power in words and pictures

What Defines You?

What Defines You?

“I don’t know. Just because someone’s pretty doesn’t mean she’s decent. Or vice versa. I’m not into appearances. I like flaws, I think they make things interesting.”
― Sarah Dessen, The Truth About Forever

Men who believe their noses aren’t attractive enough, women who think some sections aren’t large enough while other sections are too large, and lots of folks whose eyelids are too droopy, tummies are too puffy, and chins are too pointed are among the 13 billion dollars spent on cosmetic surgeries in 2015.

Plastic surgery is sometimes necessary – burn repair, birth defects addressed, and breast reconstruction, for example — but in most cases, including over 200,000 teenagers, we are talking about cosmetic surgery to make a person more attractive. Sarah Dessen makes some interesting points, though, which leave me to wonder, if our flaws make us more interesting, why are we so anxious to be rid of them and why is having them so uncomfortable?

The words popped up on my news feed:  “I am almost in tears. My 3 year old just got diagnosed with alopecia areata.” I had a catch in my throat as tears welled in my own eyes.  Twenty years earlier, I had no idea what alopecia areata was, nor could I pronounce it properly. Two years ago, though, I learned enough to know that alopecia is much more than an unusual name.

Having spent a great deal of time pinning my hair just the right way the past couple of years, I have found myself crying in fear that my hair would never stop falling out or that the wind would betray me.  You see, I awakened one Friday morning in the fall of 2014 to a rather large spot with no hair on the top of my head.  I felt completely defined by what was missing. I felt flawed in a way I had never been before. Not only had my hair changed, I changed.

We are a world of people defined too often by appearances: Whiter teeth, more stylish clothes, more prestigious titles, bigger homes, and more expensive cars give people value, right? We encourage other people to embrace their flaws or perceived shortcomings, yet we judge our own harshly, and theirs. I’m not sure which must come first — embracing our own issues or allowing for those in others — but we will never be the kind of people most of us hope to be until both of those things happen.

Some of our greatest lessons come from being annoyed or feeling judgmental about other people. What is it about their appearance or actions that really is bothering us, that leads us to words or actions that actually say more about how we feel about ourselves?  Someone once shared that truth with me, and it has been very helpful:  when I feel aggravated at you, it should serve as a mirror for me.

If your slow driving bothers me, chances are I see that I should have left home earlier to reach my appointment.  If my lack of organization is bothering you, there is a good chance that your own disorganization is a problem. Maybe your friend is working in a job or enjoying a profession that reminds you how stuck you are in your own fear of stepping out.  It’s easier to belittle your friend’s work (even if not to his face) than to celebrate his or her independence and joy. Then, there’s that bald spot.  Maybe my eye has always noticed your missing hair because I didn’t know how I would feel or handle not having all of my own pieces in place.

Now, I know how it feels to have a piece out of place, and I know that I’m a better person than I was before.  What about you?  My missing hair, the gap between your teeth, his limp, her fun low-paying job – our perceived flaws make us interesting. Be interesting not flawless.

 

2 Responses to “What Defines You?”

  1. Jackie Jenkins says:

    Beautiful and well said!

  2. suezquesteen says:

    Thank you so much!

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