How to Handle Beauty Hang-Ups: A Personal Essay on Self-Esteem

You don’t really forget the first time someone tells you your chin looks like Jay Leno’s, because, you know, that’s not exactly flattering. And especially so when it was something you had never previously considered or thought about yourself.

The first time I heard the “comparison,” it was out of a friend’s mouth who was pretty much just teasing me (and, for the record, we’re still friends). I tried not to think about it too much, because, what’s the point? My chin is what it is, and hopefully it’s not the first thing people think of when they see me.

The celebrity I get compared to most often is Eva Mendes (by NO MEANS am I saying I look like her, I am just factually reporting the person I most frequently get told I look like). A male friend once said that both Miss Mendes and I “have a strong jaw.” So for awhile I just chalked up that one Leno comparison to “having a strong jaw,” which…is fine, I guess.  

But when you get told by a second person—unrelated and a total stranger to the first—that you have “a Jay Leno chin” (I wish I were kidding), you start to think it has to be true. How else could two people associate my chin, with the chin of Jay Leno’s? There must be something there if two people made the observation.

When that second person said it, I texted a friend, who wrote back something nice about how models all have strong chins and how strong chins make people look better when they age.

I assessed my chin in pictures, and really couldn’t decide what even constitutes “a big chin” versus a “normal-sized” one. My face isn’t perfectly symmetrical and I’ve always thought my profile was weird, but I don’t particularly see where someone would see my chin and think “Jay Leno,” per se. I felt super self-conscious after the second reference, though, and still think about it all the time.

For awhile, I started thinking about whether there is even a plastic surgery that could remedy a Jay Leno chin. I’m not saying I’d ever do it (or be able to afford it), but I was merely running through some considerations in my head, as I am wont to do. A nose job is pretty much the most basic reduction surgery that there is. But to make your chin less…large and wide, wouldn’t someone have to break your jaw and reconstruct the very bones of your face to give you a different chin? It seems improbable. Or scary, at least.

One time, while watching Vanderpump Rules, Stassi Schroeder mentioned that she’d had chin surgery. I felt an instant boost of relief and happiness…that someone I think is pretty might have had a Jay Leno chin at one point, until I realized she’d had surgery to increase her nonexistent chin. Le sigh.

Though I struggle with wondering if I have an ugly chin, a few things help me to remember, when I’m hung up on a facial feature I don’t like.

The first, incidentally enough, came from the mother of the same friend who put the Jay Leno idea in my head. She once told me something that is so simple, but absolutely mind-blowing when you really think about it: She reminded me that as humans, we are always in motion. Our faces—while we’re talking, laughing, turning, reaching, walking—are in flux; they’re never frozen. You aren’t a still painting for someone to stare at and assess one particular feature of. You’re dynamic, you’re alive, you’re moving. And that light, and life, not only changes your features, but is what makes you attractive. Whenever I think someone might be thinking about my Leno chin, I am comforted in remembering that I’m in movement—not Rose on the couch in Titanic, frozen in time for someone to calculate the symmetry of. Is that weird? I don’t know—for me, it has always helped to remember this.

The other thing I remember, which is kind of a mantra that gets really meta, but helps me, is to just say, “I am who I am,” and really process what that means. It’s something I learned in a Hindu class my mom put me in when I was five, to learn about other cultures. We would sit around in a circle, cross-legged, and meditate around the phrase, “I am that I am,” or “I am who am,” and it has always stuck with me, decades later. It’s a mantra in many different religions, and also a famous Peter Tosh song from the ‘70s (maybe I’m more hippy-dippy than I think I am…). And then there’s Ke$ha’s millennial version of it—her song “We R Who We R.”

I am the person that I am, and so are you, whether that’s with a big nose, big chin, small boobs, big feet, whatever it is you may be hung up on. And whenever I remember that, I suddenly feel lighter, like the negative thought disappears, and I’m more confident. And I truly and sincerely believe that you seem more attractive to others when you just project who you are like there’s nothing wrong with it. The mantra sort of un-sticks me from a negative thought pattern, so I can just go forward like, I am what I am, suckers. What are you gonna do about it? 

And I think people respond in kind. If you’re with someone who just puts themselves forward unabashedly, like whatever “big” or “small” feature they have is a non-issue, you believe it. When their personality shines bigger than whatever feature they have that might be odd, or unconventional, you don’t notice it, and you end up kind of in awe of them. Because they own it. Conversely, when someone feels like there’s something wrong with their “fill-in-the-blank,” you pick up on it.

Additionally, sometimes it helps to look at other people who have the same type of feature, who you still think are pretty. I sometimes find myself looking at others—either in pictures or in real life—with "big chins." And I think these people are, in fact, quite pretty, despite having what could potentially be likened to a Jay Leno chin. And then I feel better, because I realize having a chin like mine (and, sure, Leno's too) doesn't stop me from thinking that someone is beautiful; there's more to a person than a single feature. 

And then there's the fact that literally no one knows your own face (or body) better than you, because you look at it every single day. But no one in the world is as focused on the specificity of your features as you are.

So, though I’m still working on it (and writing this helped), just remember that you’re not a statue, and you are who you are, and nobody is analyzing yourself as much as you are. 

Do you have any beauty hang-ups? Do you have any tricks for making yourself feel better about something you don’t like? I’d love to hear any thoughts you have—share in the comments if you wish!