What a miracle—being born with a “nub” for an ear. At least I had one at all right?!

Never in my life would I ever have thought I would be saying that.

I was born with Grade 3 Mictrotia, the most common form of Mictrotia that is characterized by a small, undeveloped ear remnants and no canal. Every year, one in every 8-10,000 children are born with Mictrotia.

When I was nine years old, we flew to Michigan for a possible plastic replica, but my mom, being the unbelievable lady she was, wasn’t settling for anything of the sort. Instead, she found a surgeon in Palo Alto, California. When I was ten and eleven years old, my mom spent every pretty penny she had, and I underwent three reconstructive surgeries by Dr. Burt Brent. Dr. Brent had invented the “Brent Technique” Rib Graft surgical technique. He rebuilt over 2,000 ears for children during his career and now has trained others to keep doing this work.

If you are interested in the surgical procedures, see the links below. (A small note, if you can’t stomach a little blood, then you should probably just skip these two videos;).

Part 1: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fx7tBop3qfs

Part 2: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KS0ROti8YLc

Truly, it stops my breath when I think what gifts others provide to the world by surgical procedures they invent. The impact Dr. Brent had on my life, along with many others, is beyond amazing. Honestly, it is almost impossible for me to even begin to describe in words.

Now that I just described how talented and thankful I am for the surgeon and his surgical technique, I can’t say that from that day forward I flaunted my new ear like a prized possession, I didn’t. Unfortunately, I wasn’t as grateful then. We all learn as we go and I had a lot of learning and growing left to do.

Instead, I’d fall asleep dreaming that I could wear a ponytail like all the other girls and feel “normal” about doing so. But, when morning came I’d comb my hair and leave it down. I’d constantly run my right hand over it to make sure it was covered, and tuck my head in to the right to make sure it was protected and hidden.

As I got older and good ole cuddling started happening, I’d make it a much bigger deal than it needed to be. I can’t recall a time I let a boyfriend get close enough to touching that ear. I’d do a quick roll over or bat his hand away awkwardly. I even kept this unnecessary boundary with someone that I dated for almost seven years. I’d built walls that were incredibly unnecessary.

This past year, I found my first truly comfortable person–I found a person that I am truly comfortable allowing myself to just be me. Maybe it’s the fact that I’m getting more comfortable with my “flaw.” But, it also takes the right people in your life to help you to be vulnerable and open to dealing with your flaws in the first place. Without knowing it, he has helped me to open my life to so much opportunity that I can feel myself breaking away from this ridiculous, and now well-trained, insecurity. He will grab my head so wonderfully tight and throw a kiss on my forehead in a way that reminds me that this insecurity was all my own doing; that whatever feelings he has about me are not impacted in any way by the shape or look of my ear, but are much deeper and more beautiful than that.

You probably think that seems like a small moment—having someone touch your ear with their hand and you being able to let them leave it there—but for me this has really been a life-long struggle. This is a piece of my story, something I am now ready to share in the hopes that other girls don’t have to struggle with similar pieces of their story. It took me over twenty years to be brave enough to allow that simple act because of my own insecurities—walls that I built.

Allowing ourselves to be vulnerable and to be okay with ourselves just the way we are, is a battle that takes the support and help of one another. We need to be able to look at our scars—I prefer this term over ‘flaws’—and see that those scars are okay; understanding that while we may feel pain associated with those scars, they are opportunities for growth in us.

As we began building this campaign a few months ago, I tried to think of a million other flaws I could focus on. I sat questioning why to choose this particular “flaw?” What good can it do to share it with the world? Will sharing it help a child or another adult break down their walls and open themselves up to being vulnerable and embracing their scars? I realized I really had no choice but choose this particular one. This scar, this “flaw,” played a powerful role in who I am today and how I interact with the world.

This beautiful scar provided a constant reminder to me that people are more than their outside appearance. It provided such an opportunity to better understand humanity and how fragile our exterior appearances really are.

It is a constant reminder that if something were to happen to your exterior, say you were burned in a fire or in a car wreck, or hey, if you didn’t have an ear, then who would you be? Would you still have the same friends? Would you still be the same person?

I think my scar has grown me into a more compassionate and understanding human. For that reason alone, when I think about it now, I don’t know that I’d trade this ear for one that looks exactly the same as everyone else’s ear. It is a shame that we focus so much on our exterior “flaws” because truly these scars can be our most beautiful assets. They are one of the most powerful elements in building our character. And our character is the one thing that no one or nothing can ever take away from us.

Through the Rock Your Real campaign, I truly hope we can help others (girls and boys, women and men of all ages) to be more cognizant of what they are focusing on as their “flaw,” and to flip the switch of how people perceive it. Let’s stop looking at our “flaws” as “flaws” and instead look at it more as a scar, or even better a miracle, that presents an opportunity to build our character into the strongest, most powerful, and beautiful versions possible. I hope others can use this campaign to share their stories to help others, and take the opportunity to face that “flaw,” embrace their vulnerability, and with the help of others, kick that “flaw” to the curb.

– Sara Kauk