Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Reflections

This morning I was thinking back to about two years ago, when I started truly realizing how weird my face looked and how much I hated my profile and my teeth and my smile. I always have, but it was just two years ago that my looks really started bothering me. I got kind of obsessed with looking at older pictures of myself to see if my chin had receded even more since, say, my wedding photos in 1999. I'd watch TV and study people's chins and smiles, comparing. I remember going online to look into a chin implant. I even emailed a plastic surgeon asking how much one would cost (they emailed back saying they'd have to see me first). I recall thinking that we would never be able to afford plastic surgery and braces and I was stuck hating my looks forever.

Now, two years later, after braces and surgery and a new chin under my belt (or under my lips), I can sort of understand those people on talk shows who lose a ton of weight and feel like they can do anything. They can wear anything. They can pull anything off. They get new haircuts and new clothes and new jewelry. Anything is possible.

That's how I feel now.

I realize now that I've always compensated. Makeup always on. Hair always long and never, ever pulled back off my face. Clothes that emphasized the fact that I at least had a nice figure. I'd rather have died than gone out the door less than perfect. In public without makeup and hair fixed, in sweat pants? Never. I cared so much about how I looked. In some people that's called vanity and being self-absorbed. But not for me and people like me. It's pure self-consciousness. Trying to make up for what is lacking. Thinking that if you look good in every other way, people may not notice your facial deformity. That you may even be able to forget about it.

Then there's the personality. If I'm funny and witty enough they may not see that I'm also unattractive. If I'm talented at something (in my case, it's always been writing), maybe they'll overlook the fact that my facial features are curiously similar to that of a horse. It's all about the compensation.

I've always wanted to be pretty, but I would have settled for just average. Normal. A chin and bite like everyone else would be nice, I often thought. Not that I haven't gotten my fair share of compliments over the years, but some people seemed to think "Hey, I think you're attractive and that should be enough for you." But it never was enough for me. Why should it be? I never saw myself as others saw me. I felt no one ever told me the truth. It wasn't until Dr. J laid out the truth for me last year that I really felt the first flicker of validation. My face wasn't normal. I had a deformity. Ugly, maybe not, but it had the potential to be so much better. And that's what Dr. J and Dr. C gave me. Potential. So much better. Normalcy. No more need for compensation. The permission to go out without makeup, wear my hair however I please, and let my hidden wit and warped sense of humor that not many people know about finally shine through. People can look at me now.

Today in the mirror I see the me that I always thought I should look like. Pretty? Maybe someday, when all the swelling is gone. But average at least. Balanced, normal, and acceptable. I'll be able to smile with confidence and without self-consciousness, which is all I've ever wanted. I don't even know how confidence feels, but I'm sure I will learn it over time. Hopefully it will become as familiar to me as shyness has been to me my whole life.

I can look in the mirror and not hate what I see. That's what made this whole entire thing worth it, and also the best thing I've ever done for myself. When people tell me I look good now, I believe them.

Finally, it's enough for me.

6 Comments:

At 6:29 PM, Blogger Lark said...

WOW. Did you tap into my brain or are we oddly this similar! Everything you wrote...I can sympathize with. Isn't it amazing that something like this (deformity) can determine your personality..how you see yourself..etc? I've always considered myself to be extremely SHY ..and up until college and joining the military..those that didnt know me well always confused my shyness with being "bi*chy." I've had people say to me that they didn't realize I was so funny..and outgoing. Well...look out world.. we have a whole new "lease" on life!

 
At 9:54 PM, Blogger Mrs. Shanton said...

Were you just crawling around in my head and came across this passage?
Thank GOD, that at age 37, someone finally told me what was wrong. I, too, was going to have the chin implant, and finally when Dr.K told me that my problem was a skeletal abnormality (I forget how he worded it so gently) I finally felt validated. I was like, "Ohhhhhhhhhhhhhhh... so THAT's why." I compensated the way you did, though probably not as conscientiously; often I went without makeup and dressed poorly, too. But I get you. I totally get you. Like no "normal" person ever could.

 
At 10:14 AM, Blogger Rebecca said...

Well I'm so glad someone gets it and I'm not alone! See, this is why I like you guys so much. LOL

 
At 3:20 PM, Blogger Jennifer said...

:) Awesome, Rebecca. :) :) :)

 
At 9:31 PM, Blogger Roopak Majmudar said...

I was avoiding leaving a comment on a post 10 weeks old but I can't resist myself now.

I had orthognathic surgery 9 days ago and it's incredible that I'm going through almost the same things you went through. It's calming to know how I'm doing and feeling is quite normal.

Although my reasons for going through with the surgery weren't cosmetic at all, there's some things I can really relate to in this post. I can't wait until I completely recover because I feel I have new found confidence too. I've always been kind of shy but felt like I was totally different person inside.

I'm going to keep reading your blog now, it's an awesome read!! I'll post my experiences on my blog withing the next few days. :)

 
At 7:15 AM, Blogger ilokana said...

This post was really touching for me. I'm in the beginning stages myself with the braces, but your experience with feeling unattractive, self-conscious, and over-compensating, has been my life for 15 years now. Even though I'm scared to death over the surgery, your blog has helped me a lot. Thank you so much from the bottom of my heart!

 

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