Please Don’t Ask Me To Smile ‘Properly’

I’ve spoken at length before about the strange contradiction that is outfit blogging. Most people would assume that someone who chooses to publish photos of themselves on the Internet are either incredibly vain or super confident in their own skin, or possibly a horrid combination of both! The truth is though, most of the bloggers I’ve come across are not like this at all. A lot of them, myself included, are actually terribly self conscious. We cringe while we pose, we write and re-write things 100 times because it just doesn’t quite seem good enough, and we hover over that ‘Publish…’ button for what seems like an age before committing to a post. So why do it? Well, for me at least it was a way of sharing my passion for clothes and shoes with a captive audience of like minded people. While we might not like to admit it, writing a blog is often partly out of a desire to be accepted and validated – as much as going public is terrifying, I’d be lying if I said it didn’t give me a real buzz to see my follower number increase or a comment notification pop up. It feels good to be complimented, and we all know that’s the truth.

One problem though – posting outfit photos means having your photo taken! As you can quite clearly see from the quality of mine, this isn’t something I’m good at! I always feel horrifically awkward when doing it, especially when in public, so I’ve always just gone for the ‘stand still and smile at the camera’ tactic. There is yet another problem with that though – I can’t smile. Ok, I can smile, but not in the way a lot of people seem to think smiling should be done. You see, I just can’t bring myself to show my teeth. I absolutely hate the way they look – literally can’t bare to look at them, so much so that I can’t even post a photo of them for you to see, because then I’d have to close down the laptop and burn it with fire. So instead I just curl my mouth up at the corners and hope no-one notices. Except everybody notices, and it’s painfully embarrassing when they do.

WARNING: You may not want to continue if you have a fear of dentists!!

I should probably start from the beginning, because I wasn’t always quite so self-conscious. I was a very outgoing child, and not in the slightest bit shy. I was always ready to flash a big goofy grin and show off what my Dad called my tombstones – my rather large two front teeth. Those teeth didn’t last all that long though, unfortunately. When I was around 10 during a playfight with my sisters, a shoe slipped off my older sister’s foot mid karate kick, and smashed straight into my mouth. I saw the horrified look in my sister’s faces, but I already knew the truth, because I could feel in my mouth the pieces of my teeth – those big ol’ tombstones had been smashed straight down the middle. I remember asking my Dad through the tears if they would grow back, but I was old enough to know they wouldn’t – they were gone, and my perception of myself changed right there.

The years that followed were basically a blur of dentists visits. I was too young for proper crowns as the roots of my teeth were still growing, so had to make do with awful pieces of temporary plastic, which looked clumsy and unnatural and regularly fell off. I spent almost as long without them as I did with them, and as a result I pretty much refused to let anyone see inside my mouth. When I talked or laughed I always held a hand over my mouth and I dreaded seeing a camera come out. The day I finally got my permanent crowns fitted aged 15 felt like the best day of my life – but unfortunately my journey didn’t quite end there. There was so little natural tooth left, that the crowns fitted poorly and still came off at fairly regular intervals, and when they did I simply refused to leave the house unless it was for a emergency appointment to have them put back on. At one such appointment my usual dentist wasn’t in and I had a locum, who decided for some reason to do a root filling – which seemed odd as it wasn’t something they’d done before. I was right to feel concerned, because it turns out she had left a gap at the top of the filling which quickly became infected, and because of the way she’d done it they couldn’t get to the infection through the tooth, and were going to have to cut me open. They assured me it was a routine operation, I’d be awake the whole time and it should be very quick, but things didn’t quite work out that way. The infection was worse than they thought, and it actually took hours to clear it. I also wasn’t susceptible to the anesthetic, and about an hour in realised I had started to feel again. Long story short, they couldn’t give me any more and decided it would be too detrimental to stop halfway through and finish another day, so they continued while I cried and a clearly upset dental nurse mopped up my tears. It was the most excruciating and traumatic experience of my life, leaving me with a mouth full of stitches and a face double it’s normal size the next day, but the one good thing was that they had found a different way to fit the crowns and they stayed where they were until today.

At first the relief of the whole ordeal being over and the knowledge that my crowns wouldn’t fall out any minute any more was enough to keep me happy, but it wasn’t long before I realised the truth. I hadn’t been left with the perfect smile I always thought I would – the surgery had left significant scarring on my gums which gave them an oddly shaped, bumpy appearance and left the joins of the crowns exposed and unsightly. They told me it would heal fine, but it never did. I was also left with a chronic fear of dentists which meant I didn’t go for over 10 years and my teeth got into a bad way. It wasn’t until I got an impacted wisdom tooth that I gave in to the pain, and thankfully found a great and sympathetic dentist who fixed me up and helped me overcome my fears. Sadly though, my discomfort of showing my teeth has never gone away. Sometimes I consider looking into getting them redone, but the truth is, I’m not even sure it would help, because smiling like that just isn’t who I am anymore. Even when I try to grin properly and see past what I feel are ugly looking teeth, something about my mouth shaped like that just doesn’t feel right. It looks false, and no matter how hard I try I can’t make it look normal. This is just how I smile – a closed mouth beam. I’ve gotten so used to it that I can’t see it any other way. Unfortunately, plenty of people can’t seem to grasp that, and I’m constantly asked to ‘smile properly’ by people who don’t know me, which is incredibly frustrating. I AM SMILING PROPERLY DAMMIT, THIS IS ME SMILING!! Some people just cannot drop it until I agree to show my teeth, which makes any kind of gathering when photos are likely – Weddings, birthdays and celebrations mainly – a bit anxiety inducing to me.

I’m getting better. There are odd occasions where I see a photo of myself laughing and don’t completely hate how I look, but for the most part it’s something I’ve accepted about myself. I just wish other other people could accept it too and let me smile my own kind of smile!

No Smile 1



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10 thoughts on “Please Don’t Ask Me To Smile ‘Properly’

  1. I totally get you! I have a rather long chin and if I smile showing my teeth, I feel like expands to twice its size (!!).
    My smile with my mouth closed is still genuine. So world, please don’t ask to show my teeth 😬😉

    Ps. I totally care about getting noticed (likes and followers). I want to share my stories with as many people in order to make them laugh or comfort them. So it’s a bad thing at all!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Ah, Steph, I do sympathise. I had really crowded wonky teeth, which I was incredibly self-conscious about – in my mind it was strikingly obvious how awful they were, and I thought everyone must have noticed. A few years ago I decided to address the problem and got train-track braces, and found that the most common feedback from people was that they’d never noticed that I had bad teeth! So even though you hate your teeth and feel super self-conscious, you may find that they’re not really as bad or noticeable as you thought!

    Hope this helps!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. you are BEAUTIFUL! very photogenic … I bet your teeth arent even that bad. I was told by a dentist that our flaws are way more noticeable to us because we stare at them so close in the mirror (I also leaned in life that what we THINK are flaws, are very beautiful to others). Keep smiling…you are beautiful

    Liked by 1 person

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