Okay, I know that anyone reading this post is probably already aware of my spot on Today (NBC) this past week. While, yes, the title of this blog, “I did it” does reflect my relief and satisfaction at the experience, in fact, I reached a different kind of milestone that day.
What you don’t know is that a week or so prior to the interview, Lauren Sugrue, the fabulous producer at Today requested that I send her a photo of me as a teen. Of course, thinking about my hairstyles in the 1980’s, I cringed at the thought. As John and I began to comb through old photo albums, each teen photo was worse than the next. Finally, John found a picture that he believed to be the best of the bunch. However, with this one, there was something unique. I was wearing a white lacy dress, and the photo captured my entire body, head to toe, without shoes. I initially refused. “John, that one shows my feet. I don’t know if I am ready for that type of exposure to them.” He looked at me and responded softly, “Meg, what does your Don’t Hide It, Flaunt It message mean anyway if you are still embarrassed about your feet?” That was the real “it.” There I was, having to confront it unwillingly.
All my life my shoes have acted as a barrier, shielding me from public eye and judgment. Not that my shoes ever fit so well, but regardless, I have only revealed my very unusual feet to people, even close friends, as a necessity. This insecurity was a long time in the making. I recall hanging out in my college boyfriend’s apartment, never ever removing my socks. Let’s face it, I feared that he would be repulsed at the sight of my feet, and break-up with me instantly. Even after I had my kids, I dreaded the prospect of taking them to the town pool. I have memories of walking in my swimsuit with a long towel draped over my legs, with the hope it would cover my feet as I walked. I am pretty sure I tripped a couple of times for the effort. The beach was only marginally better, where at least I could dig my feet in the sand to avoid attention.
As much as I have been able to overcome my insecurities over the “finger thing,” I have still remained quite self-conscious about the way my feet look, two toes and all. It is not that I necessarily believe that my hands appear more “normal” than my feet. However, given the fact that my feet are typically hidden in shoes, I have been allowed to shelter this aspect of my difference in a way I could never do with my hands. In some respects, I equate it more to those folks whose difference is subtle or not so overt to provoke instant attention from strangers. I’m referring to people who wrestle silently with shyness or anxiety, or who can conceal their dyslexia and don’t wear their difference on their sleeve. Another example came from Rachelle Karls who posted about her son’s attention issues during my recent live Facebook chat on the Today.com Moms Blog. As Rachelle indicated, even if not visible, everyone has “something.” For me, my hidden difference has always been my feet.
So, the day of the Today segment, as I sat on the couch with Dr. Jennifer Hartstein being interviewed by Natalie Morales, I braced myself for the teen photo to flash, feet and all. “I did it!” I thought silently. However, to my surprise in the final video clip, for no special reason other than the editor’s choice of cut, only the top portion of my body was revealed in the photo. My feet were nowhere to be seen! It had taken so much courage and strength to send the photo and let go of my fear of people judging my feet, that at this point, I actually felt a fleeting sense of disappointment right before we went live.
Whether our differences are masked or blatant, I recognize that the road to celebration of one’s own unique traits is not a cake-walk. In fact, progress often comes in baby steps. But the good news is, once you have truly crossed the line and are prepared to embrace your difference, you discover a new sense of freedom. You may not even want to turn back.