I hide my mouth when I laugh.
It’s an instinct. My hand flies up, and I cover my teeth. People have asked me why. My parents have sometimes frowned at me, saying it wasn’t sanitary to put my dirty hands near my mouth.
I also shield my forehead when it’s sunny out, and it’s not because I have trouble opening my eyes.
I do these things because at that moment, when people can catch a good glimpse of me, all my insecurities rush to the surface. When the sun hits my face, I know the people around me can see my acne scars. When I laugh, I remember the time I used to have a gap between my teeth, and I immediately become the girl I was three years ago who was terrified to let people know I was missing a tooth.
There are influencers who post on social media that these flaws are normal. It means we’re human. And I know that. I don’t need a TikTok star or a huge Instagrammer to tell me that. But I go outside, and I see people with naturally perfect skin. I go outside, and I meet others who didn’t have to go through four surgeries and six years of braces just so their smiles could look beautiful.
That knowledge hurts. I know insecurities can be hidden to others, but it still hurts.
We’ve all heard that what matters is our personality, and I completely agree. But that doesn’t change the fact that our physical appearances will always be one of the first things a stranger sees. That’s why we dress up for our first date. That’s why we spend time on our appearance before a night out. No, looks aren’t everything, but they’re definitely something.
I’ve noticed that on days where my skin isn’t doing so well, I rarely look in the mirror. There’s nothing staring back at me that’s special enough to look at. I simply don’t feel pretty enough.
But when my skin is good or I wear enough makeup to cover it, I take photos. I smile. I pose. I make myself feel good because I know that sparkle of joy could disappear the next day.
There were days in the past where I would stare at a zit forming in the middle of my forehead and just break down. I remember going to my parents and calling my friends, telling them I genuinely thought there was something wrong with me.
And before my dental surgeries, I would feel so insecure with my smile that I got angry with myself.
These reactions are all much too exaggerated, but in that moment — when your flaws are the only thing that matter to you — it’s hard not to break. And for just a few minutes, I feel completely alone.
I wish I had advice on how to overcome this because I know I’m not the only one who struggles with my insecurities. But I’m still learning, still growing, and it’s a long process that I have to go through.
To all the others who have been in my exact shoes — I see you. I hear you. And even though it may not feel like it — I understand you. Maybe not your exact situation, but I know what it’s like to feel like the greatest obstacle in your life is yourself.
Was this too emotional? Too corny? Probably. But hey, sometimes you just have to let it out and acknowledge how you feel. It’s a type of medication in itself.
Being human? I’m not quite there yet. But this is a road I am willing to travel, and I hope to one day find myself and look back to think — yes, this was all worth it.