My smile is far from perfect. I once had a dentist tell me that my teeth were “too big for my face”. I suppose that might be true. I inherited my mother’s broad smile and my father’s narrow face, so it’s almost as though my teeth got crowded into a mouth that was too small to accommodate them all. They overlap in places, some jut out at odd angles and there are gaps all over the place.
I’ve often thought that my smile looked a little like Stonehenge, with teeth randomly plonked down in no logical order. Some are too high up, having never grown into the spaces left behind when my baby teeth fell out.
I used to be horribly self-conscious of my smile. I would never, ever smile in photographs. That’s why all of the pictures of me in my teens either show me with a deadpan expression or a shy half-smile. Every photo is closed-lipped, and I never look at though I’m having a good time. I always appear reluctant, hesitant or just plain bored.
When I met someone for the first time, I would always try to keep my mouth closed as much as possible lest they notice my teeth. On dates I would avoid eating for fear that I’d get food caught in my chompers. Every time I laughed, I’d quickly flutter a hand up to my face to cover my mouth, so even my laughter was gated and guarded.
It was Ross who started me on the journey of loving my smile. Once, when we’d been dating only a few weeks, he caught my hand as it flew up to my mouth mid-giggle. “Don’t do that”, he said. “You always cover your mouth when you smile, and I want to see it when you laugh”. I was shocked, because I honestly hadn’t even realised that I’d been doing it. It had become an unconscious habit of mine. The next time he cracked a joke, I willed my hand to stay where it was, and my smile was greeted with a wide grin from him. It was the first time in a long time that I’d felt happy about smiling without covering my mouth.
Blogging has also helped me to love my smile. When I started taking daily outfit photos of myself, I noticed my tight-lipped smile. My pictures always seemed forced because I knew that it wasn’t my real smile shining through. Little by little, I encouraged myself to smile wider and wider in my photographs. For months, those real-smile pictures lay unused on my computer. Then I finally dared myself to publish one on my blog. I waited for a firestorm of comments about my ugly smile, but none ever came.
Once my dentist told me, “You could have your teeth fixed, you know” and I went home to contemplate the possibility. When I realised that I would be pissing away thousands of dollars to fix something that wasn’t medically wrong with me, I started to change my attitude. My teeth aren’t preventing me from living my life. They aren’t causing me pain or discomfort. They just don’t look as straight and pretty as they could. Well, so effin’ what? I’d rather have those dollars to spend on an awesome trip, or a house, or something else that would make my life better. I don’t want to waste that money to fix something that isn’t broken.
So, I figure if you can’t change it, you’d better accept it. And if you’re going to accept it, you may as well try to love it. So even though I’m not head-over-heels for my wonky smile, I’m well on the way to loving it.
Do you have a body part that you’re self conscious about? How do you learn to love your ‘flaws”