I always had an innate sense that I was enough. My parents raised me on a diet heavy with positive reinforcement, constant reminders that I was so smart, so beautiful and able to do whatever I set my mind to. My dad would constantly admonish, “It’s what’s on the inside that counts!” and my mom did her best to keep makeup out of my grubby little elementary school paws.
They worked extremely hard throughout my childhood to build me up and I took on elementary and junior high with an almost oblivious sense of security within who I was as a person. If I got bullied or teased at all, it simply bounced off my armour of confidence.
But, in high school, something happened. Somehow, all those years of building my self-worth up, each expression of love, every vote of confidence my parents sent my way, acting as blocks contributing to the construction of a solid sense of self, became a victim of devastating bombs of self-doubt.
I’ve always loved make-up, and when high school rolled around my my parents finally loose-end the reigns and allowed me to wear it, I went crazy. I literally wore every single kind of cosmetic, all at once. The more outrageous, the better. Christina Aguilera in her “Dirrty” days was my make-up inspiration. As it turned out, my high school colleagues did not sure the same affinity towards dirrty Christina Aguilera, nor did they care for the amount of makeup I insisted on wearing. So, the teasing began. I mostly tried to ignore it, never talked about it, never wanted to give it more legs than it had. But, it certainly bugged me, and triggered the self-doubt downward spiral that would plague me for the coming years.
For the first time, I found myself inspecting my physical appearance with extreme diligence. How had I not noticed that my nose was so big? Why were my boobs so much smaller than all my friends? Things that I had never thought twice about now seemed like monumental issues.
High school is hard. I know the teasing I got was likely minuscule when compared to what others had to deal with, but for my hypersensitive self, the teasing I received was detrimental to my self-confidence.
I decided to have my first nose job at 21. The experience was great – it wasn’t a drastic change, but it gave me a bump in my confidence. I remember feeling as though a weight had been lifted off my shoulders; the constant stream of negative thoughts that had plagued me from the previous three years was quieted. What I didn’t realize then was, I was starting down a negative path, of focusing so much on my exterior, without paying mind to the real issues that were plaguing me. The euphoria and assurance that was born from that procedure lasted for a few months, but soon, I found myself once again, peering at myself in the mirror through the same harsh, critical lens that I had been in the months leading up to my nose job.
And then, one day, it came to me.
Boobs! I just needed perfect boobs, and then I would for sure be happy with myself!
So, I booked the consult, worked extra hard over the summer to save up, and at age 22, I went in for breast augmentation surgery.
Coming out of that procedure, the euphoria was even more short-lived. Mere months after that, I was already plotting my next fix. I felt like I was getting closer to my ultimate goal of perfection, and I would stop at nothing to get there.
Next was round two on my nose. My first one was fine, but it wasn’t perfect. And I wanted perfect.
I came out of my third surgery thrilled. My nose was exactly what I wanted, exactly what I had envisioned. That placated me for a short while, but the nagging sense of dissatisfaction eventually began to creep back into my head once again, merely months later. This was clearly a vicious cycle, of hurting on the inside, and trying to quick-fix it with an external change, but it would take me a few more months to recognize it.
I distinctly remember the moment I realized I was caught in a never-ending circuit of chasing an unattainable ideal. I had recently broken up with my fiancé, and I was looking for something, anything, to make myself feel less lost. So, as I had previously done, I turned my malicious sights on my appearance. I remember sitting in my bathroom sink, scrutinizing my face, trying to distract myself from the sadness. “What if I got Botox to fix the lack of arch in my brows? Or maybe I should get filler in my cheeks, so my face isn’t so chubby.” I methodically scrolled through each one of my “flaws”, contemplating how I could fix them. Part of the reason that that relationship failed was because I spent so much of my time and energy trying to fix something that wasn’t even broken. I wasn’t happy with who I was, so I looked to him to fill a void that could only be resolved by myself. If there was anything that needed to be fixed, it was my inside, and in that moment, I recognized that my sights were set on completely foolish goals. I decided to spend my time and efforts on building up my self confidence once again, but basing it on who I was, instead of what I looked like.
What I finally grasped that day, was that the fact was, I’ve never had relationship ruined because my stomach wasn’t completely flat, or because I wasn’t the prettiest girl in the room. I have, however, had relationships with boyfriends and friends that corroded over time, due to my fixation on being “perfect”. Had I put all the hours I spent obsessing over food, forcing myself to spend hours in the gym, into my relationships, I can confidently say some would look completely different today.
Being perfect isn’t an offering that is on table. That is a lesson that it took me many years, and $30,000 of unnecessary cosmetic changes to figure out.
Hearing that I’m pretty is nice, but hearing that I am intelligent, creative, kind, or funny fills my heart up with a much longer-lasting sense of pride. Those things are not superficial, they are transcendental, and much more solid blocks to use in the construction of my foundation of self-worth that had been crumbling over the last few years.
So, here is my own personal real-life PSA: It doesn’t matter what you “fix”, if you aren’t building upon a solid foundation of knowing your unique value, you will inevitably find another “problem”. Self-worth and self-love are traits that need to be nurtured by a consistent stream of positive reinforce from yourself. Know yourself, understand your value, and recognize that what matters is so much more than your exterior.
I’m not here denouncing plastic surgery, or knocking those who work hard to look good. I truly believe, if it makes you feel good, do it. However, if you’re doing it to fill a void, know that the void will still be there, even as you surpass each physical goal.
Today, when I look in the mirror I still struggle some days But, I am constantly reminding myself that my self-worth is not defined by what I look like on the outside, but by the character of my soul.
Instead of obsessing over what I am not, I am choosing to nourish all of the things that I am… and I am so many good things. I am continually working on identifying my strengths, and using that knowledge to the best of my ability, breeding my confidence through that avenue.
Instead of spending thousands of dollars on plastic surgery, and spending hours trying to perfect my appearance, I am using my time to develop Morgan, the soul, not Morgan, the exterior. A well-developed, happy inside is so much more valuable than a picture-perfect outside. Comparing myself to others only brings dissatisfaction, often in areas I didn’t even realize I could be dissatisfied with. I understand that I am not perfect, and it doesn’t matter how many procedures I have or maintenance I do on myself, I never will be. But I am enough.
Like the Internet (or someone smart, anyways) says, “You can be the juiciest peach in the world, but there will always be someone who just doesn’t like peaches.” As long as you like peaches, and are proud of the peach you are, that’s all that matters.
Self worth, ya’ll. It’s an inside job.
PS: Here’s a pic of me pre-nose jobs, since that is the #1 request I receive upon disclosure.