I thought I had a good handle on discounting the world’s perception of beauty until I had a daughter born physically different. Prior to her birth I did not worry to much if I met society’s beauty standards, I did my own thing and if you thought I was pretty, then awesome, if you didn’t that was fine, I didn’t place a ton of thought into worrying about if everyone around me thought I measured up. My daughter has challenged me to take a hard look at the world’s stance on beauty and how the world treats those that look physically different. I realized I didn’t think much about fitting in with others, I am for the most part average and I have never stood out as different, I have always fit in with my peers without really thinking about it. My daughter was born with a bilateral cleft lip, and a unilateral cleft gum line, she will always stand out in a group of her peers as different. No matter the amount of make-up, hair dye, or trendy clothes my daughter will always be noticeably different, she will always have scars on her face. She will always have something front and center that the world will tell she is less than perfection.
Before she was born I started formulating a plan, a plan to raise her in confidence of who she is in her heart, a plan to plant deep within her soul that her beauty is defined by the condition of her heart, by her actions, and by how she treats others.
I formulated a plan to teach her that she has a hundred ways to exude beauty and not one of them has to do with her outward appearance. As I formulated all the ways I planned to instill true beauty in her heart. I found myself wrestling with so many thoughts that pointed right back to the society’s view of beauty.
I wondered what is the best way to address her scars, do we tell her she is different and that is part of what makes her special, or do we act as if she is just like everyone else so we don’t make her feel different? Will she ever feel confident in how she looks when all the images thrown at her in this world will point out that she is not like the rest?
What happens when she comes home from school the first time crying because someone criticized the scars on her face, or the shape of her lip, or her nose? I have already experienced this out shopping, we get our fair share of stares from adults, and I think they are trying to figure out why she has scars more so than staring because she is different. But kids, oh kids are so brutally honest, I have over heard, or overtly heard, children asking their parents, “What’s wrong with that baby’s face?” “Why does that baby look weird?” “That baby looks yucky?” Those words are gut wrenching to my soul. Kids are honest without fault and it hurts. I realize these are the words she will grow up with from others, she will be seen as less than. Hearing these comments pushes my mind to so many thoughts of her future…
I think about, what happens when that is the little girl she desperately wants to be friends with in Kindergarten asks her, “What is wrong with your face?”
I think what if she is never asked to a homecoming dance, what if she doesn’t get invited to prom, what if she has her eyes on a young man and he rejects her from the start—without getting to know her heart— because of the scars on her face?
I know ALL of these worries are superficial, all of these worries are based on her outward appearance, but friends that is the world we live in. We live in a society where woman are famous, praised, and glorified for their outward beauty.
Will the whispers of my voice in her heart—telling her she is beautiful—be loud enough to cover the screams of this world telling her she is not enough, she is different, that her inner beauty isn’t enough? How can I convince her she is beautiful regardless of what the world says about her?
I want to shield her from it all. I want to have confidence that the world is becoming more accepting, that the world is becoming kinder, but I don’t know that it is, I don’t know that the change in the hearts of the few are spreading fast enough to shield her from the hurtful words and rejection I feel she will have from the many.