I will never forget the moment the boy I had a crush on in the sixth grade told me I would make an attractive boy. For as long as I can remember, I've been told that I look like my dad, and while he's a good-looking dude, he’s still, you know, a dude. My little sister Olivia is as close to a twin as I could have hoped for, but as we got older, she was always compared to my mom. People would say, “Wow, your mom is stunning! Olivia looks just like her!” Of course, despite knowing their intentions were good, I still took it to mean, “You’re not as pretty as them.”
I blame my nose. Well, that's not quite true. I actually blame the asshole Border Terrier that bit off my left nostril when I was 2-and-a-half years old. We had recently moved to Atlanta, and my dad and I were picking up a friend’s dog from the groomer. I don’t exactly remember what happened, but before I knew it, I was covered in blood and being rushed to the ER for surgery. Aside from some pesky scar tissue and a slightly lopsided nostril, I looked fine. I was scared to death of dogs after, but that was a whole other issue — and one I'm happy to report is resolved, thanks to several years of therapy.
I do, however, wonder whether the insecurity about my nose that would follow me was because of the bite. Did I fixate on my misshapen nose because of the trauma associated with it? I honestly don’t know.
Insecurity, by definition, is a lack of confidence. I think people would be surprised to realize how deeply rooted my insecurity is, because I've always appeared very confident on the outside. But my appearance bothered me. In pictures, my nose was wide; when I pushed on the tip, it would become flat; but more than anything, the inside wasn’t working properly — I was constantly stuffed up and snotty. My nose was such a point of distraction, both in how it looked and how it made me feel.
In 2013, for my 21st birthday, I went under the knife to have polyps removed that were causing blockage in my nasal passages and giving me six to eight sinus infections a year. My parents got behind the decision for health reasons, while I was more interested in the aesthetics. I wanted my nose to be smaller, more delicate, more feminine. We found a doctor who was willing to remove the polyps and perform reconstructive surgery.
The surgery took several hours, and the recovery took weeks. It was awful. My face was swollen, my eyes were black and blue, and I couldn’t breathe out of my nose due to the nasal packing. When the bandage came off a week after the operation, I was crushed. I didn’t look like myself at all; I was terrified of what I had done. My doctor and my family reassured me that the swelling would subside and I would love the final outcome. Unfortunately, I never did.
Overwhelmed With Insecurity
I moved to New York in August 2015, taking the insecurity about my nose with me. I would see myself on camera and notice the placement of the tip of my nose. From the profile view, it looked like it was stubby and short. I hated it. I decided to make an appointment with a plastic surgeon in the hope that he would be able to ease my fixation and tell me it wasn't as bad as I imagined. Instead, he confirmed that what I saw was real — a miscalculation in the symmetry from the last surgery. Meaning, the last doctor overshot where the tip was meant to fall, and it had made my nose too small for my face.
I left feeling defeated and angry. I called my mom hysterically crying and told her what the doctor had told me. She feared I was becoming obsessed with the idea of looking perfect, but I disagreed. To me, it was simple: After years of agony, insecurity, and pain, I just wanted my nose to look the way I had always envisioned it could.
Taking A Step Back
One of the biggest mistakes I made with the last surgery was rushing it. I had health issues that needed resolving, of course, but I was consumed by the excitement of how it would look on the other side. Now I realize that there are very few things, especially when you are emotional, that will be lost by taking a deep breath and a big step back. Research is vital to choosing the right surgeon, as is getting an understanding of the process your body will be going through. I had done neither.
This time around, though, I was older and wiser. I was certain that this would be the final chapter in the saga of my nose. I started researching the best NYC surgeons. I read reviews, scrolled through before-and-after pictures, made phone calls, went in for consultations, and finally, was introduced to Andrew Jacono, MD. From the moment I met him, I felt comfortable and safe. He made me feel beautiful regardless of whether I got the rhinoplasty. “This speaks to a basic human need to feel confident in your appearance — everybody does it in their own way,” he says. In one short hour together, he removed the stigma in which I was so wrapped up. I made an appointment that day, and decided I would document my entire experience. (You can watch it in the video above.)
Down With The Stigma/Surgery #3
Back when I was 21, I told everyone I was getting sinus surgery done — and most people believed me. I was afraid to be honest because we live in a society that puts pressure on women to look a certain way, yet criticizes them the moment they do anything to alter their natural appearances. I was terrified of what people would think of me and scared of being called shallow and vapid.
Sharing my insecurity with the world has come with its own set of challenges. I have shed tears with my family as they implored me to make this the last time. I have had to convince friends to trust me and support me. I subjected myself to the cruelty of people hiding behind computer screens, criticizing me. But I've overcome each challenge.
The truth is that we all have a thing that bothers us. Admitting it and deciding how we want to deal with it is the impossibly hard part. I wanted to share my story in the hope that others would stop being ashamed to share theirs. Do not let anyone tell you that your insecurity is trivial or invalid. Do not let people shame you for taking control of your life and making the best decision for yourself. I used to think plastic surgery was anti-feminist, when in reality, standing confidently as a woman is the strongest thing one can do. I am overwhelmed with the love and unwavering support I have received from coworkers, friends, family, and the team at Dr. Jacono’s office. Had I not been willing to share my experience, I don’t know that I would have found the confidence within myself, and I certainly wouldn’t be talking to you all right now.
Everyone has a story. Through sharing mine, I didn’t just fix my nose; I fixed me.
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