This I Believe

Ali - Culver City, California
Entered on June 29, 2007
Age Group: 30 - 50


I believe that as a woman, you should spend less time criticizing and more time loving your appearance. In this day and age of plastic surgery where we are surrounded by a new third gender whose trips under the knife have turned them into a cross between cats, aliens, and platypuses, we are so quick to change whatever stands out.

When we do this, we forget that we are beautiful not in spite of our flaws, but because of them. We spend so much time, even as children, wishing we looked different, desperately using any means necessary in an attempt to become “more beautiful.” But all this time is wasted, because 9 out of 10 times, we are oblivious to how beautiful we truly are. We take it for granted or as an annoyance when a man makes a comment or whistles. Even when it is the man we love, we dismiss the compliment with a “you’re just saying that.’ But he isn’t. He truly thinks you are beautiful.

For years, I spent my life wishing I had a better smile. My chin was too pointy, my cheeks too fleshy, my teeth not straight. I always thought to myself – if I just had a different smile, I might actually be pretty. I would look in the mirror and try to invent a new smile – one that somehow made me look interesting instead of elfish. Well, as they say, be careful what you wish for, because in January of 2005 I was bit by a dog. And in a single bite, that smile that I had spent years hating, was gone never to be seen again.

The dog shredded my bottom lip and took off almost the entire top lip. Living in Santa Monica, I was blessed to have UCLA as my ER and an emergency room doctor who relentlessly called every plastic surgeon he knew to help me. None of the plastics on the roster wanted to touch me – a 20 something female with a severe facial injury – no chance I’d ever be happy with the result. Finally he called a friend who agreed to come to the hospital in the middle of the night and help me. Because of his vision, instead of being sewn up to stop the bleeding, I had an artist whose vision and strategic placement of scars made it possible for me to have a public face again.

In a single moment, I went from a pretty but self-conscious girl to a sort of bandaged monster that no one would make eye contact with. But in that same moment, I became more beautiful because I no longer took my appearance, flaws and all, for granted. Of course it was overwhelming and I pitied myself — we all suffer from vanity. But I was most upset that I had wasted so many years hating my smile. Because despite the doctor’s incredible work, I’ll never regain feeling or movement in part of my upper lip. The left half of my mouth literally will never smile again.

So I returned to that mirror to practice new tactics. Now the goal was to figure out how I could make a one-sided smile into something intriguing – Elvis did it, why can’t I?

I don’t want to be a hypocrite, in addition to the reconstruction, I had some cosmetic lasering done to minimize the scars and am currently contemplating getting my lip line tattooed. But unlike optional cosmetic surgeries, I am not trying to improve on what is there, I am trying to regain what I once had. And this time, I believe, I know, that I will appreciate it. Every time my husband kisses me, I am grateful to have the lips I have – it doesn’t take nerves to feel.

So this I believe – love yourself. Turn your flaws into your trademark.