Monday, July 13, 2009

Defining Moment


Every Tuesday Emily at Chatting at the Sky hosts Tuesdays Unwrapped. I love the way Emily challenges herself and us to look at life honestly and to experience the reality of life. And today I want to share what is, for me, an important moment from last week at the beach: a moment in which I took a photo of myself.

First, though, here's a photo from our trip to the beach last year.


I love photographs, but I don't usually love photographs of me. This one is different. My husband took this at Kiawah Island, our favorite vacation spot. Kiawah was where we honeymooned 24 years ago, and it's where we've taken our boys for many years now.

But the real reason I love this photo is because it's very selective. It only shows the part of me that I like. And as I sat at Kiawah this past week, I realized just how much I have defined myself by the part of me that doesn't show in this photo.

You see, I have a birthmark. A really big birthmark. The biggest I've ever seen. It covers most of the right side of my body. It's actually a symptom of very rare disorder called Klippel-Trenaunay Syndrome.

And over the years I have lied about my birthmark. Many times, people have asked me, "Does it hurt?" Invariably, I say, "No; it doesn't hurt."

That's not true. It does hurt. It doesn't hurt much physically; it's a little uncomfortable sometimes. But emotionally it does hurt. It hurts to look funny; it hurts to have people stare at you; it hurts to have people exclaim, "Oh my gosh! What happened to you?"

But the fact is that I've let it define me. In spite of having a husband who loves me and who thinks I'm beautiful, I've thought of myself as someone who could look okay but could never be beautiful.
Even now I can hear Nester's voice: "It doesn't have to be perfect to be beautiful." I agree with her. I heartily concur with her. And yet I haven't been able to think of myself in those terms.

Maybe, I've thought, just maybe I can look okay as long as you don't look at my birthmark. If you take that part out, like in my favorite photo, I can look okay. But the overall picture? No way it could be beautiful.

And so I've let my imperfection define the way I think about myself. And as I sat on the porch of our cottage this past week, it occurred to me that it just doesn't make sense for me to define myself according to an imperfection, no matter how glaring.

So I took a photo of my legs. It's not a good photo, because I snapped it of myself. You know how photos taken at close range can look a bit distorted. But it does give you a sense of what my birthmark is like. The birthmark extends all the way up my leg and covers most of my right torso, as well. Like I said, it's the biggest birthmark I've ever seen.


But it is what it is. I would change it if I could. I've had it treated with lasers multiple times, with limited results. (By the way, the laser technology is wonderful and often very effective. It's just that it wasn't available until I was about 35 years old, by which time there was only so much effectiveness that could be expected. For a child or youth, though, it's a process that would be extremely effective.)

In short, this is a part of me that I cannot change. The only thing I can change is my attitude about it. And I am deciding to accept the fact that the person in my favorite photo is the same person as the one in the second photo. I can be imperfect and still be okay.

I don't have to hide my imperfections in order to be acceptable; I just need to accept myself.


62 comments:

Anonymous said...

Wonderful! May God bless you for your honest post.

Carmen said...

Birthmark or not...I think you are beautiful! :)

Anonymous said...

I am a lurker, but that post touched me. Thank you for sharing yourself.

God bless you,

Lori in PA

emily said...

Richella, I like you even more now! Isn't that funny? There is more power in sharing our weaknesses than our strengths. Brennan Manning said that. Not that having a birthmark is a weakness. But feeling the way you have felt about it and then deciding to think differently..well, that is a blessing we can all learn from. thank you so much for so graciously and honestly sharing with us. Bravo.

The Nester said...

I am getting many chills right now.

And everything that emily said would be exactly what I would want to say if I could write as good as she.

Yes, I like you more. cuz now I can relate to you even more. I'm so glad that you are not perfect either.

Steph @ AnnoyinglyDomestic said...

You ARE beautiful. Tell yourself that every time you see your reflection or think about it even though it may feel ridiculous. It's so important to take care of yourself emotionally.

I asked my husband to say the words, "I love you and you're beautiful" at least once a day to me because hearing those words from him helps me feel better about myself (I'm still workin' on me - I know, I shouldn't have to hear that from him to be happy). At first, it was very silly and I would have to finish his "I love you's" with "and I'm beautiful!" with a cheesy face, then, eventually, he would say it but with a silly smile on his face. But now, he says it automatically, with meaning, and I think it helps us both.

