All my friends tell me I've got a lot going for me. And I guess, deep down, I know they're right. After all, I'm smart, talented and extremely personable, not to mention the U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services. I've accomplished a lot. But sometimes I can't help but feel like I'd trade it all just to be pretty.

When I'm in a Cabinet meeting, I feel like I'm invisible. I look around the room at all the other Cabinet members, but I never catch any of the men looking back at me. Once, I thought Secretary of Agriculture Dan Glickman was glancing my way, but, of course, he was looking at Energy Secretary Hazel O'Leary, who was sitting next to me. I certainly can't blame Secretary Glickman, though. If I were him, I know I'd rather look at the pretty Energy Secretary than some gross, big-nosed Health and Human Services chief.

Melissa Skolfield, HHS's Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs, is always trying to cheer me up. Whenever she sees me around the office, she tells me how nice I look and how much she likes the outfit I've got on. But I know she's only saying that because she knows I need reassuring. I'm sure if she worked in the Department of Energy, she wouldn't have to be constantly complimenting Secretary O'Leary.

I've always been kind of down on my looks, but lately, my self-esteem in that department has been lower than ever. It certainly doesn't help that I've put on a few pounds in the past year. On May 6, I had a meeting with FDA chief David Kessler and Lisa Katic, head of the Grocery Manufacturers of America, to assess the implementation of the FDA Modernization Act of 1997. It was a really important meeting, so I wanted to look my absolute best. But when I tried on my favorite red pantsuit, the one I wore last October when I did so well testifying before Congress about 1998 Medicare revisions, I couldn't fit into it. I wound up having to wear that disgusting green-and-white blazer I hate. I looked like a total whale, and the meeting went just awful. All because I was too fat to fit into my good red pantsuit. It's time I faced it: I'm fat. Fat! Fat! Fat!

I know, I know. As chancellor of the University of Wisconsin, I was the first woman ever to lead a Big Ten school. But what does that matter when you have to go to the annual Board of Regents awards dinner alone? And, yes, I did do a pretty good job chairing the Children's Defense Fund. But I can't help but think they picked me because they felt sorry for me. Maybe I should just go back to being Assistant Secretary for Policy Research and Development at HUD, where I didn't have to pose for all those Cabinet pictures. Every time I see one, I want to cut my face out of it so nobody will see it.

I guess I could try getting a makeover. Or maybe a different hairdo. But what could anyone possibly do with my hair? It just sits there on top of my head, totally flat and lifeless. Whenever I try to grow it long, it looks completely stupid, but when it's short like it is now, I look like a boy.

People say I have really nice eyes, but that's just what you compliment someone on when there's nothing else to compliment. I swear, I must be the ugliest Secretary of Health and Human Services ever. No, make that the ugliest secretary of any U.S. Cabinet department ever! I hate myself!