Melissa Heisler

Total Acceptance

Before I left for Chicago, I had a Skype call with a client. In setting up the call, I noticed how my profile picture no longer matched what I saw on the video broadcast. My hair is much longer, my skin much darker, and I almost didn’t recognize myself versus my three-year-old picture.  I realized it was time to have a new photograph taken.

Before I flew in, I Googled for photographers and found a reasonably priced one in Arlington Heights. I booked the shoot to directly follow my first haircut in almost a year. I picked out a few outfits to use. I was ready for my close-up Mr. DeMille.

Melissa HeislerJim at Photos by Robert did a fine job of taking a few different poses to choose from. As we reviewed the options, I became very critical. “My eye is too googly in that one. My neck looks as thick as my torso in that one. My smile looks like I just did something wrong.” We went through each photo until I decided on the one I wanted to use. We did a bit of cleanup on the image but stopped well before a supermodel retouch. I wanted the photo to still look like me.

All the way home I didn’t feel good about the final photo. I couldn’t decide if I looked that overweight in real life or if I could have done something different to help slim down my neck for the photo. To help me get out of my head and get a reality check, I emailed my new headshot to a few friends. While waiting to hear back from them I tried to figure out when I could have the photos retaken on my short trip. Then something happened to prevent a retake. I chipped my tooth.

Back when I was about ten-years-old, I chipped my front tooth. Over the years through accidents or improvements I have had the tooth redone a few times already. Now I’d have to do it again. But with my tight schedule, I could either get my tooth fixed or get the photo retaken. Since a gapped tooth smile would be worse than the photo I had, I resigned myself to accept my current photo.

And I really accepted it. If this was my reality, then so be it. And I had to accept my broken tooth too. The day after I chipped it, I was scheduled to meet a client and all my old networking buddies. I greeted them with my imperfect smile. And it was ok. People would ask what happened, but they did not run in horror. As I accepted and was comfortable with my imperfection, so was everyone else. The funny things was when I went to have my tooth fixed she kept the slight overlap, the “imperfection” of my natural tooth, because that was “me” and how people recognize me.

Most of my life I have been negative about my looks. I would be critical. I would hide. I would be worried about what others thought. I was afraid of being ostracized because of my appearance. Had I only known decades ago that once I accepted myself – as I am – that others would too.

When we focus on our flaws, we also highlight them to others. My original email to my friends included pointed questions about what I thought was flawed in the photo. Thankfully that is not the email I sent out. My friends were just asked for their opinion. The result was that no one mentioned anything I thought was wrong. I did receive some terrific suggestions and perceptions, but none of them were close to my initial reaction of wanting to destroy the photo and start over. When I didn’t talk about my “flaws” neither did anyone else. Throughout the time of my exposed chipped tooth I met friends, family and strangers. They talked to me, not how I look. They saw me, not my broken smile. As I concentrated on I just being me, I was accepted for who I am.

Where is your focus? Are you highlighting your “flaws” to yourself and others? What if you truly accepted who you are and how you look? How would that change the way you approach your day? How would that change your interactions with others? How could truly accepting yourself help make you easy in your own skin?

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