I pretend to be a celebrity when people stare at my facial difference. It's made me a more confident person.
- Hannah Ross has a facial difference caused by a rare congenital condition called Goldenhar syndrome.
- She deals with stares from strangers by pretending to be a celebrity who is flattered by the attention.
This as-told-to essay is based on a conversation with Hannah Ross. It has been edited for length and clarity.
I was born with a rare congenital condition called Goldenhar syndrome. It can cause facial differences as well as problems with the development of the spine and ears.
The most noticeable characteristics for me are scoliosis and the fact that one of my eyes is lower than the other. Most of my insecurities stemmed from the way my face looked.
I had my first operation when I was a few days old. I didn't have an eyelid on my right eye. The surgeons used skin from my ear to do a skin graft and make one for me. But I have limited vision in that eye.
Since then, I've had multiple surgeries to my face and body. They've included having metal rods put into my spine to straighten my back. When I was 10, a section of bone was taken from my skull to try and make my eyes more level. Looking back, it was very painful.
My condition didn't really affect me as a young child. I was always quite shy, but I didn't think too much about looking different at all. I was lucky because I had friends who treated me just the same as everyone else. I'm still good friends with them now.
But in my early teens, I started to feel insecure. It was hard because some teenagers can be very judgmental. I began to think, "Maybe I am a lot different from other people." My self-esteem was low.
I had a breakthrough after realizing I was tired of worrying about what other people thought about me
The stares knocked my confidence. I got to a point when I was so anxious about going out in public, I'd stay home instead. I didn't want to risk someone being rude to me. I just didn't have the energy or confidence to deal with being stared at. I'd instantly think that people were judging me.
My perspective changed around three years ago. My friends and I were going into a McDonald's. I was feeling my usual anxiety. I've never liked busy places and the restaurant was full of customers.
As we walked through the door, I realized that I needed to take control of the situation instead of it controlling me. I was tired of worrying about what other people thought of me.
It took a few minutes, but I came up with a better way to cope with the staring. I thought, "I'm going to pretend to be some kind of celebrity."
Celebrities sometimes seem flattered by the attention they generate. In that moment, I created an alter ego for myself. I tricked my brain into becoming more confident. It was a bit like, fake it until you make it.
Now I'm constantly stepping outside of my comfort zone
Eventually, I began to think that people weren't necessarily staring at me because of my facial difference. They could be wondering whether I'm some kind of famous person. I've turned something that I thought was negative into a positive. I can't read people's minds to check if they're judging me or not. They may just be curious. And, even if they are judging, why should I care? It's on them, not me.
I've since started an Instagram where I talk about story and other aspects of my life. At the age of 20 and working as an apprentice in a nursery school, I'm constantly stepping outside of my comfort zone. I'm happy to tackle things that I would have been scared of before.
I've also become a volunteer for Changing Faces, a charity that supports people with facial differences and raises awareness about the issue. I see it as something to celebrate and be proud of. Everyone is unique.
Do you have a powerful story to share with Insider? Please send details to email@example.com.
- Apple announces 14 best apps, games on App Store in 2023
- Markets give up early gains; trade lower on profit-taking
- H9N2 virus spreading among children, has connection with winter: Director of Lady Harding Hospital
- Tata Tech and Gandhar Oil shine on debut, while Fedbank falters
- Va va vroom:Tata Technologies stock doubles investor money on debut