TIME health

Why I Decided to Have Plastic Surgery at Age 11

xoJane.com is where women go to be their unabashed selves, and where their unabashed selves are applauded

"Plastic surgery does not make you weak, or mean you’re avoiding your feelings"

xojane

As a kid, I had an unfortunately large, hairy mole on the side of my face.

By hairy, I do not mean a few strands poking through it. It grew its own lock of hair that had to be routinely trimmed. If I had ever let it grow long enough, I could have had a tiny pony tail on the side of my face.

The mass itself was about the size of a dime. As a young child, I found it amusing more than anything else and toddler me giggled at it in the mirror. It was just a thing that was there, not gross or weird or any of the other adjectives I would hear later.

It wasn’t until around fourth or fifth grade that the mole became a source of insecurity. Kids noticed it, and unsurprisingly, kids can be dicks. It was right at the edge of my hairline and I was able to successfully hide it in my chin length haircut as long as my hair stayed in place, but I lived in constant apprehension of who would discover it.

It turned from a quirky birthmark to a source of shame. From ages five through twelve, I never wore my hair up. No ponytails. No buns. Girls in my class got to change their hairstyles while I frantically hid my face behind my hair.

Even when I played soccer and basketball as a kid, my hair stayed down no matter how much it got in my face or how much I sweated into it.

Despite my growing apprehension about it, I still lived with my mole without much ridicule until the summer I went into junior high. There were isolated incidents that were mildly embarrassing, but the worst one happened when I went swimming with two friends.

I wasn’t even thinking about the mole until the water swept my hair back behind my ears. The two girls I was with immediately pointed out my hideous secret with some less-than-sensitive exclamations of “EW what is THAT?” directed at the side of my face. It was mortifying and I wanted to cry.

I had started to become slightly self-conscious about it, but that was definitely the defining moment that made me feel truly isolated by the otherwise harmless growth on my face.

I was about to be a teenager, some of the most superficial and judgmental years of a person’s life. My mother had several small moles on her face that I knew bothered her as well, and even though none were as prominent as mine, she understood what I was going through. It’s painful to know your daughter feels she needs to constantly hide part of her face.

Shortly after the swimming pool incident, she finally suggested the option of consulting with a dermatologist and plastic surgeon and seeing what could be done. We both knew it had to go.

My mole was classified as congenital, which allowed its removal to be covered by our insurance despite being benign.

So at age 11, after being reassured by the plastic surgeon that I would not be left with any major scarring, I went under the knife.

I wanted acceptance. I wanted to be pretty. I wanted to like myself. I didn’t see how any of the above were possible with what in my mind was something as disgusting as a second head growing out of my face. While my mother brought the idea up in the first place, I never felt pressured by her to make the call. It was superficial and yet also completely necessary to me.

It’s easy to look back now and say I should have gotten over it. That I would have grown out of it. That someone should have told me I was beautiful the way I was and I should just be myself. (For the record, my mother has always told me that.) That teasing should never be a reason to be anesthetized and wake up with a part of your body physically missing.

We can talk forever about how unfair beauty standards are and their negative impact on young girls, but none of that would have changed my opinion. At the time, I saw removal as the only solution. I know, even today, that no amount of kind words would have made me feel differently.

When you truly dislike something about yourself, compliments sound hollow and patronizing. I regret none of it. I don’t want to know what I would be like now if I still had my mole. I was (and still am) lanky and weird enough without any added help.

My scar is faded now, but when it was still fresh classmates frequently pointed it out and asked about it and even that was painful for me. It triggered my paranoia over someone discovering my mole all over again. I would lie and say it was a scratch or a birthmark just to avoid the conversation.

Nowadays, at 22, I almost forget the mole ever existed. Outside of doctors’ appointments where I have to supply my medical history, it doesn’t cross my mind. Occasionally I tell new friends about it and joke about how “I’ve had a little work done.”

My scar is virtually undetectable but on the off chance someone notices, I do not feel like I need to lie about where it came from. (Clearly, I’ll even tell strangers on the Internet all about it.)

I know cosmetic surgery sometimes has negative connotations, especially when offered to someone so young, but I hardly think I am any worse off. If anything, my life improved significantly and my personality flipped around entirely.

It also isn’t a slippery slope, like so many entertainment news specials reporting on celebrities addicted to plastic surgery imply. I had another mole removed roughly a year after the first one, but have had no procedures since then.

There are plenty of physical features I don’t like about myself, but I have no desire to change them. I also don’t harbor any hard feelings toward the people who picked on me. Kids can be jerks. I can think of situations where I was too. That’s just a fact. (Although I’ll offer some general life advice: If you’re grossed out by someone’s face, keep it to yourself instead of pointing it out loudly like an asshole.)

