospital and fifteen complex surgeries that left her scarred, both mentally and physically. The narrative follows Michelle’s journey from illness to health, and from childhood to adulthood as she deals with her body-confidence issues to embrace both her scars and her body – and help others to do the same. This remarkable book grapples with the wider implications of Michelle’s experiences and the complex interplay between beauty and illness.


When I was 9, an uncle singled me out during a family event to lecture me about exercising. My cousins stood around and laughed.

When I was out at a restaurant with family and ordered something with potatoes in it, a relative said I should order something else so I wouldn’t become fatter than I already was.

I’ve been recommended countless diets by friends and family. Advice I didn’t ask for in the first place.

A couple years back, my sister told me my thighs looked huge in pictures. I think about her comment each time I post a picture online.

I’ve always internalised this hatred that my family had for fat people and used it to taunt my own self. I run at least thrice a week but that didn’t matter. To me and to everyone else, all that mattered was my size.

It took me a long time to break out of this hatred for my own body. Learning to love your body does not have a foolproof plan. You don’t get a checklist you can follow with the promise of loving your body as the grand prize. It’s a huge process which involves a lot of setbacks. You may be feeling great one day and it can all come crashing down the next.

But here’s the thing: One step forward, two steps back is still one step forward.

And that’s why I loved Am I Ugly so much. It’s the most realistic portrayal of the journey to body confidence I’ve ever read.

This powerful memoir is Michelle’s experience with undergoing life-threatening illness, 15 major operations, and learning to love her body unconditionally. I follow Michelle on Instagram and I can see how much she’s changed from the young girl who hated her scars at St Keyes to the powerful woman and inspirational body confidence coach she is now.

The strength of this book lies in how much the general audience will be able to relate to it. Nowhere in the book does she suddenly claim to miraculously have fallen in love with her body. Her story is like all of ours–she struggled a lot and took a long time to love her scars and body. But she ultimately did, and that’s all that matters really.

I will not nitpick this memoir like I usually do because this book deserves to be out there. This book deserves to be read. This book deserves more than the 5 stars I’m giving it.

Favorite quote:

While there are a LOT of gems in this book, my favourite is something I tell myself quite often. Seeing someone else voice out what goes through my head often made me tear up.

“I knew I was fat, and anything else they might say to me, I was sure I’d said worse to myself.”

Rating: 5 out of 5, obviously.

~ Shruti

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5 thoughts on “Am I Ugly? by Michelle Elman

  1. Your stories are so heartbreaking…. thank you for sharing them and your review on this book. Such a sensitive and important topic, I hope this helps a lot of people to know they are not alone!

    Liked by 1 person

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