I do not take any partnership lightly.
I never want to put my name on anything I can't stand by completely. I think the most prominent component of not only my life, but my brand, is a dedication to being genuine. I don't want to perpetuate a curated image or a false ideal. I want to represent myself and my life with all the authenticity and realness that I muster. In today's world, it is often difficult to find companies and products that will align with those values, and I have and will no doubt make many mistakes as I continue to collaborate with other teams.
When Smile Brilliant first approached me, I was apprehensive. Though a credible and respectable brand, I was concerned with the way a partnership with a teeth whitening service would align with the message of my page. I worried that endorsing a teeth whitening company would be a materialistic and superficial. Isn't something like teeth whitening contradictory to a message of unconditional self love? If it's an alteration to physical appearance, how can it align with the values of self love, body acceptance, self validation, and mental wellbeing? What I realized was, I am not less genuine if my intention is to grow confidence with myself and not for myself. In further explanation, there are aspects of myself in which I am insecure, such as my nose and my lips. Although I do not plan on any cosmetic surgery myself, I do not condemn someone who does, as long as they are transparent about it. My insecurities are bred from my own perceptions of what my nose and lips have meant to me over time. I do not have a problem with exercising, with threading, with wigs or fake nails, as long as the love for self is still there when everything is stripped away. You're not a hypocrite if you get dressed up and feel extra confident! It's okay if you like getting dolled up. But do you still love you when all the embellishment is gone? This is truly the ultimate test. People will justify surgeries or modifications because it's "what they consider beautiful." But who has influenced your perception of beautiful? Is simply being physically beautiful the end goal? Why? Being honest with yourself about the answers to these questions is an integral part of understanding our motivations behind changing our appearances. What I meant by growing with myself and not for myself is that I want to grow hand in hand, alongside my current self, whom I love and respect, and not as a sovereign overriding or correcting a flawed self. If your love for yourself is there in the original form, and the modifications are truly because you want to add upon your confidence and beauty that already exists, then I would consider that a genuine endeavor. In the end, the reason I agreed to this partnership is because my smile has become a negative reminder for me and I'd like to cultivate a more positive relationship with my smile, and thus myself. My smile represents a troubling time in my life, and I believe that this experience will be a continued journey in self acceptance for me.
My smile comes with a bit of baggage. Although objectively I have rather straight teeth, I am extremely self conscious of smile. I did have Invisalign, but I never had any significant problems with my teeth until I was around 16.
I unfortunately have permanent gum recession due to years with bulimia. One of the side effects of eating disorders that hardly anyone considers is the internal damage. Oftentimes, eating disorder recoverees suffer from loss of bone density, infertility, digestive issues, enamel erosion, tonsil rupture, and internal organ damage.
When something hits the area of recession, it's akin to the feeling when you ram your funny bone against a hard surface, with a slightly more rigid sting. It's more obnoxious than burdening, but it serves as a constant reminder of the ways in which an eating disorder can change your life forever.
Although the recession is not visible unless I pull down my bottom lip, I know it's there. I can feel it everyday and it subconsciously makes me want to close my mouth. I hide my smile. I don't constantly think about it, but it is there. I've simply gotten used to my closed-lipped, side smile. Every time I do show my teeth, I wonder about the difference those years with my eating disorder made and if my worry is stamped across my face.
I would like to create a more positive relationship with my smile. Instead of a vague reminder of one of the worst points in my life, I'd like it to be a bright example of the positive changes a little self care can make.
Choosing to take care of my smile and break down my insecurity around it is an act of self care. I choose to challenge the negative self talk in my head telling me I should hide it. I don't know if I'll ever be able to completely ignore the occasional zinging pain that comes with the recession, but I hope for a day that I will be able to smile brilliantly, and thus live more fearlessly.
I'm truly excited for this process to begin. Hopefully you'll be seeing many more unapologetic, brilliant smiles from me in the future. Until then, I will endeavor to accept and love the current me with all I've got. No matter what happens, I promise to never stop trying.