I don’t want anyone to take my story the wrong way. I’m not advocating slicing off everything you hate about yourself and then feeling perfect forever. I’m just saying that plastic surgery does not make you weak, or mean you’re avoiding your feelings, or taking an “easy way out,” and anyone who feels that way needs to butt out of your personal choices.

I can wonder what I would be like if I hadn’t gone through with the surgery, but I cannot imagine it would have been happier than I am now. I ended up choosing a college nearly thousand miles away from home where I knew no one, something I doubt I would have pulled off if I was still hiding behind my own hair.

Paige Handley wrote this article for xoJane

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME feminism

Female Perfect Imperfections Shine Through in Photographer’s New Project

perfectly imperfect ker fox photography
Ker-Fox Photography

Beautiful portraits of 16 women of all body types make up the first part of the ongoing project

In her new project Perfect Imperfections photographer Neely Ker-Fox goes out of her way to highlight the beauty in women of all sizes, shapes, ages and backgrounds. Inspired by other popular postpartum series by the likes of Jade Beall and January Harshe, Ker-Fox took photos of 16 women for the first series of her project and has made plans to shoot 10 more.

“I wanted to represent everybody,” Ker-Fox told People this week. “I didn’t want there to be anybody that saw this project and felt left out.”

The project came out of Ker-Fox’s own struggles with her body image. “For the last 9 months I have struggled with my postpartum body,” she wrote on her website, saying she “barely recognizes” her postbaby frame and has struggled with stretch marks, sciatic nerve pain and even an umbilical hernia. Acknowledging that “we as humans all have insecurities and we are all scarred, imperfect and flawed in some way physically and emotionally,” Ker-Fox said she hoped to show the deeper beauty that shines through in women.

See some of her photos at People

TIME beauty

Ashley Graham Explains Why You Shouldn’t Call Her a ‘Plus-Sized’ Model

"The fashion industry might persist to label me as plus-sized, but I like to think of it as my-sized"

Body activist and model Ashley Graham made a moving TED Talk speech about the power of self-acceptance and the problem with the term “plus sized.”

In an April TEDx Talk that was recently uploaded to YouTube, Graham takes on the fashion industry through radical self-acceptance. Here’s how she started the talk:

“Back fat, I see you popping over my bra today. But that’s alright—I’m going to choose to love you. Thick thighs, you’re just so sexy you can’t stop rubbing each other. That’s alright, I’m going to keep you. And cellulite, I have not forgotten about you—I’m going to choose to love you, even though you want to take over my whole bottom half.”

She went on to describe how the term “plus-sized model” made her feel like she was an outsider in the fashion world, even though she had a successful modeling career. “I felt free once I realized I was never going to fit the narrow mold society wanted me to fit in,” she said. “The fashion industry might persist to label me as plus-sized, but I like to think of it as my-sized.” She noted that in the U.S., plus sizes start at anything from 8-16. Graham is a co-founder of ALDA, a coalition of plus-sized models.

“Back in Nebraska I was known as the fat model—the girl who was pretty for a big girl,” she said. She said that idea was isolating. “My body, like my confidence, has been picked apart, manipulated and controlled by others who didn’t necessarily understand it.”

“We need to work together to redefine the global image of beauty, and it starts by becoming your own role model,” she said.

TIME fashion

Lilly Pulitzer Employee Posted Fat-Shaming Cartoons on Office Wall

While the plus-size line of its Target collaboration is only available online

A photo feature about the offices of fashion house Lilly Pulitzer has uncovered an uncomfortable detail: nestled among bright dress prints and fabric samples were some mean-spirited doodles.

The drawings, which an online New York article showed displayed on a wall in the Lilly Pulitzer offices, show two overweight women. On one, a caption says “Just another day of fat, white and hideous… you should probably just kill yourself.” The other is accompanied with the phrase, “Put it down, carb-face!”

A Lilly Pulitzer spokesperson said the illustrations were displayed by a lone member of staff but Twitter users erupted with outrage at cartoons many saw as fat-shaming:

“These illustrations were the work of one individual and were posted in her personal work area,” says Jane Schoenborn, Lily Pulitzer’s Vice President of Creative Communications. “While we are an employer that does encourage people to decorate their own space, we are a female-dominated company and these images do not reflect our values. We apologize for any harm this may have caused.”

The kerfuffle comes a few weeks after some accused the designer’s new collaboration with Target of discriminating against plus-sized customers; while all sizes up to 14 are carried in stores, larger sizes are only available online.

 

 

TIME Body Image

California Woman Struggling With Severe Anorexia Shares Her Story

"I want other anorexics to hear this"

A California woman desperate to win her 10-year fight with anorexia shared her story online recently, ultimately raising enough money to transfer her to a specialized medical facility.

