Orthodontic treatment with braces has changed the way I see the world. This may be a confusing and cheesy statement, but it’s true. My experience with braces not only taught me to love myself, but it also taught me to appreciate my health and to look past first impressions.
I had my braces put on my freshman year of high school, during a time when appearance really matters. High school can be tough and people are judgmental, which is part of the reason I was hesitant to get braces. To top it off, I was thrown into the lion’s den in my first year of high school with a triple threat—the Color Guard, braces and the band. I felt self-conscious and judged by many of my peers during this time. At the beginning of my orthodontic treatment, I had to learn to love myself, even though I may not have loved the way I looked with the braces. At that time I didn’t feel like my most attractive self, but I found a way to love myself in a way that wasn’t centered on the way I look. I learned to love myself for who I was as a person, beyond the superficial.
Now, it’s no secret that one of the main reasons why a person gets braces is to improve their appearance —and it did for me. Beyond that, orthodontic treatment can prevent structural and health problems down the road. During my treatment, my orthodontist, Dr. Teng, really took the time to explain what the health benefits of my braces were and what exactly was happening with my teeth. This communication helped ease my fears and made me excited for the changes that were happening.
Wearing braces also taught me to look past first impressions. When we first meet someone, we often judge him or her first by their looks and don’t get past this perception. During my orthodontic treatment, I didn’t want to be categorized as just as a ‘brace face’ or any of the stereotypes that surround high schoolers wearing braces. I was still the same person and I learned to love myself even in braces. Because of this, I learned to look past other people’s appearances as well. Today, I want more than a first impression of someone: I want a second, third and fourth opinion of the person because I know that the first time can be clouded by appearances.
Once the braces were off and I finished my orthodontic treatment, I loved the way I looked. My outside appearance now matched how I felt inside. I grew more and more confident with myself and did things I never thought I would do before. I competed in pageants I never would have entered before. I had job opportunities I would have never pursued if I didn’t have the confidence that I have now.
I am a healthier and happier person because I had braces. This experience taught me to love others and most importantly myself. Braces are a short-term solution that produce a lifelong change.