Proud2Bme | How I Learned to Love My Imperfect Smile

  • Body Image
  • Body Positivity

How I Learned to Love My Imperfect Smile

By Nichole Petroy--My teeth alone tell a story that my entire mouth could never form into the right words. I always had straight, white teeth and I got compliments on them for as long as I could remember. 

Just the top row, though. My bottom row of teeth has always been pretty out of line but I didn't mind. I loved smiling for pictures. My smile was actually one of my favorite things about myself. I knew that my teeth were visually appealing and that made me feel good, because for most of my middle school, high school and college career, there wasn't much else about myself that I felt was attractive.

It was a Friday morning, August 2014. It was "Freshman Move-In Day" at school and my sorority had volunteered to go on campus to help the newcomers move into their dorms and enjoy a day of fun campus festivities afterwards. I woke up excited, went into the bathroom, and showered. I got out of the shower and went to brush my teeth and then I saw it. My right tooth had a chip in it. My stomach turned. This couldn't be happening.

I know what some of you may be thinking: big deal, it's just a little chip...who cares? My devastation stemmed from something much deeper than the fact that my teeth no longer looked perfect. This chip was the first physical sign (besides weight loss) of my bulimia. A year and of half of unhealthy habits and behaviors had led to the enamel on my teeth eroding, and now to this chip. I was sad. I was scared. I was in disbelief.

This little chip in my tooth was the first thing that made me want to get help. I told a couple of my friends what was going on in an attempt to get some support. Although it took another year before I actually came out and started to become an activist, I owe my recovery thus far to that fateful morning. Today, both of my front teeth are pretty jagged. They are thin and translucent. They are wearing away. Even after all of this time, it's still difficult to brush my teeth and remember what they used to look like. When it hits me hard, I just take a step back and become grateful. I like to think of my teeth as battle scars—reminders of the journey I have endured and the strength I've gained from it.

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Proud2Bme is an online community created by and for teens. We cover everything from fashion and beauty to news, culture, and entertainment—all with the goal of promoting positive body image and encouraging healthy attitudes about food and weight.

This site was developed in partnership with Riverduinen and made possible by generous contributions from JPMorgan Chase, Globant, the University of Delaware, and The Hilda & Preston Davis Foundation.

Proud2Bme was first launched in the Netherlands by Riverduinen, a mental health organization that has licensed the concept to the National Eating Disorders Association. Unless otherwise noted, all original content on this site is copyright The National Eating Disorders Association. The Proud2Bme brand, logos, and trademarks are property of Rivierduinen.