"A Beautiful Ego" This Emotional Life - PBS

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Resilience / Blog


Francesco's Bio

Francesco was paralyzed in an accident but feels as happy as he did before he was confined to a wheelchair.

"A Beautiful Ego"


Working in beauty with Clark’s Botanicals, most peoples’ concerns I encounter are with aging, losing that vitality we all had when we were nineteen or twenty, but keeping all of what we’ve learned since then. It’s kind of the best of both worlds, and we all want to cling to the effervescence without forfeiting the naiveté, or likewise, we grasp to the knowledge without wanting to lose all that we worked for. My view on skincare and beauty is focused on making the outside reflect how you feel psychologically, because that’s how I felt but did not actually look, after having sustained my spinal cord injury. Healthy and glowing skin, but still completely you.

But working in beauty does have its interesting side, too, beyond just the wrinkle. Ironically, it is just that. The actual wrinkle that makes us all unique, and beautiful, is gaining a sense of respect amongst many, almost rebelling against the botox or filler-injected look. I have my own insecurities about getting older, and while many of them have more direct connections to my being in a wheelchair, wondering about fighting off early, on-set osteoporosis and severe muscle atrophy, I still do get hung up if I catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror, looking…older.

Maybe it’s a good sign, since it may show I now ignore the four wheels I’ve had to grow accustomed to sitting on and that I’ve finally moved on from the hang-ups of my spinal cord injury. Looking at myself just as anyone else may as they are preparing for a night out, glancing up a little longer at my larger forehead as I brush my teeth in the morning and wondering, “what, WHAT?!” – but alas, it actually makes me feel more like a fool, thinking, have I learned nothing as I’ve aged. Start to sound familiar?

I had this friend who also works in the industry, at it had seemed like her obsession had become her age, her weight, her latest face-peel, coloring her hair, her thinning lips. “I’m middle-aged. I’m 45.” I realized all she spoke about was this shell, that actually was still attractive, but our time together was growing into ego-baby-sitting. Intelligent, to a point, but how far can that get you when your best friend is listening to the diatribe about her Dior Homme fantasy outfits?

And it made me feel horrible about myself, because as she spoke about her new “nerdy” black reading glasses she wore on the street without the prescription lenses, “just to be seen,” I thought, “God. What does she think of me and my skinny hands I haven’t used in eight years? My non-muscular everything? My skinny legs?” It suddenly made me too self-aware of my physical disability, and with only a couple minutes of her self-obsessed comments, I had been reduced to this person who was no longer strong and self-assured. I felt like the fourteen year-old, awkward, pimple-prone nerd from Bronxville High School all over again. Funny how that is.

But then it dawned on me. I was a sounding-board. This was about her, and her alone. I could only say so much, and I used to speak up and try to bring her back to reality. I would refute her self-deprecation, but then, I stopped. I hoped she would realize how it made me feel, and I told her how it bothered me, but yet, a couple days after me telling her (numerous times), she’d resume.

I can’t say I won’t be the same as her when I reach “middle-age.” We are all human, after all. I just expected more from her. I felt disappointed and it made me realize as perfect as your reflection may be in the mirror, you may only notice that one little freckle on your cheek, not realizing that it’s that little freckle we all love. In the end, beauty becomes more than just the way you look, but the way you feel, and how you project yourself. For me, beauty comes from a core that is happy.