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How I'm Modeling Self-Acceptance With a Craniofacial Disability

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Living with a craniofacial disability can impair your physical and mental ability to believe in yourself. It can debilitate you because it feels like no one believes in you, no one hears you, and no one sees that you even exist. I was estranged and alienated by my family and friends because of the way I was born.

I had a knack for being diligently smart in all of my classes, but I was more accepted and popular when undermining my abilities just to “fit in.” I didn’t believe in my ability to succeed because I lacked true love and support from those I chose to surround myself with. I was so desperate to be in the company of acceptance that I walked right into a stampede of turmoil. I had no identity, so I created many identities in efforts to find myself. I believed that my face would immediately disqualify me for a career, so I overextended my generosity to help others at the expense of my dignity, nearly costing me my life and marriage. It speaks volumes when you’re so lost that you help people take advantage of your kindness to avoid rejection.

When I went out with my friends, I wore a barrage of makeup to hide the scars, and I made any excuse to wear sunglasses. I took on a persona that wasn’t my own, not realizing I was dying inside. Meanwhile, my husband Thane was deteriorating at home from PTSD, agoraphobia and traumatic brain injury he incurred while in the United States Marine Corps (USMC). I could not see his pain, let alone deal with my own. I was marinating in my past traumas, guilt and fears, feeling so displaced in this world we call home.

Cynthia modeling in a red and blue patterned dress.

I vividly remember the day that changed the course of our lives. I walked into the front door, and my husband was so psychologically overwhelmed he tried to kill himself right in front of me.

Trauma, fear and guilt present mental and physical barriers to live your life authentically. If you can’t show everyone who you are without fear of judgment, then who are you? You may be living a faceless life in a facade of lies and not even know it. My poor friendship associations and reckless actions brought forth consequences I could not ignore. I realized I could no longer live a false and faulty life. I needed to look in the mirror and deal with my malformations “face” on. I needed to accept myself and provide unconditional love to the man who chose to marry me.

I decided I was born this way for a reason, and instead of asking God why, I saw the opportunity he’d given me, and then I started living by my why. I was born this way to help others in the craniofacial community to weather the storm and unveil their talents. Thane believes he was dealt grave challenges so he could represent an embodiment of change to help others in the military community. He is a survivor, and so am I.

Cynthia modeling in a red and blue patterned dress.

If you are honestly willing to change, I’ve found people start seeing you for you. Instead of victimizing yourself, you must learn how to embrace yourself. I believe you can heal through finding your God-given talents and utilizing them to empower others. Wear your story proudly and share it so others can be inspired to model you. Be an inspirational incarnation of change by always seeking to improve yourself physically, mentally and spiritually. Execute your right to invest in your physical health and heal yourself. Be an example to others and yourself. Live for today and in the now. It’s time to get out of your head and start following your heart.

I chose to persevere through my fears, and now I’m accomplishing things I’ve dreamed of since I was a child. It takes tenacity to build character from within and accomplish success. I’ve learned that the beauty standards in the fashion and modeling industries can include people with disabilities, but like anyone else, it must be earned. There are limitless opportunities for you to believe and achieve. Believe in yourself and work that runway because you are indestructible.

Photos by William Kidston.

Originally published: May 14, 2019
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