Contributor Post: Self Love is Here

After a recent mission trip to Ireland and Portugal with a college Catholic organization I found myself completely changed. Finally in love with the person I was created to be, and it all started with a losing a tooth. 

Before the trip, I had some dental work done that included two temporary veneers placed on the teeth next to my two front teeth. However, the left one kept FALLING OUT. No matter how many times I went back to the dentist for more glue it continued to escape from my mouth.

The first 48 hours of the trip was already nerve wracking because I didn’t know anyone but now I was convinced everyone could notice my fake tooth…and hear the shakiness in my voice. I became convinced of how insecure I was in myself, and how deeply I clung to external appearances to build my self-esteem.

The first full day of the trip was in Ireland and the group went surfing off the West coast. This is where everything truly changed for me. It was a cold, rainy, and bleak July day. The water was roaring.

I took one look at the waves and thought, ‘I will go in, try one wave and get out.’ After about 20 minutes of trying to put on a wet suit, listening to a quick lesson and being tossed a board I headed to the ocean. I headed into the unknown.

Once I swam out to a good spot, I saw a wave start to form and come my way. I took a deep breath, said a little prayer, turned my back and started paddling. Through God’s goodness and sense of humor, I timed everything exactly right, and rode the wave in all the way to the shore. My very first attempt at surfing went perfectly!?! I was in pure surfing bliss, and had never felt more alive in my life. My tooth problems were almost completely forgotten, so I decided to get to the next step of surfing- getting up on my knees.

I again started paddling at the exact right moment, and had the courage to bring my legs all the way in and stood up on my knees. While the wave crashed underneath me, I was flying on top of it, with such a huge smile on my face that I could feel the wind rush against face, including my teeth. Suddenly, I felt my veneer fly out of my mouth.

I lost my veneer in the Atlantic Ocean.

I looked down, realizing the cover to my tooth, the cover of my imperfection and insecurity, was lost forever. And instead of feeling anxious or freaking out, I actually felt free.

 

I knew that the obsession over external perfection was robbing me of joy. It stopped me from living in a moment that I would want to remember that for the rest of my life. I looked around, saw my new friends laughing and swimming in the waves, saw all the vibrant, green cliffs. Even horses running on the beach, I was pierced with awe at the beauty of the moment.

From then on, I let nothing hold me back. I actually laughed and smiled more on that three-week trip than I have in my entire life-veneer-less! I knew full well each time I cracked a smile that my weirdly shaped, yellow tooth was on full display; but I stopped caring. I started to love my weirdness. It was only once I let go of what I thought would bring me joy (normal looking teeth/worldly acceptance) that I started to know true, unfathomable joy.

I discovered the deepest part of myself once I stopped clinging to everyone else’s opinions of me, and I fell in love with that person. It was here that I began to discover the depths of freedom that comes from entering into our imperfections, and not just accepting them but loving them.

Olivia is a junior at The George Washington University in Washington DC who still has no idea what to major in but loves her Catholic faith, making her nephew laugh and binge-watching Friday Night Lights.

 

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