Dawn said...

aren't we often in need of an attitude adjustment?! i know i am. i'm sure that you have heard all sorts of things, all your life about this birthmark and the way you should feel... but what matters is how you do feel. and i am happy that you are brave! and beginning to come around to acceptance. because i think you are beautiful in side & out :)

ALVN of WhisperWood Cottage and Junkologie said...

Wonderful post! It inspired me to reflect on my own life and the things that I let define me. Thank you for the inspiration!

Amy

Meme said...

You may never know how much this post has moved me. My own legs are my personal "shame zone". May I dare to change my attitude and learn to accept myself as well. Thank you so much for sharing!!

BTW - you are stunning!!

togetherforgood said...

I love this. None of us are perfect, in spite of what we all seem to think. I know I constantly hold myself up to ideals that don't even really exist. I am so grateful to you for sharing your imperfections-- you have truly imparted grace to me today. :)

Kelli said...

I relate to this post!!! It was beautifully written. Thank you for sharing. I have a birhtmark on my leg that has affected every aspect of my life. It took me 37 years to realize I could still go to the beach, wear shorts and still have fun. Thanks again.

Jo@Mylestones said...

Richella-what a PERFECT post about embracing the imperfections! I so appreciate your willingness to be vulnerable & share from the heart about what you're learning.

Patricia said...

Wow what an amazing post!
I am in awe of your honesty!

From the first picture when I saw it a while back to the second picture which I saw for the first time today, I think you are STUNNING!


God Bless
Patricia

Carmen said...

Second comment from me today to tell you that I blogged about you today.

Anonymous said...

Your post is such an unexpected and lovely blessing for me...I've never read your blog and know that I was divinely directed...here...today...thank you. The thought of what we let define us is so crucial...we all needn't be defined by a percieved weakness, or limitation or by the eyes of others who don't really see us...we (I!) ask for God to give me HIS eyes to see myself and others...because his view is the only one that is accurate...or really matters! Bless you today...and thanks for blessing me!!

deb said...

i posted about my own imperfections today as well.
It certainly is easier to "hide" emotional issues sometimes.
You're soul has just oozed beauty on all my visits here, and this is no exception. Serving and living with purpose seems such out there work , but you've just made more difference than most with your honesty and humility . Loving us with trust , as you love yourself. Thank you.

Carol said...

Almost sounds like you're doing "Me, Myself & Lies" by Jennifer Rothschild. That birthmark is just like some of the bad things we say to ourselves. I think the best thing I've gotten out of that Bible study is if I have strep, I don't say, "I am Strep." I am Carol. And your birthmark is a good example. You don't say, "I am Birthmark." You say, "I am Richella." How blessed you are to have a husband who sees you as God sees you.

Gosh, we're so tough on ourselves.

Abbie said...

Thanks for sharing. It's so easy to define ourselves by what we don't like, or let ourselves be controlled by the "unbeautiful" parts. Thank you.

dawn said...

great post...very appreciated.

Don't we all prefer to only let the pretty parts of us show?? I know I like it better than when my weaknesses and insecurities hang out for everyone to see. It's so funny though, in the moments of greatest honesty, the deepest connections are made and the greatest impact happens.

You go. I like you already.

its so very cheri said...

Wow-you are beautiful and amazing. A beautiful person inside is much more appealing than someone beautiful on the outside but not a nice person to be around. I tell my children all the time-God makes each of us UNIQUE-special in His sight. What we define as perfect isn't how God looks at us. I know it is still hard to deal with, because we, as humans, do set standards, but birthmark or not you are beautiful.
Cheri
www,itssoverycheri.blogspot.com

Kim said...

Beautifully stated. We are always our own worst enemy. I can tell just by reading your post that you are very beautiful inside & out. Thanks for sharing. And you are absolutely right that it is your attitude about it that can make all the difference in the world.

Domestic Engineer said...

Wow, what an inspirational post. Thank you for sharing. You are amazingly beautiful both INSIDE and OUT. Truly.

