How I Came to Love My Nose (and the Rest of Me)

Editor’s note: If you live with an eating disorder, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “NEDA” to 741-741.

“She has an oompa-loompa nose,” a boy named Jake declared in the middle of the sixth grade hallway.

I’m still not sure what this means, but it put me in the center of attention when I wanted nothing more than to lay low. It was also the beginning of my body image struggles, starting with my apparently unseemly nose. Jake was infinitely cooler than me, with his long hair and oversized t-shirts with death metal bands, so his words mattered to people, including me. I started wearing my hair down after that, hoping it would distract people from my nose’s “loompa-like” status. That was the same year I began dreaming about getting a nose job like my idol, Ashlee Simpson. I just wanted to shave the bump off the end of my nose and make the slope smoother. It was the first time I remember hating my body.

By the time I hit high school, I had a laundry list of complaints about my appearance. My frizzy hair was simultaneously too wavy, yet not wavy enough. I spent hours piling on a combination of home remedies and prescription acne medication, in hopes one would clear my skin (for the record, honey doesn’t help). I cried when I went bra shopping, ashamed of my D cups. Then, of course, there was my nose. But my biggest complaint was my overall figure. All I could focus on was the fat on my waist and stomach. Not to my surprise, by the time I was in college, I’d developed an eating disorder, brought on by years of loathing and fixating on my appearance.

Three years, two therapists and many tearful confessions later, I began to make peace with my body. I thanked it for carrying me through my semester backpacking Europe, despite the laxatives I was taking at the time in a desperate attempt to lose weight. I rubbed my stomach lovingly and appreciated all the pasta I’d enjoyed, rather than hating myself for eating a “bad” meal. Soon, I was loving the sharp contrast of my pale skin with my dark hair and was no longer a slave to my hair straightener, letting my hair curl freely for the first time since seventh grade. I decided that any changes to my appearance I made from there on out would be with the intent of embracing, not changing, my features. But there was still the issue of my nose. It was a boring night scrolling through old photos on Facebook when I realized I actually like my nose. As I scrolled through my pictures, I noticed a lot of my favorites were profile shots, highlighting the size and shape of my nose. Without knowing it, the love was there all along. I’d just been too caught up in what others might be thinking to let it out.

On my walk to the train one day when I decided I should pierce my nose. I’d always admired girls who wore a tiny hoop through their nostril or rocked a silver stud. A nose piercing always seemed out of the question, given the apparent size of my nose, but maybe, just maybe, I could pull it off.

I found myself doodling studs on my selfies via Snapchat, imagining what it’d be like to actually have my nose pierced. I waited almost six months before taking the plunge, my confidence wavering from my original realization. “If it looks that bad, I’ll take it out,” was my mantra in the hours and moments leading up to the piercing. Still, with a stomach full of “what if’s” and the encouragement of my roommates, I put my face in the hands of a very aggressive piercer and walked out of the salon with a silver stud in my right nostril.
All my fears dissolved the minute I saw my new piercing. It looked… good. I loved the way it seemed so subtle, yet its presence drew attention to my nose. It seemed to say “I love this face and you should too.”

What I did to my body because of my poor body-image is upsetting. I hate that I wasted so much of my life waiting for happiness that I thought was dependent on a few pounds or the way other people perceived me. Although everyone struggles with body image, it’s never easy to admit that loving yourself is harder than expected. My nose ring reminds me that it does not matter what other people think, not about my nose, not about my body and not about my struggle. It’s a reminder I keep literally on my face of the most important lessons I learned through all the hurt and upset: to enhance and embrace, not change, and to above all, focus on what I love about myself.

If you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder, you can call the National Eating Disorders Association Helpline at 1-800-931-2237.

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