As a child I was always complimented on my teeth, but after they fell out, I never expected them to come in like they did. I was 1mm away from being classified as having “Serious Dental Issues”, I’m not entirely sure what that entails, but it doesn’t sound good. I was extremely self-conscious of my teeth for years, but now that they are straight I never think about them.
I first became aware that my teeth were deemed unacceptable in primary school, when a boy shouted at me, “Out of the way buck teeth”. I was so young that I hadn’t heard that phrase before, but it stuck with me for years. For me, what upset me was not that I had an overbite, because that was undeniable, but that it was the first thing someone noticed about me. Since this insult of “buck teeth” was used in such a derogatory way towards me, I began to feel self-conscious about them. I wobbled my remaining baby teeth constantly in an attempt to get my braces sooner. A few years later in high school, an older boy looked at me and sarcastically said, “You have the most amazing smile” – it took all the strength that I could gather to not fall apart or collapse into tears. The insecurities regarding my teeth were now amplified – I became afraid of smiling and laughing because I obviously looked hideous. I covered my mouth to laugh; I lost a lot of confidence; I tried to make sure no one noticed my crooked smile.
Reflecting on this time in my life astounds me, not only did I waste so much time trying to hide my face, but I also felt down about it a lot of the time in social situations. Nowadays, I would never spend such an inordinate amount of time trying to conceal a feature and especially not due to the opinion’s of others – if someone doesn’t like something about me it’s not my problem.
Eventually, I got braces. Some people hate having braces, and refuse to smile in pictures due to them, but I loved them. Every time that my braces were tightened was a stepping stone in the journey to straight teeth. When I got my braces out, I didn’t recognise myself. I looked at my teeth and became convinced that, even though they were straight, that they were too big. I was still overly insecure about my teeth and it wasn’t until years later, having received loads of compliments about my teeth, that I actually began to like them.
Most people have insecurities – whether it be their teeth, weight or nose. You would never wish for any criticism towards your appearance, but being insulted about something you are already concerned about validates your self-hatred and can cause a lot of negative emotions. Since it’s rude to comment on how someone looks, you may believe that your insecurity must be extremely abnormal for this person to break the polite rules of society – but, in reality, they are just being rude.
I still have insecurities; I have quite a lot but I can deal with them. A good response to your internal dialogue criticising your appearance is “So what?”. For example, you may think your nose isn’t small enough or that your legs are too long but ask yourself, “So what”. At the end of the day, does it really matter if you were two stones heavier than you wanted to be – when you look back at your life you won’t recall your weight. Instead, you will remember eating cake on your wedding day and swimming in the ocean in a bikini – your clothes size doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of things. And if you had really bad buck teeth like me, for example, consider why that is so important. I am much more than my appearance and it might seem cliché, but it’s what’s in the inside that counts. Why is there such an emphasis on being pretty, when you could be kind, smart and funny. So, who cares if your nose has a bump on it, does that really matter to anyone – does that really make anyone think less of you?
If I could go back to my younger self, I would tell her to smile and laugh, even though her teeth would stick out. I would tell her not to worry what anyone else thought of her because their opinion was much less important than my self-love. And I would tell her, that believe it or not, she would later be complimented on her teeth very often and that every time she was her heart would swell with happiness.
In conclusion, I do not believe that any comments made to me were intended to have such an impact upon my self-esteem – but that is often the reality of quick insults. The words you say to someone can have a lasting and damaging impact, so it’s important to strive to be kind, always. Your “flaws” do not define you and you should accept them as they are a part of you – they make you who you are – you could not be yourself without them, therefore you should embrace them. Smile often, even if your teeth aren’t perfectly white. Wear that dress even if you think you look bloated. Get the hairstyle you’ve dreamed of having even if you are self-conscious of your ears. Life is for living and insecurities can consume you – the quicker you decide to not let them control you, means the more time you have to truly enjoy yourself.
KEEP YOUR FACE TOWARDS THE SUN,
AND ANY SHADOWS WILL FALL BEHIND YOU