Sharone said...

Oh, wow. "And I am deciding to accept the fact that the person in my favorite photo is the same person as the one in the second photo." I'm writing that down. It's so easy to only accept the parts of ourselves that we like, to refuse wholeness for ourselves because of our pain.

This is an incredible post - and it must have been a difficult one to write. Thank you so much.

Kimba said...

Thank you so much for deciding to share this part of yourself with all of us. I have tears in my eyes right now.

Kimba

maggiegracecreates said...

I work in a location that teases about my weight. Which I am already struggling with. I am dieting and getting stronger everyday, but not really losing weight.

I really didn't think it was hurtful until I realized that I am internalizing their comments.

Thank you for saying out loud what I really am thinking - no I do not hurt physically by what they say, but mentally and emotionally - yes I do hurt.

You are beautiful. Bless you.

Amanda@Imperfectly Beautiful said...

Oh my sweet dear friend! Thank you for this beautiful post with such honesty and heart. It seems every time I visit here, I come to love you more and more. You truly are beautiful inside and out. Why are we all so hard on ourselves? I wish we could see ourselves as our Maker sees us, if but for a second. Thank you for touching my heart today.

Love ~ Amanda

Rhoda @ Southern Hospitality said...

Hi, Richella, I just so admire your honesty in sharing this with everyone. You're a sweetie & a real beauty inside and out. I love your profile pic, it is gorgeous. So, I'm glad you have come to terms with your birthmark and have some peace with it. I know things like that can haunt us forever. I have one about the size of a silver dollar right on my cheek, yes that cheek! Of course, no one sees it but me and my hubby, but it's been with me all my life. xoxo Thanks for all your sweet comments, I love it when you come by to see me.

Buzzings of a Queen Bee! said...

I could not agree with you more. It doesn't have to be perfect to be beautiful. I think you are wonderful for posting the photo of your birthmark. I can say for sure that you are beautiful with or without it!
Carrie

Bee said...

Well, this touches me way down deep in the middle of my heart. Although the issue is different, I seem to define myself by what I think other people think of me.

You are quite beautiful.

Jessica Morris said...

This is my first visit to your blog and this post is so beautifully written!!
God has created us each uniquely and beautifully :)

Stacey said...

Amen! You know what you've just made me realize - that I tend to define my children by their little weaknesses. Oh my gosh, thank you for the eye opener!!

Denise said...

beautiful post (followed you over from the nester).

i don't have a physical birthmark, but i have an emotional one. a few years ago i stopped allowing it to define me, and i have come into so much freedom. i have even come to love my "birthmark" understanding it is God's image i am created in.

i agree with what emily said (4th comment) there is power in sharing your weakness! your birthmark makes you vulnerable, transparent, BEAUTIFUL!

Colleen P. said...

Wow-you're just gorgeous, I hope you know that! I have to admit, I'm so jealous of your tiny waist and arms. I too only like selective pictures of myself because if it shows my midsection that's all I can see. I often do not even try to enhance the things about me that really are attractive because I am punishing myself for that one part of my body.

Thanks for the kick to the mind-set! I'm going to work on that! It just goes to show, no matter how awful I might think I look, someone else would probably be happy to look like me, just as I am, right now. And believe me, most of us would love to look just like you!

Debbie said...

I came to visit from Nester's Place and I'm so glad I did. Richella, I think you're beautiful even with your birthmark. Your character is shining through loud and clear. You are being honest and transparent.

I almost cried when I read this because I use the same photo of me on most social networks and blogs. It happened to be a good day and I actually clipped it from a photo that was with my niece. So, I definitely was in my happy place. I LOVE my niece! But not all photos of me make me look as good. I'm 56 years old and you can't hide all the smiley wrinkles that happen at this age. I used to be able to afford many beauty treatments but lately in this economy ...my budget has changed. So what you see is what you get! I always appreciate the beauty in others but somehow am more critical of myself.

Thank you for sharing with us a bit about yourself. It helps me to open up about my own imperfections too. :)

Anonymous said...

