99.9% of people have some physical trait they would love to change. For me, it has always been my teeth. My family didn’t have the money (or insurance) to get me braces as a kid, and I often felt like a human jack-o-lantern. Seriously, they were messed up. I think that was a big part of the reason that I was so shy growing up. I didn’t want to draw attention to myself. Eventually, at 19, I did get braces. I went through having seven teeth pulled, four front teeth and three impacted wisdom teeth. Without anesthesia, mind you, because we paid cash for everything and it would have cost another $1,000 to put me under. (These are the decisions you make when you are without money or insurance.) I still shudder when I remember having my teeth pulled.
At 21, I had my braces off, and it was like I had a new lease on life. I smiled more. I laughed more. I became a little more outgoing. Unfortunately, my retainer broke and (still poor and without insurance), I had to make the decision to buy college textbooks or a retainer. Of course, I chose books and my front tooth started to grow crooked again. I felt like everyone stared at it when I spoke. When I started to vlog for the Rebels, sometimes I would re-shoot footage if I thought it showed my mouth too closely.
Now, this may sound vain, and it is, but man this thing screwed with my confidence. For years now, I’ve had insurance and the money to take care of it, but the dentists recommended braces, and I couldn’t bring myself to get braces at my age (not that people shouldn’t, but that was my choice). This bothered me so much that I put off going to the dentist for far too long. Until last month when a friend told me about the amazing dentist she’d found. I decided it was past time to get over my anxiety and get to a solution. And this dentist found one. Four appointments later, I walked out of the office yesterday with a veneer and a near perfect smile.
Yesterday, I walked into my office and flashed smiles at everyone. Nobody seemed to notice anything different.
I finally announced, “hey, people. i had my smile fixed. SEE?”
And several people said, “what was wrong with your smile?”
To which I responded in shock, “the crooked. and the imperfection.”
And they said, “oh, i never noticed.”
And I walked away in bewilderment.
What I had perceived as this glaring imperfection had been all in my head. Sure, maybe someone had noticed the crooked tooth, but it didn’t matter to them. I’m not going to say that I regret having the work done because confidence is mostly about how you feel about yourself, and I felt like crap with my crooked tooth. Now, I’m full of smiles, and I love it.
BUT yesterday sparked some introspection. If I think back on my childhood or teen years, I can’t remember anyone making fun of my teeth. I remember one family member saying something, but that’s it. I formed my harsh judgments through simple observation of the world and my peers – “one of these things is not like the others.” My sister was the pretty one. By default, I was the ugly one. I remember thinking I could be pretty if only my teeth were straight. It makes me a wee bit sad realizing that I placed such pressure on myself and that I hated myself in that way for YEARS.
I wish I could have been kinder to myself. Why are we taught to tear ourselves down so harshly?