12/01/2014 12:34 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

How My Broken Face and Crooked Smile Freed Me from Insecurities


Flying off my bike at 20 mph and crash-landing face first in the middle of the highway wasn't part of the plan that morning. Certainly, fracturing my jaw in two places and shattering my chin wasn't either. And most definitely, losing my signature "buck teeth" and chipping almost every other tooth in my mouth wasn't on my to-do list that day.

It's been almost four years since that traumatic, life-altering moment and occasionally, I still find myself struggling to adapt to a misaligned jaw, fake teeth, quivering eye, and crooked smile. And that's not all. The facial asymmetry resulting from brain surgery in 2006 was further accentuated by this ill-fated fall. In fact, all the progress I'd made from countless sessions of facial-cranial therapy and electric stimulation has since vanished. I'm back to square one.

Why does any of this matter? Everyone's got something, right? After all, my tagline is: We're all a bit crooked.

For me, the problem lay elsewhere. Since my accident, I'd been disingenuous and actively trying to LIE about my battle scars. Hide them, no less. Through the toning down of facial expressions, covering my mouth while chewing, and strategically suppressing my smile, I sought to deflect attention away from my imperfections.

However, such efforts had devastating consequences, and slowly eroded the inner me. I grew slightly inhibited, felt spiritually-stifled, and shrunk my big personality into something more restrained, into a repressed version of the person I once was. I stopped being the dynamo I'd always been -- the one who was authentic and passionate about life. And authenticity is impossible to achieve while seeking to conceal traces of my very own life experiences.

So what's a girl to do to get over her insecurities and fears and get on with life once and for all? Face them head on. Immersion therapy, baby, immersion. Nothing less. I knew I had to stare them down till they lost power.

The other day I taped an interview in front of a live audience. Weeks earlier I'd requested to be positioned with my right-side profile facing the camera, the good side -- the side of the face that moves as it should. All were set to accommodate me, but just prior to approaching the table where three other people were already seated, I was struck with an insight: No more bullshit. No more modifications. No more cloaking my facial flaws behind a mask of stoicism. Time for a seismic shift.

"I'm gonna sit to the left of you ladies," I declared triumphantly. "I've got to walk the talk of embracing life, and all the messiness that entails. After all, isn't that what I'm talking about on this segment?"

Then I stepped out of my comfort zone and did it! I laughed out loud as my left eye twitched uncontrollably. I smiled big and crooked, and had a blast disconnecting from the worry about whether my face was in compliance or not.

I finally freed myself from this self-imposed bondage, and now my true personality, the real me -- my essence -- once again, could shine through. No more filtering.

It's quite liberating, empowering, and I am so very grateful. Now that I'm not preoccupied with my broken face and crooked smile, everything makes sense. Especially when I work with clients and students about "all things coping."

How about you? Are you ready to free yourself from your self-imposed bondage in time for the holidays and New Year?