What Sucking Jars and Flipping Cars Might Show You About Your Beauty

Kansas is so flat, I thought to myself as we drove on the backroad interstate through Nowheresville, Flatland. I looked over at my wife, and she was drop-jaw zoned-out. We were an hour into our fifteen hour car ride, and at this rate, we’d both pass out from boredom before we got home. We needed some excitement and fast. So I reached down to turn on some music, and when I looked back up, I saw a dust cloud. For a second, it almost looked like a mini-tornado. But then a truck burst through it and flipped once, twice, three times, and then landed bottoms-up on the side of the road.

the wreck

It happened so fast it felt surreal. This was one of those holy shit wrecks where people die, and it took five seconds to go from fine to fucked. I saw the others in front of us pull over, so I did too. Everything around me shouted “EMERGENCY!” Doors flung open, and people started sprinting at the flipped truck. I dialed 911 and followed suit.

The first thing I saw was the top of a man’s head. He was bleeding. His hand was too, and it was laying almost lifeless outside the window. He was moving, but slowly. Barely. I handed the phone to my wife and went to the other side of the truck. There was another man. He was old, and I couldn’t see his upper body, but he was slowly moving his legs towards the window, trying to angle himself out.

People swarmed the truck and started climbing in to try and help, and I backed up. My thoughts switched from clear to chaos. I tried to piece it all together, but it came in as a flood. There are two men—both pinned, both upside-down, both bleeding, both panicking, both helpless, and both of them are going to die unless I do something right now. But I didn’t know how to rip off the doors, I didn’t know how to unpin them, and I didn’t know how to get them out. I stood behind the truck and wondered why I was here and not someone else. I pulled my hair back without blinking and felt utterly powerless.

In that moment, I was afraid. I was just waiting for the heroes to show up, spot me out, and expose me as the loser who had nothing to offer. They’d rip off the door, rescue the men, and bask in the glory. And I’d be sitting on the sidelines shaking in my boots.

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(Kylie Jenner left, challenge participant right)

I think a lot of us have that same fear of being found out as not good enough show up in other places in our lives. A lot of our culture chases the newest trend of beauty because we fear if we don’t have it, we’re nothing without it. The Kylie Jenner Challenge is the newest fad of that fear. Kylie Jenner is the youngest of the Kardashian clan, and she’s gained a lot of buzz lately about the overnight transformation of her lips from thin to voluptuous. People across the web are trying to emulate her look by placing jars around their mouths and sucking hard to vacuum-swell their lips to look like Kylie’s. It leaves a few disfigured, many bruised, and everyone ridiculous.

As silly as this trend is, it exposes the deep roots of fear in our culture. Fear that because we don’t have this waistline, this bust, this skin tone, this feature that we aren’t beautiful. Remember when being blonde and tan was cool? Going out and getting highlights and spray tans? Or when being a size zero was what it took to be hot? So skip a couple meals and throw the rest back up? It’s the Kylie Jenner lip thing today, but tomorrow it will be something else, and the next day, and the next day, and so on forever and ever because we have a deep fear that our beauty is not enough.

As I was panicking, I walked to the other side of the truck and saw the driver and heard him having a hard time breathing. All of his weight was on his head, and no one could help him out. So I kneeled down beside the truck, and I asked him, “Can I hold your hand?” And I just sat there with him and told him everything was going to be ok. I helped him breathe when he was panicking, and I helped him hang on when he was fading. After fifteen minutes, a paramedic showed up and took over, and the firefighters came in shortly thereafter. A helicopter landed on the field beside the wreck, and they flew them off the scene once they were out of the car. It ended almost as quickly as it all began, and before we knew it, we were back on the same boring road with nothing in sight for miles.

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The rest of those fourteen hours home I kept comparing what I did to what the firefighters did, and I felt inadequate. Those feelings haunted me until a doctor friend of mine told me, “You know, I get a lot of patients in the hospital who go through similar traumas. When they come to, they don’t tell me about the firefighters or the EMTs. They tell me about that one person who was there with them when no one else was. That person who was there with them when they were face to face with death. And they call them their angel. Maybe you didn’t rip off the door, but you certainly weren’t powerless.

And then it hit me: I wasn’t powerless. I thought power was what the rescuers had. I thought holding this guy’s hand hardly stacked up. Maybe when you compare yourself to some celebrity, you feel the same. And when we do, we forget that their power, their beauty isn’t the only kind there is. We forget that what we have to offer is needed too. And when we bring what we have, instead of freaking out about what we don’t, we can save someone’s life and radiate in our own our own beauty. I almost missed out on offering what I had to that man because I was too busy worried about what I wasn’t. And if I let that happen, he might not have made it.

Maybe you don’t have Kylie’s lips or Shakira’s hips. Maybe you don’t have Pamela’s breasts or Nikki’s booty. Maybe you don’t have a size zero waist. Maybe you’re as pale as a ghost. Maybe you can’t do anything with your hair and you have to spend all of your time just keeping away the acne. Maybe when you look in the mirror all you see is what you don’t have. But maybe you have a smile that warms the room. Maybe your size comforts someone when they feel alone. Maybe your soft eyes pierce even the hardest of hearts. Maybe your hands are strong enough to give someone confidence when they’ve lost all they’ve had. Maybe your beauty doesn’t land on the front page of magazines, but maybe it doesn’t have to. Because your most captivating beauty is the one that’s unique to you. And when you own that, when you accept yourself for all that you are and love yourself for all that you aren’t, that is when you will shine.

So stop sucking on jars, spraying yourself orange, and starving yourself to look like someone else because your beauty is radiant, and you are enough.