When I look back at childhood photos of myself, there’s one thing a lot of them have in common. I’m smirking. No, I wasn’t a particularly devious child (although my older brother may tell you otherwise). I was focusing on hiding my teeth. More specifically I was focused on hiding the gap between my front two teeth.
Gapped teeth run on my dad’s side of the family. Some are kinda cute and narrow, like my brother’s. Others are wide, about the width of a whole tooth, like mine. Or at least it was when I was younger.
In my kindergarten pictures, I remember trying to smile where I could conceal the void. First grade was easier, I had lost both of my front teeth, and I loved that you couldn’t tell that I had a gap! Other times I would just give a faint smile, where you could kind of see my teeth but they were also kinda hidden.
I honestly don’t remember if I was made fun of for my teeth as a little girl, I just remember what it was like to have an insecurity from the tender age of 5. My peers weren’t as kind in my preteen years, unfortunately.
The Bullying Starts
I remember coming home from school and sobbing into my mom’s shoulder, hot tears streaming down my face. My mother comforted me as best as she could and told me I was beautiful. If you relate to this story at all so far, then you know I thought “you have to think I’m beautiful, I’m your daughter!”. My parents took me to the orthodontist soon after.
I don’t remember who it was or what they said to me, but I do know that at the time, it broke me to my core. What I do remember is contemplating ending my life at the tiny, itty bitty age of 12.
(Please note that I’m not mentioning this lightly. I was bullied for having red hair, being overweight, freckled, for having mosquito bite scars on my legs. I’m still unraveling the hurt and anger from my childhood as an adult. If you have children, please, please let them know how wrong bullying is.)
Closing the Gap
I had braces for two years. The gap closed quickly, it was the overbite that took the longest. I was so happy when I got my braces off. I loved my smile so much, and I remember finally smiling in pictures, teeth on full display, no longer afraid.
My teeth starting shifting again after high school. I wasn’t great with my retainers, and I didn’t complete all of my treatment. My gap slightly reopened, and one of my front teeth pushed forward slowly over the years.
Learning Self Appreciation
If you go back and look at the pictures of my wedding day, you’ll see that I stood on the right side instead of the left during our ceremony. While I would like to think this was simply because I wanted to change up an outdated tradition, vanity was the only reason. Y’all – I changed tradition because I thought I had a “good side” bc of my teeth!
In fact, I have a whole slew of pictures where you can only see the left side of my face because that is my side. You know, like Ariana Grande.
Flash forward, I’m 33, try to avoid smiling open-mouthed in pictures, still think I have a “good side”, my retainers no longer fit at all, my gap is the largest it’s been since having my braces removed and I just sort of surrendered that this is what my life has to be like. Until I decided that I would just do something about it.
My husband still doesn’t understand why I think I look better from one side, people act shocked when I say I don’t like my teeth (I get lots of “oh really? I like your gap”) and I even got some “why?!” responses when I told people I wanted to get orthodontics again.
Practicing Self Care
So why do I care so much if no one else notices what I do? Because I notice. My smile matters to me. Honestly, I don’t have the best track record of appreciating myself, and I have the sneaking suspicion that I’m sadly not alone. But loving and taking care of myself is something I’ve focused on a lot recently. I even struggled with why I would want to do this if I truly loved and accepted myself.
Then it hit me – I don’t place my worth on my teeth. Their appearance is not what makes me deserving of love or happiness. It is because I do deserve happiness that at 33, I’m having them changed again. Not corrected, because they aren’t wrong. They just aren’t what makes me happy, and getting them adjusted is a form of self-care for me.
And just because I don’t personally like my own gap, doesn’t mean I think they are unattractive on other people. I don’t think I’ve ever seen someone with one (large or small) and thought “they need to fix that, pronto”, I’m more like my friends who say “I like your gap!”. For me, when I see the space between my teeth, I just don’t see the version of myself I want to.
This has been an amazing reminder not to judge anyone, or to think that certain people don’t have insecurities (or to assume someone should have an insecurity about something that they just don’t care about). What one person sees as a flaw, another finds beauty in, and sometimes vice versa, and that’s ok.
Today I start my Invisalign treatment (and no, this is not sponsored, ha!). I know I’ll still be the same person when I’m done. I don’t expect that this will completely change my life. I’m just excited to see that version of Daire again in the mirror, and say “oh hey girl” when she smiles a big, full-toothed smile at me. No longer hiding, not perfect, but closer on the outside to the person I feel like on the inside.
Now let’s chat – have you ever had something about yourself you were insecure about? Let me know below.