You are gorgeous! This made me think of Top Chef's Padma Lakshmi, who is also beautiful and has a VERY large scar going down much of her arm. I think she's so much more beautiful with that scar because she's so much more interesting. You're really beautiful and your post shows that you are also very intelligent and interesting, so I think it is most likely true that your birth mark makes you even more beautiful. Cheers! Susan

Andrea @ Big Creek Cottage said...

What a beautiful woman you are.....

Kim said...

You are a beautiful woman! Thanks for sharing!

Cottagecheap said...

Wonderful post. I shared it with my friend whose 3 year old daughter has a facial Port Wine Stain. She will appreciate your candor. Also it will help her feel better about her choice to do laser therapy, she agonizes over it.

HUGS

Missie said...

Thank you for being so open. Like one of the other comments, I am also doing the Me, Myself & Lies Bible Study by Jennifer Rothschild. I also have a physical trait by which I often define myself. However, I am coming to understand that God made me as I am because that is part of the person He wants me to be. I think of 2 Corinthians 12:9-10 where God tells Paul "my grace is sufficient for you..."

Dawn said...

Thank you for your honest post. You are obviously a beautiful person inside and out!

My son has a similar birthmark that covers the lower half of his right leg. Everyone thinks it's bruising. He's very sensitive about it.

Anonymous said...

I hope I will be able to process my disfigurement in the way you have processed your birthmark. It affects me tremendously and deeply, and I am defined by it. I don't know how to change my thinking. And, no matter how I think, people will treat me differently and that is something that will continue to hurt my soul. It's wonderful that you are finding a place of peace and joy. Maybe someday I can find that too.

Sarah said...

I just hopped over from the Nester, and I'm so glad I did! Your post was honest and beautiful, just like the woman who wrote it. Thank you for reminding me to be more excepting and loving of myself. God's blessings to you new friend! :D

Anna said...

beautiful post. Really made me think about what I let define me. I am excited for the day when I can except myself for who I am inside and out... I know that we are all working towards that. This post got me a little bit closer. Thanks.

Terri said...

This line so resonated with me: "I've thought of myself as someone who could look okay but could never be beautiful." Growing up, my dad's nickname for me was "ugly" so of course, that is how I always thought of myself. And it hurt. I always thought that I could be smart, but I could never be beautiful. People don't see those scars, but of course they color everything about me. Thank you for this honest post. Blessings to you.

Susan (Between Naps on the Porch) said...

Well, I always thought you looked beautiful each time I've seen the first photo...now I know you truly are! Thanks for an inspiring post!
Susan

Melanie said...

This post brought tears to my eyes. You are beautiful - not in spite of the birthmark, but maybe even because of it.

Amy said...

Beautiful post, and what a breathtaking picture!! Lovely!

Cindy Merris said...

I am am going to show this to my 15 year old daughter and pray that she can "get it". The best thing about what you wrote? You are the most beautiful women now to all of us, birthmark included.

melissa said...

I love you for this post. Thanks for opening up and sharing yourself with us :)

Sarah said...

What a beautiful post! You are amazing to be so open and share what most women think and never utter! Thank you for your boldness and strength to share and put it out there! We need to take this lesson in our own lives and find the beauty in who we are, the way God created us!

Anonymous said...

You clearly are beautiful inside as well as out! Sadly, all us gals do constantly need reminding that we don't need to be like the airbrushed FAKE images that bombard us constantly. To focus too much on image is boring - in our homes and bodies. Honoring the body God gave us is beautiful, NOT skin, hair, eyes or shape etc etc etc etc. A home w/quirks and evidence of living is always admired for the same reason. Thanks so much to you and Nester and all the other bloghers for keeping it real!
BTW - I'm losing all my hair quickly due to a family condition, so wear a wig... I tell anyone who compliments my hair that "it's fake, but thanks." It is what it is!!!

. said...

This is my first time in your blog and it won't be the last. I have to tell you that I can relate to you some how not because I have a birthmark but because I'm a shame of my legs and that has cause me a lot of hurt true my life. I know that I need to learned to accept myself the way I am. Thank you for sharing and let me tell you you are beautiful not matter what.

Erika

Debbie said...

I just wanted you to know that I wrote about you on my Monday post on Heart Choices. I thank you for giving me permission and I pray that I did you justice. You are indeed beautiful both outside and inside.

