Smiles are beautiful. Period.

There are times when I scrutinize the reflection I see in the mirror. And I don’t like what I see the majority of the time. Is that surprising, really? We are our own worst critics, and when we look in the mirror, what are we usually looking for?

Areas needing improvement.

The other day, a friend forwarded to me a video of her fifteen year old son’s impromptu violin recital. It was beautifully executed. I was in awe, as I believe he might have learned largely by ear. At any rate, when the song finished, he turned and faced the camera and grinned a huge happy, goofy grin. From ear to ear. Now I could tell you that this boy is special for a number of reasons. First of all, he’s brilliant. Second of all, he is talented in ways I can only imagine. Add to all the above, he is a very special teen who also happens to have Asperger’s Syndrome. And he is a pretty funny guy, from anything I’ve seen. One liner’s seem to be his specialty.

But. The one thing that struck me about him was: his smile. It was not only infectious, it was completely lacking in self-conscious awareness. He smiled with complete abandon and total delight. I find these kinds of amazing smiles (as his was) like little rays on sunshine. I see them inside my classroom often. I see them on the playground, in the hallways at school and on the weekends. Mostly, I see young children sporting these smiles. But when I see teens smiling like this, my heart feels like it could explode. Because it tells me something. That it is okay to LOVE ourselves. It’s okay!!!! better than okay. We don’t have to stop being our own greatest cheerleader when we graduate from Grade 6. And we don’t have to stop LOVING OURSELVES when we leave the halls of elementary school. We can love ourselves at any age. As teens. As university students. As Moms. As Dads. As grandparents. As humans of any age.

So many times, I am given a compliment, and I turn it down. And so many, many times, I will give another woman a compliment, and she will completely brush it off as if it is a complete falsehood. When did we stop seeing the best in ourselves? And why must we persist in turning every good thing we hear about ourselves into an insult, a joke, a downplay, a nervous laugh or a denial?

You know, I have always been self-conscious of many things. One of which is my smile. So when other kids were suffering through the torture of braces, I was idyllically smiling my crooked grin like there wasn’t a care in the world. But somewhere along the line, I got really self-conscious about my smile. And when it came time for grad pictures, I didn’t smile. And when it came time for wedding pictures, same thing. And through the years, I tried to hide from the camera. Stating that I am just not photogenic. Using the excuse that I am one of those people who couldn’t take a decent picture.

But when I saw my friend C. the other day, smiling his heart out, I realized something. Smiles are truly beautiful. No qualifiers here. If you can find it in yourself to smile, there is no more beautiful expression of precious humanity than that. Smiles are priceless. And we should never, ever berate a smile.

I have never seen the best in myself. I have always believed I have an ugly smile. Which is a true travesty. Because truly every smile is beautiful. Unique. One-of-a-kind.
They are all: Perfection.

And it took a fifteen year old boy’s smile to show me that believing the best in other people is not enough. Seeing the best in my family is not enough. If I don’t see the best in myself, then it is a loss from every angle. A great loss for the people whom I try to influence (my students and my children) and an even greater loss for the person I am stuck with the most: myself.

We need to see the best in ourselves. We are beautiful. We are wise. We are amazing. And no words another human can ever say will mean as much as those that affirm the best about yourself. We need to tell this to ourselves. I AM BEAUTIFUL, just as I am. I am amazing just the way things are. I am the best I can be at this given moment. And that is all I am accountable for each day: this moment I am in right now.

And then. When we finish the pep talk, we need to believe it in our heart.