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I’m Ashamed to Tell My Daughter I Had Plastic Surgery

Photograph by Getty Images

When I was pregnant with our daughter, I spent a lot of time thinking about what she might look like. Who would she resemble more, my husband or me?

What color would her eyes be? Her hair? Whose nose would she have? Whose smile?

Of course, none of it really mattered. I knew I would adore her every feature regardless. And I do. To me, she is absolutely perfect and has been from the moment she was born.

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Initially, she looked most like my husband. But today, at 6 years old, she is a little version of me. Well, a mini-me with blond hair. Watching her is like viewing home movies of myself. It's a little freaky.

The other night during bedtime, my daughter asked which features she had inherited from me and which had come from my husband.

She already knew she has my eyes. I told her I wasn't sure about her nose, but I think she has her Daddy's smile. We believe her hair color comes from his side of the family, too. Neither of us has ever been blond, but his brother and mother were.

I had the same dimples as a child that she does now. "And you have my ears," I told her. Then I sucked in my breath, realizing I could have just opened Pandora's Box.

You see, while my daughter has the ears I was born with, were she to compare, she might have difficulty finding the resemblance. Because when I was in my early 20s, I had my ears surgically pinned back. The official procedure name is "bilateral otoplasty."

I can't say the surgery improved my own self-esteem, but I do like my "new" ears.

And suddenly, I felt ashamed. I'm afraid to admit to her I had plastic surgery, because I worry about how it will impact her self-esteem. If I felt the need to change my ears, won't she believe there is something wrong with hers?

Will she become self-conscious about them? Embarrassed? Worried about what others think?

Self-esteem can be a fragile thing. I remember struggling with it growing up, especially in high school. My daughter has not experienced any of those issues yet; I definitely don't want to contribute to them.

Worst of all, I don't really feel I have a decent explanation for why I had the procedure. My ears weren't that bad. I wasn't particularly self-conscious about them.

My parents had offered to pay for the surgery several times during my childhood, but I always declined. Then, when I graduated from college, they offered one more time. And for reasons I can't really describe, I accepted. I guess I figured it I could have them "fixed," why shouldn't I?

I have been happy with the results. I can't say the surgery improved my own self-esteem, but I do like my "new" ears.

Now, years later I find myself worried about how my decision will affect my young daughter.

I have always been honest with my child, particularly when asked a direct question. But I am wondering if this is something I should keep from her—or perhaps defer until, and unless, she puts two and two together.

What if she voluntarily expresses negative feelings about her ears at some point? Or someone teases her about them? Would the knowledge I had mine altered help or hurt? Is there any good reason for her to know?

How do I help my daughter navigate that knowing my own vanity drove me to go "under the knife"?

What if she decided she wanted to have the same procedure? How would I feel about that? Would I allow her to have plastic surgery, and if so, at what age?

I want my daughter to be comfortable in her own skin. To stand tall and be proud of who she is. I always tell her it is what's inside that counts. Beauty comes from within.

But let's be honest, we care about how we look. Part of that is human nature, I believe, and it is definitely reinforced by our culture.

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How do I help my daughter navigate that knowing my own vanity drove me to go "under the knife"? I don't have the answer right now, but I am going to be spending a lot of time searching my heart for one.

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