The summer before 2nd grade, I got 12 teeth pulled out. Yes, you read that sentence correctly. 12 teeth.
I’ll spare you the exhaustive details. In short, I needed to get those teeth pulled out because there was simply no room for them in my tiny 7-year-old mouth. Eight of them were baby teeth, so at least those ones grew back in. The unfortunate thing, though, is that they grew back in sideways. Yes, you read that correctly too. Sideways.
As you can probably imagine, I was a very attractive kid.
In the years that followed, my unruly teeth and I endured the agony of multiple expanders, spacers, retainers, and, eventually, the dreaded braces. If you’ve had braces, you know what I’m talking about. Those babies hurt. Big time. Especially when you get them tightened. My eyes are actually watering just thinking about it.
The day I got my braces off was one of the most liberating days of my life. This probably sounds rather melodramatic to those of you who never needed braces, but of my fellow braces survivors, I ask—am I right, or am I right? The sweet relief of unencumbered canines after years of imprisonment is difficult to beat.
You might be wondering, why is this person talking about orthodontics on a counseling blog? You raise an excellent question.
Here’s the connection: in my experience, movement toward health can feel a lot like having braces. It’s painful, and sometimes even excruciating. It’s occasionally humiliating, usually inconvenient, and almost always uncomfortable.
But it’s in those places that genuine growth happens. It happens when we choose to run towards a new opportunity in trust rather than away from one in fear. It happens when we lay down our pride and allow our selves to fail. It happens when we lean in and stay the course, even when it hurts to do so. It happens when, and only when, we get a little bit (or a lot bit) uncomfortable.
As a child and teenager, needing so much tooth care felt like the worst thing ever. It was painful, annoying, and frankly, embarrassing. But years later, I can still see the fruit of those many years of discomfort. My mouth is now large enough to house all of my remaining teeth, and my smile is significantly less crooked than it would have been had I ditched those laborious orthodontist appointments.
What I’ve learned is this: Positioning yourself for growth and change isn’t easy or glamorous. But it is good, and it is worth it.
So if you’re feeling a little bit uncomfortable in your journey toward health—whether emotionally, physically, spiritually, socially, mentally, relationally, or all of the above—rest assured: You’re probably doing something right. If you’re feeling uncomfortable you are growing.
Bio: Stephanie is currently pursuing a M.A. in Clinical Mental Health Counseling at Moody Theological Seminary. She is particularly passionate about helping others see and appreciate their unique potential, leverage their hidden strengths, and discover their natural beauty and inherent value. She also loves baking cookies, playing volleyball, and traveling to new places.