Author gives presentation on choice, perspective and self-acceptance

‘Even though my face doesn’t define me, it has become part of my identity’


People may have no control over how outside forces influence choices, but they can control their actions, choices, words and attitudes, said public speaker and author Dawn Shaw. 

Shaw moved many members of the audience to tears with a presentation Wednesday morning at WSU where she spoke about choices, perspective and self-acceptance. 

“The only opinion that matters, is yours,” she said. 

Shaw was born with a teratoma on the left side of her face; a clump of brain tissue conglomerated leaving her with a fist-sized bump. 

The tumor was removed, but eventually grew back. She said after her second surgery, the mass was removed but the left side of her face was paralyzed. 

Shaw has lived with this facial abnormality for the majority of her life and has learned to accept it. 

While it may not be her business casual attire or her magenta highlighted hair that draws attention to her, Shaw said her face is an asset. It makes her memorable, she said. 

 “Even though my face doesn’t define me, it has become part of my identity,” Shaw said. 

Shaw’s presentation focused on her central message of putting yourself first. She shared personal stories and challenges she has faced in her lifetime. 

She said kids would make fun of her appearance when she was in school. She said she eventually learned that she has no control over outside influences, but she does have control over her attitude. 

“I chose to focus on things about myself — positive things that I liked,” she said. 

Shaw’s message resonated with WSU custodians Cindy Martin and Amanda Emerson. 

Martin said she lets opinions affect her too often. She said Shaw’s point of not letting other people dictate one’s feelings stuck with her.  

Emerson said Shaw’s message is incredibly powerful. If people hear Shaw’s message of self-acceptance, then change is possible, she said. 

Shaw emphasized the importance of understanding personal value and accepting uniqueness. She said worrying less about what others think builds resilience and develops a stronger self-image. 

People are always going to have opinions, she said. She said people should teach themselves not to focus on outer appearances, but about how they feel about themselves.  

“It’s okay to be okay with who you are,” she said. 

Shaw’s presentation was followed by a Q&A session and a signing of her newest book “Facial Shift: Adjusting to an Altered Appearance.” 

The WSU Access Center hosted the event as a precursor to the Third Annual Disability Awareness Symposium. The theme for the 2020 symposium is Fitness for All: Inclusive Fitness and Sport and will be April 6 – 10. Registration for workshops and presentations is now open on the Access Center’s workshop.