Sarah Dawn said...

Just found you via heart to heart, so glad for the introduction. I too have a birthmark, a comment for many. I too have leaned to hide my realness in many areas of my life. Yet, I'm thankful that God is teaching me, to be real, to be unwrapped in His presence.

Blessings from Costa Rica,
Sarah Dawn

Angie said...

Richella! Thank you for sharing so much of your heart and life. This blessed me on so many levels---emotionally--spiritually and physically.

God will continue to use this post (I came by way of Debbie) to encourage MANY in sharing their lives openly for HIM.

God bless you greatly!

Anonymous said...

I read your story on Debbie's blog. I was touched by what I saw and how you have learned to accept it. You have helped others going through similar circumstances. I was diagnosed with Seborrheic Keratosis. Brown spots are spreading all over my body. They were mostly on my back at first, but are quickly spreading to the rest of my body. I had become very self conscious, but am slowly trying to accept it. I am touched by your transparency. Thank you.

Stephanie newendings@yahoo.com said...

I just read this post & you have given me something to think about. I was born with a severe facial birth defect and I have let it define me for my whole life, always feeling ugly -always. My birth defect is hemifacial microsomia, basically the right side of my face was not fully formed. I've had numerous surgeries throughout my life, but still the defect is highly noticable. My husband of 15 years just left me and I've been feeling very down and depressed and discouraged, like no man will ever be interested in me again and have resigned myself to a "spinster-like" life, you know, like one of those lonely old women who go on to have 57 cats?! Seriously, thank you for this post and your honesty. "I don't have to be perfect to be beautiful".....hmmm....must recite this many times a day! I hope someday I can truly believe it.

uabrnem said...

You know your story touched me I too have a birthmark that's well unusual to say the least it's not really a birthmark per say but it's hard to explain to others see when I was born preemie no less back in the late 70's technology isn't like it is today and well I had a very high fever that has left permanent scaring but in a place that is rare my two front teeth. It's right on the enamel and very white, whiter I should say then my normal enamel so that it's really promident needless to say I didn't like smiling but I'm over that I have embarrassed it..it's me! The worst sometimes would be kids but I love their frankness they would come up and say why you have white stuff on your teeth and I would tell them that when I was born that's what was different about me everyone has something different about themselves and that's what makes you YOU!! In short thank you so much for sharing your story this is my first time ever speaking out like this about mine I used to never talk about it unless it was questioned..and I too have a husband who loves me and thinks that I'm just unique and all his own.

Becolorful said...

I am so glad I stopped by. You have inspired me. We all have a flaw. Some are just easier to camouflage than others. For me it is my thinning hair. I am becoming obsessed by it. But what to do. I see it in my mom and although I am able to somewhat hide it now but for how much longer? I look at my mom, though, and she is still a beautiful woman... inside and out. Many days I don't even notice this on her. I think we think people are more concerned about our flaws than they really are. You are a very beautiful woman and courageous too. Thanks for the reveal I hope it was cathartic.

Kate said...

I wandered over here from Centsational Girl...
I am SO glad I did. You have such a good spirit and this IS an amazing post.

Judy @ A Meek Perspective said...

I am slowly getting caught up on your posts. Richella, I truly did not remember this about you until reading the post which proves that your birthmark is not what defined or now defines you. It is definitely your sweet spirit and kindness that you showed to those around you. Have a great weekend.

Judy :)

Bella said...

Wow, thanks for being so blunt, and putting yourself out there for everyone to see. It almost seems that the more vulnerable you make yourself, the less vulnerable you actually are. I love that you posted about this, and btw, you are simply beautiful, and I can't believe you have 3 kids, like almost 20. Wow, and how cares about some birthmark, heck we women deal with cellulite, stretch marks, you name it, a big nose, whatever, you know, it's who we are, I'm not going for perfection, and there you have it. That's what makes us beautiful. :)

Post a Comment

Thank you so much for taking the time to leave a comment! I read every one; they make my day. If you have a specific question, please be sure your email address is attached to your profile or leave your email address in the comment; I'll get back to you as soon as I can. Every blessing!