I can tell you a hundred different stories about body parts of mine and the exact moment I began to hate them.
My nose? 6th grade, when a boy in my class told me that it looked really big when I wasn’t wearing my glasses. My arms? When I entered late my 20s and saw my first “fat arm” picture. My list of bodily imperfections goes on (skinny right calf, ugly left big toe, warped right pinky finger, big mole that grows a hair out of it…you get the idea).
I was always sensitive about my overbite, thanks to my siblings (“Bucky the Bucktooth Beaver”—that’s me!), but it wasn’t until the dreaded day in third grade when I received my school pictures that I began to hate those big front teeth and that massive overbite.
There was a buzz of excitement around the class as Mrs. Bird began handing out the packets of photos, the ones with crinkly cellophane windows. When she handed me my packet, there was Bucky, staring back at me through the sneak-peak window in her 3”x 5” glory. I couldn’t see the perfect braid of hair, the newly trimmed bangs, or the beautiful outfit I had picked out for picture day. All I could see were those two ugly bunny teeth hanging over my bottom lip.
I sank down in my chair, outraged that the photographers didn’t say, “Hey you! Put those buckers back in your mouth!” I was mortified that I was about to trade photos of my buckteeth with friends (would they mock me, too?). I fought back the tears, the ones that came with the realization that my siblings were right all along.
From that day forward, I worked on creating the “perfect” smile (yes, I am aware of how crazy that sounds). I practiced smiling in the mirror, training my lower jaw to come out far enough so that, at the very least, my lower lip could graze the outer edge of my upper deck. The ideal smile, however, involved parity between the upper teeth and the lower teeth, with a slight space in between them to make the smile seem “natural.” Eventually, 1–2–3-Cheese! was simple to master, and I was able to masque those rogue teeth.
Many a dentist has suggested that I fix the overbite (technically, an overjet, which is worse than a plain old overbite), but all of them agreed that I would need a combination of surgery, tooth removal, and/or a metal contraption. I would like to say that I declined because I learned a long time ago to love my bite, but the truth is that I couldn’t be bothered with the dental work because I’d learned to manage the appearance of my overjet well enough on my own.
Something has happened to me recently, though: without noticing, I’ve stopped correcting my smile (I suspect because I’m learning to love my body and my self in a whole new way through yoga). I’m letting my jaw relax and allowing the smiles to come naturally, even if it means that those top pearly whites jettison past my lower lip like Cletus the Slack-Jawed Yokel.
As I’m writing this, I am sitting next to a breathtaking waterfall in Kerikeri, New Zealand, letting my lower teeth sit in their uneven but comfortable position as I smile my natural smile and take in the natural beauty around me. At age 32, I’ve fallen in love with my mouth, just as it is—overbite/overjet/buckteeth and all—and I don’t feel the need to force my smile to be something it’s not. It feels wonderful. (Who knew that through lots of yoga and lots of travels, I would finally find peace with my buckteeth? Phew!)
In all seriousness, it’s not just about buckteeth or fat arms or big noses. Loving our bodies means loving every single part of them, even the ones we wish we could keep hidden away. Sometimes, parts of our bodes don’t work as well as others. Sometimes, parts of our bodies don’t look “magazine perfect.” Sometimes, parts of our bodies fall ill.
Learning to love those imperfections takes a lot of awareness, a lot of strength and a lot of vulnerability. If I love my natural smile, others are bound to love it, too, because they will see me for who I am: beautiful first on the inside, and the rest (the body, in all its imperfect glory) is just a reflection of that.
The message here is love. Love your imperfections. Celebrate them. Allow them to be seen by the world. Then one day, you might be sitting by a waterfall, realizing the joy that comes with loving some small part of your body just a little bit more.
Author: Megan Grandinetti
Editor: Caroline Beaton
Photo: Author’s own; Flickr