Rediscovering Myself: How I Found Beauty In a Paralyzed Face
I still, at the age of thirty-two, don’t really know how to curl my hair.
I’ve got plenty of faults, but vanity has never been high on the list. Outside of that awkward middle school phase when having the cutest outfit was way too important, I’ve been pretty comfortable rocking the t-shirt and jeans and saving eye and lip makeup for special occasions.
I’ve understood beauty is more than skin deep and never really got the point of all of the fashion and makeup theatrics. My family is very unflashy, very real, and, being raised like this, I never understood people who took an hour and a half to get ready.
Who are we trying to impress or what are we trying to prove by looking perfect all the time?
The day my face was partially paralyzed, though, I began to really understand the beauty race to keep up as an attempt to cover up our imperfections.
As I grew self-conscious of selfies that made one eye look like it had eaten the other or I had never learned how to rock a full smile, I got it.
“No one wants to see this,” became my first thought when sharing pictures.
We are all known, first and foremost, by our faces. As I acclimated to my new look, I struggled with the implications a snap-judgment of my lopsided face would entail.
I would be hired after the person with the perfect smile, may be cropped out of pictures because of looking half-drunk, and knew sharing selfies would immediately tag me as an accident survivor.
Having a half-paralyzed face made me really feel the weights of vanity like I never had.
Laying Down The Polish
Brad and I got decided to get married on the one-year anniversary of the accident. While I couldn’t control what my face would look like in our wedding pictures, I could get married ASAP to the man who loved me regardless.
Several people questioned why we wouldn’t wait longer for my hair to grow back from being shaved, for my facial nerve to continue to regrow after the facial nerve surgery.
On that day, though, I honestly didn’t give a lick what I looked like. I may not have the long, dreamy beach hair I was planning on, but I was marrying my man and rocked out to Spice Girls the entire night sporting bobbed hair and a crooked smile that was grinning from ear-to-ear.
I was reminded that night how little looking perfectly polished matters. If these were my people, my real people, then they would rock with me on the dance floor and not put a thought to how our wedding selfies would look like.
And then I forgot.
Keeping Up With the Soccer Moms
We settled down a couple years back as my oldest was about to start Kindergarten. I was beginning to feel pretty secure again in my new face, but, soon after, was adjusting to the life-after-three-babies look. This is a more common insecurity many of us women can relate to, but I began sifting through my clothes not feeling comfortable in anything.
The pre-babies’ outfits, no matter how long I held onto them, still remained too small. The early maternity outfits felt saggy. No outfits seemed to fit me in that in the life-after-babies zone I found myself in. I felt either like the girl who was trying to hang onto high school too long or needed to cut the trash bag look and learn her size.
I saw a friend try StitchFix and look all kinds of cute. It appealed to me because I desperately needed more clothes, lacked time to shop and try things on with three kids under four, and didn’t have the mental capacity to keep up with the trends and figure out fashion again.
Doing StichFix for a few months helped me hit refresh on the basics – colored capris, print skirts, cardigans, etc. – that I needed to add some pizzazz to my Target Merona plain colored shirts. It also helped me regain confidence in how to shop like a big girl by looking at their fun style suggestion cards.
And then I started a website.
One of the beginning steps in promoting a blog or speaking gig is having a consistent headshot you can share with any venues you speak at or guest blogs you write for.
A good friend had shown me on our senior trip how to use hair gel after a shower to quickly make the beach wave look. This continued to be the way I curled my hair for the next thirteen years.
The week before the headshot, I tried to learn how to curl my hair. I broke out the middle school straightener to attempt the flip. I bought the velcro rollers. I tried it all. After a few failed attempts and having the straightener kink or velcroed curls that fell out in five seconds, I threw my hands up and assumed my hair just wasn’t made to hold a curl.
I ended up using the hair gel scrunch…🤷🏼♀️
This is my promo piece, ya’ll. My ‘this girl is coming to talk at our event’ look. Fashion is hard.
What Facial Paralysis, The Hair Gel Curl, and A Mom Bod Has Taught Me About Humility
I learned this prayer in college when I was at my fashion and fitness peak. It hit me then, but it seems even more fitting now for the post-babies, trying to find beauty in the new face, chapter that I’m in.
Humility is hard stuff. Letting go of the desire to come across as looking like we have it all together goes against every grain in our broken bodies. I’ve found, though, that vanity is tiring, expensive, and shallow.
I’ve found the more we edit our lives, strive for beauty, filter our photos, and avoid vulnerability, the more we set an unrealistic standard that doesn’t exist; that none of us can live up to.
We all have physical imperfections and sometimes the simple act of not trying to hide yours gives others permission to feel more comfortable in theirs.
If there is one thing that traversing through facial paralysis and the mom bod has taught me, it’s that beauty is not something you can build or wear or paint on. When we spend our lives waiting until we’re perfect before we go out, post a picture, or share our imperfect stories, we sacrifice authentic relationships.
Today, let’s choose to show up and let ourselves be seen. Let’s sit contentedly in our skin and be our plain old self, crooked smiles and all.
Why do you find it hard to be your authentic, messy self? What has helped you be more content in your skin?