Sunday, January 20

Imperfect Perceptions


Today I had an Ah-Ha Moment.

I was troubled at first because it involves little Ray-Ray and the image that she may see every day of her life when she looks in the mirror.

Will she see what we see when we look at her? A beautiful little girl with bright blue eyes and a smile that lights up a room. You've seen her. She's beautiful.

But, because of a congenital syndrome called Goldenhar, she's also asymmetrical and will be more or less so throughout her life. Just ever so slightly and, at this point, it's only really noticeable when you look at her reflection, which is the way she'll see herself everyday. As her mom, I fear for her in this world of symmetrical ideals of perfection and beauty.

You may think I'm crazy to worry about something that's almost imperceptible, but a friend of mine recently had a nose job. She's a beautiful woman and always has been. But, because of what she saw in her reflection, she never believed that. She always hated her nose. So much so that she had them cut into her beautiful face to remove what she saw as an ugly, imperfection.

So, I feel a stab of sadness for my daughter. Or maybe fear is a better word. Fear that she'll look in the mirror and not see what I see: that beautiful, spirited little girl with eyes that you can get lost in and the most expressive little grin imaginable. I'm afraid she'll see and focus on the imperfection—the asymmetry of the pieces and not the beauty of the whole.

Teaching children to value the sum of the parts as greater than the individual pieces seems to be such a daunting task. Especially when it comes to self-image and perceived beauty in this nutty culture that values looks and money as though they were divine. Without one or the other, a person's intrinsic value somehow falls into question.

The relief is in the realization that none of us is able to see what others see. Knowing that and accepting that frees us, and allows us to stop trying to create perfection. Our view of our physical selves is based on that two dimensional reflection that pales in comparison to the world's three dimensional reality. Trying to create perfection in the eyes of others is an impossible endeavor because we’ll never see what they see.

My task as a mother will be to teach my daughters that they are the sum of their parts, not their nose or their hair or their bust size or the house we live in or the clothes they wear. They are all of those things and so very much more. All of which has intrinsic value – but any one aspect alone is all but worthless. It’s the entirety of the person that we love, respect and admire.


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