That’s what the first boy that ever kissed me asked one day. But he wasn’t the first to put my insecurity into words. 3rd grade was the first memory I have of a boy asking me what was wrong with my huge nose. After that, it didn’t matter what people said, I heard him in my head. “You look so…exotic. Where is your family from?” All I heard was, “Where did your nose come from?” Every time I met someone new, a voice in my head kept asking me if they’d noticed my nose yet and what did they think about it. Like a teenager with a pimple, as assumed that my nose was as distracting to everyone around me as it was to me. I knew just the right angle to hold my head when someone took my picture. I felt deformed.
I knew someone in high school and then someone in college that had gotten nose jobs (rhinoplasty). I thought about nose surgery all the time. Then after I got married I was talking with friends and plastic surgery came up. I said I thought about surgery all the time and they made fun of me mercilessly. I was ashamed of the way I looked, but now I was ashamed of feeling ashamed. I put off surgery for a long time after that, afraid of what people thought of my nose, but just as afraid of people knowing I’d changed my nose.
As I got older and my skin began to change, I developed sun spots on my nose. Those spots to me were like a flood light highlighting my deepest insecurity. I couldn’t hide from myself in the mirror anymore and it was unbearable. My feelings became more important than what other people thought and I went to Dr. Petersen.
Dr. Petersen was so gentle and kind with me. He took pictures of my nose and drew on them to show me just where it was crooked on just one side and how my bone structure created a hump. Seeing him draw on those pictures was a revelation to me! First of all, I wasn’t crazy! There were things “wrong” with my nose. But best of all, those things could be fixed! Suddenly my fears were turned into a manageable surgical plan.
I didn’t want to look “different” after surgery. Really, I still didn’t want anyone to know I’d “had work done.” I talked to Dr. Petersen about that a lot. He listened so patiently. He told me my feelings were so common, but that after surgery my feelings might change.
He was so right. After the swelling and bruising went down I went shopping for new clothes and it felt like I’d lost 20 pounds. I was a new woman and I wanted a total makeover. I was so happy with myself that I wasn’t so afraid of being judged any more. I didn’t feel like I had to hide my surgery. And I have been amazed how when I open up, just a little bit, so many other people share their experiences—either with plastic surgery or with thinking about it. No matter the surgery, our stories are the same and we help validate each other. What used to make me hide has now opened the door to so much support and sharing.
Don’t wait! Don’t wait! Don’t wait! Don’t let the insecure teenager inside you stay in your life. I am amazed at how powerful the negative thought in our brains are. They can drown you. My new confidence has changed every interaction I have with other people. I’m still told I look exotic. But now it feels like a compliment– which it probably was meant to be all along. Dr. Petersen changed everything about the world around me. He has made the sunshine more brightly.