My daughter Anna could stand in a room full of beauty pageant queens and associate herself as one of them. She is beautiful, there is no denying that, but to much of society….she does not fit the standard of “beauty queen.” She is 12, has Down syndrome, and is the size of a 7 year old. Years of being a hungry neglected orphan in a third world country have left her teeth in somewhat bad shape, although we have been working on that over the years. No, she is not what society deems….”model perfection.”
Anna will tell you all day long that she is pretty, and she thinks highly of herself. Not in a vain way, but she has self esteem out the roof. She does not compare herself to other girls, rather she sees herself like the other girls. No one has ever told her she is ugly, so she doesn’t feel ugly. Isn’t that amazing. No one has ever impressed upon her what is considered physically beautiful and what is not, so she never has questions about her own physical appearance in comparison to popular beauty standards.
I find Anna inspirational in this and I’ll tell you why…..
Last year I lost a significant amount of hair. It was crazy to me, freaked me out, but it was mostly in the back and only thinning in the front. It was fairly easily hidden. It mostly grew back though….until now. I have alopecia, and have started losing it again over the last few weeks. I will admit that I’ve freaked out all over again. Both the front, sides, and back are not fairing well this time. In my mind, I know that it is only hair. I know that at least I am losing it due to auto immune reasons and not something life threatening. I know it’s just hair, but I still don’t like losing it.
But then I see Anna, who feels beautiful no matter what. She doesn’t need a mirror, makeup, or people to validate her beauty.
So after my initial few days of freaking out, I take a lesson from my daughter. I buy a wig, hair powder, put a scarf on along with my big girl panties….and I do life. What else can you do?
I can choose to hate the mirror, fall into a deep self loathing state, and curse that this is happening to me….but in the end….it will still be happening.
Or I can take a lesson from my daughter with Down syndrome, and I can choose to still be me. I can not compare my physical appearance with others, and choose to embrace this difference about myself, and continue to work on the inner me. That is harder for me admittedly, but it is no excuse for not at least trying.
October is Down syndrome awareness month, and I have to say, people with Down syndrome are continuously overlooked and not given enough credit. Anna is by no means perfect, but she has inspired and taught me so much over the last six years of my being her mom.