Can you preach body positivity and self-love, and then get a surgical procedure to correct an aesthetic issue? Well, I did.
I inherited my mum’s underbite (meaning my lower jaw was further forward than my top) and at 14, was told by the orthodontist that I could have corrective surgery. After a lot (and I mean a lot!) of hesitation, I decided to go through with it. When asked by friends, I justified my want to change my jaw by the health issues which could have arisen later in life if I had left my underbite as it was. But, beneath that was definitely a fear of losing opportunities because of my unusual jaw shape.
As an aspiring actor, I felt the threat of my unique look costing me some roles. Furthermore, this jaw I had inherited from my mum ironically held me back from flashing a full smile in family photos. Really, it was the thoughts in my own head about how ‘bad’ my smile was, rather than any physical ailment stopping me from smiling. This really showed me how limited we can allow ourselves to feel because of our appearances. I certainly don’t regret getting the surgery, and I have felt my confidence flourish since, but I still question why I felt it necessary from an aesthetic perspective. Shouldn’t we all just embrace what makes us unique?
The answer to my previous question is, yes, we should…but that’s far easier said than done. Like many people, I felt uncomfortable in my body for as long as I can remember, and this wasn’t limited to my jaw. Many summers during my teens were spent eating a fruit salad for lunch and feeling faint in my period 5 maths class, because I was going on holiday that year and so ‘needed to lose weight!’ At 17, I felt a loss of control amongst other areas of my life, and so tried to grasp this back by losing weight- ‘properly’ this time. I had an image of what my perfect body would be, and when I reached that number on the scales…guess what? I still wasn’t satisfied with my body, or my life.
"Period stopped? Still not small enough.
Friends and family worried about me? Still not small enough."
And this is the reality still for so many people. I discovered the Body Positivity movement soon after (thank goodness!) and it completely changed my life. That summer was actually the best, because I allowed myself to eat what I fancied, when I fancied it. I cancelled my gym membership, donated clothes which were too small, and rebuilt my relationship with my body. I urge everyone who may be reading this and feeling that their body isn’t good enough to research body positivity and know that you ARE enough.
One thing that wasn’t tainted by that dark time in my life, was my karate training. I’ve attended weekly karate classes since I was 5 with my dad and my older sister and was awarded my black belt in 2017. I don’t remember any moment in my karate classes when I thought ‘do these push-ups and then you can eat dessert tonight’. For me, karate has always been about learning to defend yourself and getting stronger- not about losing weight and punishing yourself for being a human being who needs to eat food! Unfortunately, this world can be dangerous and scary, but this is some of what fuels me to continue my karate training after all these years; so that I can protect myself and my friends. Note that I’m thinking of my female friends in this instance, which just proves how terrifying being a young woman is sometimes, possibly a topic for a future blog post.
In summary, I strive for perfection in every aspect of my life, and when I thought I had reached it with my body, it still wasn’t enough. And yes, I may have undergone a procedure to change my appearance, but I still urge anybody reading this to try and embrace every little part of you and your uniqueness, that’s what makes you amazing.
Author: Kirsty Smith