Rachael Farrokh, 37, opened up to ABC last week about her story of dropping from 125 pounds to a life-threateningly low weight—so low that many hospitals won’t admit her due to liability reasons, according to her GoFundMe page. The crowdfunding campaign, set up by her husband and caretaker, Rod Edmondson, 41, has raised more $160,000 of the $100,000 goal over 24 days.

“I want other anorexics to hear this,” Farrokh said. “This is miserable. Everything hurts from my head down to my toes. It’s really hard to [stay on topic], so what I try to do is have conversations with Rod and keep in contact with other victims on Facebook to be encouraging and supportive of one another.”

Read more at ABC

TIME Body Image

Watch a Fitness Blogger Photoshop Herself In Real Time

Cassey Ho gives herself the so-called "perfect body" to send a powerful message

Personal trainer Cassey Ho is a very popular fitness blogger with more than two million YouTube subscribers. She often receives mean, negative comments, as many bloggers do.

In a new video, Ho responds to these comments by Photoshopping herself in real time to create what her critics would consider the “perfect body.” She slims her waist, increases her chest and butt, contours her waist and even changes the color of her eyes.

“In the last few months, the negativity towards me personally has gotten worse. I’m a person too, so it really gets to me,” she told People. “I had this epiphany: How can I express how I’m feeling visually?”

Ho says her ultimate goal is to “show that cyber-bullying and mean comments really affect people, and to think before you say something.”

Read next: This ‘Normal Barbie’ Ad Captures Society’s Insane Pressure to Have a Perfect Body

TIME beauty

Why You Should Love Your Body

Overlapping fingerprints forming a heart shape
Getty Images

I refused to rob myself of something I enjoyed because of how other people might react to me

As a plus-size girl, there have been so many things I’ve put on hold, telling myself that they should happen “next year” after I’d lost some weight. But then, “next year” came and went, and my weight barely budged.

Eventually, I asked myself: If I never lose weight, will I never live the amazing life I want?

Putting my entire life on hold until I looked a certain way sounded like a crazy idea, so I decided against it and born was my motto “Don’t Wait On Your Weight.”

I looked closely at my fear of embarrassment and rejection, issues that that kept me from trying new things and living life to the fullest. I realized that I was rejecting experiences as a defense mechanism so that I wouldn’t be rejected.

Once I came to terms with my behavior, I began to challenge myself. Every time I felt myself shy away from something because of my size, I took a deep breath and walked towards the very thing that was scaring me. Read on for ways that I challenged myself — and ask yourself if some of them don’t sound all too familiar:

Don’t Wait On Your Weight…

To Date Online

I can remember a friend in high school telling me that guys don’t date girls who are bigger than a size 10. I took that rule to heart and was convinced that love wouldn’t find me until I found my way out of the big girl’s department. But, with my new motto motivating me to step outside of my comfort zone, I set up an online dating profile and ignored the negative voice in my head. I even put up a full body photo of myself and to my surprise — and delight — I went on awesome dates.

To Travel

Sometimes big girls have to push through seat-belt extenders and narrow plane seats to get where we need to go, but the world is too much of a magical place to let silly things like that get in my way. I’ve yet to die from asking for a seat-belt extender and pushing past that fear has given me amazing experiences like parasailing over the Atlantic Ocean and hiking in Runyon Canyon.

To Hit The Gym

Its easy to peep through the gym windows, see the chiseled, rock-hard bodies and feel like you need to drop ten pounds before you even walk in the door, but the gym is for everybody and every body. My health is one thing that’s non-negotiable and I’m not going to let myself feel intimidated by gym culture.

I know I deserve a healthy life at any size, and I work hard on my healthy curves journey. The gym’s just as much a place for me as it is for anyone else. Don’t rob yourself of a healthy lifestyle because you don’t have a flat tummy. Get some cute workout clothes and start sweating.

To Wear A Bikini

I would have never thought in a million years that I’d be on vacation in Miami wearing a two- piece swimsuit, but a few months ago, I did just that, and it was the best trip I’ve had in a while. No one stared at me, no one laughed at me, and I even got a few compliments. I had an amazing time and I shudder at the thought that I would ever skip something like that based on numbers on a scale. Life’s too short to skip the beach!

Admittedly, it wasn’t overnight that I donned a bikini in public or signed up for parasailing. You’ve got to start out small. It’ll get easier, I promise. On weekends, instead of pouting and saying “why go out and dance with my girlfriends, no one is going to talk to me until I lose weight,” I took pains to remind myself that I love to dance, and I wasn’t about to let my size hold me back. Reasoning that I’d be happier out dancing than moping in my apartment, I went out. I refused to rob myself of something I enjoyed because of how other people might react to me.

Once I consciously worked to break the habit, I learned that most people are too caught up in their own insecurities to focus on mine. I also learned that I am very good at imagining terrible scenarios that never actually happen.

