Happy Sunday everyone! It’s in the low 60’s and cloudy today in the city and while it’s strange for June, it was actually a really nice day for staying inside and practicing some self-care. Self-care can mean a lot of things and is often associated with cutesy things like face masks, manicures, and other cosmetic things, but that wasn’t my method of self-care for today. Instead I thought about self-love and what I can do to have more of it.
I have a lot of insecurities when it comes to my physical appearance, like a lot. I hate my nose and my eyebrows and how easily I bloat, and I have extremely weird toes. I still wax my hairy arms even though nobody even looks at them, and don’t even get me started on how my ears stick out in this really funny way or how my skin is never clear. I think I’d like to be two inches shorter, and I wish I had been born with green or gray eyes. These flaws don’t seem like a big deal, and to be honest they’re not. In fact I’ve learned to just embrace them, and even though I occasionally do wish I didn’t have frizzy hair or such long arms it’s just a passing thought that doesn’t last longer than a second. My teeth though? That’s a different story.
I have really bad teeth, so bad that I went through a period in middle school where I wouldn’t smile unless I slyly covered it with my hand and I’d only laugh with my mouth closed (okay, I still do that sometimes). They’re overlapping, crowded, and if you were to see a snapshot of my smile you’d probably think you were looking at a kindergartner. If it seems like I’m exaggerating it’s only because this is how I feel when I look in the mirror, and you don’t have to tell me otherwise. It’s a fact that my teeth are crooked; I see it and I know it, but I’m okay with it. It obviously wasn’t always that way, especially when nice smiles are always praised and crooked teeth are looked down on.
Many years ago I came across a blog post online written by someone with teeth just as crooked as mine. I don’t remember what it was called (probably something along the lines of “How I Embraced My Crooked Smile” or something like that), and I can’t seem find it anymore, but I do remember it was about a woman who was now a young professional and who, despite the unsolicited advice of many people, decided not to fix her teeth. I remember I read it and was confused as to how one could have so much confidence, and I wondered if I’d ever be able to embrace my own smile like that. I’ve thought about that article every day since, and I wish I could thank the person for having had such an impact in my life.
Back then fixing my teeth wasn’t an option; braces are a luxury and were financially out of reach for my family. Not only that, the thought of having metal in my mouth and having to wear those funny colorful rubber bands was a little scary. Even though I’m an adult now and I have the option of seeing an orthodontist, it’s not a pressing matter for me anymore. I am okay with my smile! In fact, if I squint my eyes a little and don’t focus on my teeth I actually love my smile and think it’s one of my best features. Notice that I still haven’t completely embraced my smile, but it’s a process. I’m trying and that’s all that matters. I have the right and freedom to feel beautiful and to smile as big and as often as I’d like.
I think one of the biggest reasons I’ve gotten over this insecurity was that the people I surround myself with don’t care, in fact they probably wouldn’t even notice if I had straightened my teeth overnight (this may be a stretch, but you get the point!). Here’s a funny story: about three years ago when I was hanging out with my ex-boyfriend he told me his ex-girlfriend had mocked my teeth. My reaction? I laughed and shrugged it off because she didn’t say anything I didn’t already know. I look at myself in the mirror every day, I obviously know my teeth are crooked, but somehow she tried to weaponize that fact in order to lower my self-esteem. When you know who you are and are aware but accepting of all of your physical flaws and imperfections those sort of comments don’t have the power to affect you; words only hurt if you allow them to. The story doesn’t end there though. After my reaction he responded that he actually loved my teeth, and are what made my smile even more beautiful. The point of this anecdote is that sometimes the features that you’re most insecure about are the features that others love most about you, and hiding them is unnecessary.
Your imperfections don’t characterize who you are or what you have to offer unless you let them. Let your confidence radiate and let your soul be your beauty because you own your body and you set your own limitations. You cannot allow standards that other people have set on what is considered beautiful and what is not dictate how you live your life; they shouldn’t dictate your mood or what you put on your body, only you should have full control over that. Do you know how many industries would disappear if every single person in the world loved and accepted their bodies? It’s definitely not easy, but self-love is revolutionary.
I have a crooked smile, but it’s my smile and it’s how I show love to my friends and family. It’s how I greet kind strangers in the subway and it’s how I share joy when I’m dancing or teaching. My crooked teeth stopped defining me when I decided to set my own rules; this is why I say self-love is revolutionary. They don’t want you to love yourself, and that’s more of a reason why you should do it.