“Bullied teen gets plastic surgery” ran the headline on Yahoo. The accompanying photo showed a typical teen girl. I clicked on the link to hear her story. What had she looked like before the surgery?
As it turned out, that photo was the before photo. My heart broke.
No, she didn’t look like a supermodel—but how many fourteen year olds do? She looked like a cute little girl. The type who in a few years would come into her own, but for now was just a typical adolescent. Maybe in a year or two she’d start tweezing her eyebrows and wearing a little mascara, but at the moment she looked age appropriate and the only thing missing was a smile! Oh, that little girl. I recognized the sadness in her eyes.
It brought tears to my own eyes, bringing me back to my own awkward adolescent years. I didn’t look all that different than that girl. Judging from some old photos I have lying around, I may have looked worse. I had tiny ears, but I felt like they stuck out. I had terribly crooked teeth and had a full mouth of braces. I was growing out a perm that never had curl or wave—only frizz. I was skinny. Not an attractive skinny. The type of skinny that prompted the doctor to tell me to gain weight. The list of insecurities went on and on. Just like this little girl, I was picked on. I spent many nights crying myself to sleep.
I’m not going to lie. I still feel scarred from those years. Getting bullied, feeling ugly, feeling trapped, it’s the worst. But you know what? It really does get better. Maybe not right away. And maybe you never forget those feelings, but you can move on, and those things that hurt you in the past hopefully make you a stronger person and also a nicer, more compassionate person. You also discover that beauty is complex and strange and wild.
The doctor who did this little girl’s surgery said in the article, “She was picked for her surgery because of her deformities.” Looking at the photograph, I don’t see any deformities. The surgeon pinned her ears back and worked on her chin and nose, according to the article. Maybe there’s something I’m not seeing in the before photo, but as far as I can tell she’s not “perfect” looking (who is??) but she certainly doesn’t have deformities.
I’m happy the girl who had the surgery is pleased with the outcome. I’m not anti-plastic surgery. If at an appropriate age someone wants to have plastic surgery that’s their prerogative. But there’s a lot you can do without resorting to plastic surgery. I do believe looks matter. If your hair is messy, your roots are grown out, and you dress in ill-fitting, wrinkled clothes, it looks like you have little confidence in yourself, and chances are you’ll probably be treated according to way you present yourself. I’m a sucker for makeover shows. I cry almost every time I watch someone on TV get a makeover. Because it’s not just about your looks—it’s about how you feel. There’s so much you can do with just a little makeup and learning to dress to your body shape. One of my favorites is What Not to Wear because they stress that you don’t have to lose weight to look great.
Supermodel Tyra Banks has talked for years about the fact that she herself has a big forehead. Last month she even challenged people to a big forehead contest. Over the years, she’s encouraged women to work what they got, telling them that those parts of their bodies that they may think are ugly may in fact be the very thing that makes them unique and interesting and beautiful. Maybe there are aspects of your looks that truly aren’t desirable but those “flaws”—or “deformities”—should still be celebrated.
This is who I am! I’m Tyra Banks and I have cellulite! That makes me ‘flawsome’ because I own it as part of what makes me unique. Don’t get me wrong: I don’t think my cellulite is beautiful, but I think it’s ‘flawsome.’
My blog caption is “Embracing the Beatific.” When I was thinking about what my blog is about I knew that, although it’s not exclusively what I blog on, I write a lot about the Beat Generation. Jack Kerouac said that the word “beat” came from the Beatitudes of the bible.
I realized the Beatitudes expressed my viewpoint. Life isn’t always what it seems. The meek will inherit the earth. The poor in spirit will find a kingdom in heaven. Those who cry now will find happiness later.
Beauty is in the imperfect.
Here are some bullying resources and reading material:::
the column “Interview with My Bully” on Salon.
Bible verses on confidence