I remember the first time went to visit the orthodontist. I was actually one of those rare cases where I was more excited than I was nervous. No one in the waiting room seemed like they hated being there, which was even more encouraging for me. I also remember the day when I got my braces off, at the end of the 8th grade. I was so happy. It had been a long 3 years of tightening, fitting, cutting wires, and changing the colors of the brackets. I saw it as my opportunity to feel brand new. I wasn’t really popular type at that time in my life, nor was I unpopular, just in the middle. It wasn’t until the very end of the 8th grade and going into high school that I finally broke out of my shell and became the extrovert I was meant to be. Now I feel comfortable talking to pretty much anyone. But with that said, I still find it hard sometimes to be myself. I feel this need to be a different person, to impress the person I’m talking to and prove I’m worthy of their time. It’s a crazy concept that I’m still trying to get unwrapped around my brain. How does one become truly comfortable in their own skin, even around people who challenge your everyday conduct?

      As much as I liked some aspects of having braces, I have to admit I was always kind of scared to smile. It’s kind of hard to laugh when you feel like people are starting directly at your mouth. Now as an adult, I realize the importance of making the best of situations and embracing your flaws. It’s much easier to laugh at yourself than it is to cry because people are laughing at you. So I try to tolerate the part of myself I can’t easily change. The Bible talks about this in Psalm 139:13-14, “For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.” This is basically saying that we were made special and unique by God even before we were born. He gave us specific qualities anticipating what we would do with them. Another verse says, “But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.”(1 Samuel 16:7) This refers back to the time before David became king, right before he went off to slay Goliath. No one thought he was anything special, all he did was watch sheep all day and play music. But the day Samuel came to David’s house in search of the next king, all of his brother lined up in a row were rejected. I guess you could sort of call him the “male Cinderella”. Then it turned out his love for music was actually the thing that got him into the palace. He would sooth King Saul whenever he was having a bad day. God used his insecurities and unlikeliness to teach people not to judge. So in the same way, we should reject low self-esteem and learn to stand out in the crowd. Proud and strong.

      There was one factor that always seemed out of my control growing up, and no matter what I tried, it stayed around like the elephant in the room. I struggled a lot with depression when I was in high school, and even when I was younger, there were symptoms. I could be in a room full of family and friends smiling and having fun, but I would be sad for no reason at all. Sometimes it would last only a couple of seconds, but the thoughts that ran through my mind were something like, why am I even here? Why am I even important? What’s the point of living life when it all can end so soon? Why should I care about myself or my future? I didn’t know how to stop it for the longest time, and then when I got older it got worse. There would be times I would come home from school, go upstairs, close the door, shut the blinds, lye in bed and just cry. I would beg God to just take me off the Earth, to just make my heart stop beating in one second. I didn’t know that it could get better. That’s when I decided I was going to “seize the moment”. I decided I wasn’t going to kill myself thinking about the future and all the things that could happen, but just live one day at a time. It was hard for me for awhile and still is at times. Some people don’t quite understand the gravity of dealing with depression, and how it affects the way you react to things living in the real world. It’s was difficult in the past for me to accurately express myself, even to those who I considered family. But with those who saw my weakness and vowed to exploit it, there came those who were understanding and could relate. So I can happily say that now, (by the grace of God and by memorizing positive Bible verses every day), I have conquered the better part of this darkness. Now I see myself as valuable, and I’m learning better ways to survive this world all the time. I no longer feel like that 13-year old girl afraid to smile in public. I am beautiful. I am blessed. I am at the top of the pile. I know these things to be true because that’s the way God feels about each and every one of us. If we all started believing the things we read in the word, there would doubt ourselves a lot less, therefore inspiring determination in those around us. I hope to count myself as one of those people as I go on in life, sharing my journey with everyone who reads this, and anyone who is to come.