If you feel like your weight is holding you back, I encourage you to start taking the steps to claim the life you deserve to live. The next time a social opportunity arises, throw on a cute outfit and go! Of course, you may face rejection or experience awkward moments (who doesn’t?), but you also might have the time of your life.

This article originally appeared on Refinery29.com.

More from Refinery29:

TIME celebrities

Fitness Expert Tracy Anderson Says Being ‘Hot Is Not Defined by Height or Weight’

Tracy Anderson attends the Los Angeles Premiere of "Home" in Westwood, Cali. on March 22, 2015.
Todd Williamson—AP Tracy Anderson attends the Los Angeles Premiere of "Home" in Westwood, Cali. on March 22, 2015.

Rather, it's about "going to the root of who you are"

Though she’s shaped the bodies of some of Hollywood’s hottest stars, Tracy Anderson says women should focus less on emulating their figures and more on achieving your healthiest self.

“To blow up their importance to the level of obsession takes away from our own beauty and our own gifts,” the fitness expert tells Health in their May cover story. “There’s a disease here—the disease is vanity, insecurity and the lengths of unhealthy behaviors people go to to achieve what they think is beautiful. The disease of ‘I’m not worth anything unless I look like that person over there.’ ”

To move beyond the traditional standard of beauty, Anderson, 40—who works with stars like Gwyneth Paltrow and Lena Dunham—stresses not all our shapes are created equal.

“I want to get away from ‘Tracy Anderson is going to make you teeny-tiny.’ I’m not trying to make everyone the same,” she says. “To me, ‘hot’ is not defined by a height or weight or measurement; hot is going to the root of who you are.”

And even though the workout guru started creating the Tracy Anderson Method at 21-years-old, she hasn’t always been as diligent when it came to her diet.

“I was in London, dunking cookies in frosting. And [Gwyneth Paltrow] looked at me and was like, ‘What are you doing?’ And I was like, ‘What do you mean? It’s so good!’ And she’s like, ‘Do you know how toxic that is?’ I said, ‘Yes.’ And she’s like, ‘And you’re still eating it.’ I was like, ‘You know what? She’s so right,’ ” she says. “That was almost nine years ago. That was the last cookie dunked in frosting I ever had.”

This article originally appeared on People.com.

TIME Body Image

Chrissy Teigen Gives Instagram a Refreshing Look at Her Stretch Marks

"Stretchies say hi!"

We typically don’t turn to supermodels for a healthy perspective on body acceptance. But Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition model Chrissy Teigen has taken to Instagram to spread body positivity.

Usually tabloids are the only ones flaunting celebrity stretch marks, but on Monday night, Teigen posted a photo with the caption, “Bruises from bumping kitchen drawer handles for a week. Stretchies say hi!”

Social media often gets a bad reputation for fostering feelings of fo-mo, wanderlust and other insecurities. And that’s why it’s so refreshing when public figures like Teigen — or, recently, Amy Schumer — offer an unfiltered look at supposed flaws.

TIME celebrities

Pink Is the Latest Celeb to Shut Down Body Criticism

Pink arrives for the John Wayne 30th Annual Odyssey Ball in Beverly Hills, Calif. on April 11, 2015.
Gabriel Olsen—Getty Images Pink arrives for the John Wayne 30th Annual Odyssey Ball in Beverly Hills, Calif. on April 11, 2015.

"My healthy, voluptuous and crazy strong body is having some much deserved time off"

When Pink put on a pretty party dress, delicate black headband and sparkling chandelier earrings to head out to an event Saturday night, she felt great about herself, just as we all do when we get dressed to the nines. But, this being the internet, it didn’t take long for some people to post her photo with nasty comments about the singer’s body. And because Pink is as famously outspoken as she is incredibly fit, she took to Twitter to demand some sanity.

In a typed-out screengrab posted on Twitter, Pink wrote:

“I can see that some of you are concerned about me from your comments about my weight. You’re referring to the pictures of me from last night’s cancer benefit that I attended to support my [dear] friend Dr. Maggie DiNome. She was given the Duke Award for her tireless efforts and stellar contributions to the eradication of cancer. But unfortunately, my weight seems much more important to some of you. While I admit that the dress didn’t photograph as well as it did in my kitchen, I will also admit that I felt very pretty. In fact, I feel beautiful. So, my good and concerned peoples, please don’t worry about [me]. I’m not worried about me. And I’m not worried about you either :) … I am perfectly fine, perfectly happy, and my healthy, voluptuous and crazy strong body is having some much deserved time off. Thanks for your concern. Love, cheesecake.”

Considering this is the performer who can do this and this without even blinking, we’re with her on all counts above. But to further prove her case, Pink posted a few reminders of what’s really important: Being a present, healthy and able body for her family (daughter Willow and husband Carey Hart) to love.

This article originally appeared on People.com.

Read next: See How 6 Women Got Over Their Body Image Issues

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