I’m writing this blog post today to tell you a story, but to also share with you my unexpected lesson.
When I was younger I didn’t look after my teeth as I should. My sisters and I were always allowed lots of sweets and I think I never really got out of the habit of eating sugary treats every day.
I dread going to the dentist for two reasons. One, the treatments terrify me. Two, I find it hard to handle my emotions when I’m there. I always feel so ashamed at my actions as I climb on the chair.
I’ve managed to change the rest of my eating habits but sweet food is the one thing I can’t seem to kick. From the outside I may look like I have my life in control. When I set my mind to something I can normally achieve whatever I want. But this issue seems to go deeper.
I finally gained some understanding this morning, which is why I’m writing this post.
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I used to go to the dentist every 6 months but today was the first time I’d been in 2 years. I’m not proud of it as my reasons for leaving it that long are just excuses. "I’ll go when work is less busy"..."I can’t deal with the stress right now as I have an exam due…".
So instead I buried my head in the sand and tried to forget about it.
But I couldn’t.
Almost every day I look at my teeth and I'm not happy. If I’m rational I know they’re not actually that bad. But the fact I have silver fillings means my dental work is visible.
My excuses finally ran out so I made an appointment for this morning. I felt stressed and sick in the waiting room and my failed attempt at joking with the receptionist made me feel even worse!
As soon as the dentist told me I needed a filling replaced I burst into tears. I knew I would cry as I had 2 years of pent up emotion and worry inside me. I felt embarrassed for getting upset but the dentist was lovely and spent the next 15 minutes talking to me about what we can do to change my situation.
I told her I haven’t given up eating sugary food because I felt like I’d already done too much damage so there was no point. She stopped me immediately and showed me my X-rays. Out of 32 teeth most of mine are strong and healthy. The ones I have had work on are still strong so I just need to look after them.
She convinced me that what has happened in the past does not have to dictate my future. If I cut out the sugary snacks there’s no reason why I’ll ever need to have work done again. I just hadn’t thought about it like that. I’ve been labelling myself as someone with bad teeth for so long that I almost don’t know how to shake that identity off and form a new one.
I’m telling you this story not to make you go to the dentist (but you definitely should!).
I’m telling you this story as I’m taking a lesson from today to apply to the rest of my life.
What has happened to you in your past does not define you. You may feel you’re too far down a path to change but you always have a choice and ability to go down a different route.
Your identity can be seen as the things you do and the things you believe in so if you want to change your identity you need to think and do things differently.
If I want part of my identity to be that of someone who looks after their teeth, I need to make changes. I need to cut the sugar, go to the dentist more often and believe in myself that I can change.
Some people identify themselves as bad students or say that they’re not “an exam person”. This mindset is damaging as you’re limiting yourself by factors that you have the power to change.
Carol Dweck, Professor of Psychology at Stanford University distinguishes between two types of mindset – fixed and growth.
“In a fixed mindset students believe their basic abilities, their intelligence, their talents, are just fixed traits. They have a certain amount and that’s that.”
“In a growth mindset students understand that their talents and abilities can be developed through effort, good teaching and persistence. They believe everyone can get smarter if they work at it.”
I believe successful students employ growth mindset. These students are willing to try new techniques, work really hard, learn from feedback and their mistakes and keep pushing themselves to get better and achieve more.
Developing a growth mindset can be difficult as it requires accepting responsibility for your abilities. But those who can think this way are better equipped to deal with failure and setbacks and more likely to challenge themselves.
I am not going to eat any sugary snacks today and tomorrow I'm going to spend time working on a plan to kick this habit for good as I'm fed up of identifying myself in such a negative way.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this blog post and would love to hear from anyone who is also working to change themselves for the better.
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