Be. Yourself. (Sometimes?)

I have a theory I wanted to put to the test after a recent dentist appointment:

People who keep it all business, tend to get treated better.

By nature, I am relational. Almost to a fault. Even in customer service dealings and other non-friendship exchanges, I can’t help but be relational (unless I am really not feeling you).

When we were co-op shopping while I was pregnant with my Micah in 2010, Kevin had to warn me before meeting different brokers:

“Remember, Jihee-yah. For these visits, what did I tell you?”

“Don’t be myself. Don’t be relational. I especially do not want to bond with the seller. Got it.”

My husband is, by nature, the opposite. He is private and keeps dental visits limited to information exchanges about cavities and flossing.

[Sorry, I fell asleep right quick just thinking about fact-only exchanges.]

I don’t think I can do that, even on a dare.

But I started envying how folks respond to him and other Keep It All Business people. People tend to try harder with those who Keep It All Business.

My dentist seems to enjoy my personality when I drop by once in a while with my weak teeth. In fact, she and her staff actually seem eager for me to get my gab on because they have to be more formal with their other patients. Frankly, they seem like they exhale when they realize it’s “just” me walking through the door. They’ve even turned on politically incorrect stand-up comedy on TV when it’s just me in their office.

On the one hand, I am glad that they feel comfy with me because of our chats over the years I’ve been going to her but on the other, I have to double-check that I am receiving the same manner of care and respect doled out to other patients.

When it comes time to handle business, and I ask her to please go over different treatment plans, she doesn’t like to break it down for me. Last time, I felt rushed when she didn’t go over my different options as thoroughly as she should have for me to make my informed consent.

She practically jumped when she saw a Suit waiting in her waiting area as her next patient, while she was wrapping up with me. I was quickly led to her receptionist to make my payment. I requested more information but the dentist and receptionist were short with me. It didn’t sit well with me so I called her after the visit, just letting her know that I felt rushed and uninformed.

I have an acute fear of being a pushover or being disrespected.

So I dared myself to return for the next visit more like my husband, and less like myself, in order to get more respectful and formal treatment. She saw me in the waiting area and of course, didn’t jump to make a timely appointment like she did with Suit.

She called me in after gabbing with her receptionist about some mumbo jumbo and asked, “How are you?”

“Um, I’m good. Thanks.” (KEEP IT MOVING JIHEE. The seemingly innocuous “HOW ARE YOU’s” are sure to get you. And don’t even THINK about telling her how her first, middle, and last name on her plaque all look so beautiful in script!)

“And awww, how are the BABIES!? You couldn’t bring them with you?”


I failed my own dare within a record milli-second. The dare actually spurred me to be more relational than ever.

I kid you not, I even danced the (low) Limbo at one point (complete with caveman sound effects), to demonstrate an interaction with my Micah. So much for All Business. Sure, we were all laughing, but I proved once again, even on a dare, my true self will bust through. (I still made sure she explain dental details to me.)

I’ve been thinking a lot about those two loaded words: “Be Yourself.” Or “Do You.”

I seem to deal with “opposite” issues compared to those I know.

Sometimes, I feel alien because I cannot relate to what others struggle with within their God-given temperaments. People generally work on being more vulnerable, opening up more, whereas I have to dare myself to be more closed off and guarded.

My pastor talks about how we all have icebergs, deep deep icebergs of hidden emotions, beneath our seemingly serene still waters. He explained in his book, “Emotionally Healthy Spirituality,” that most people strive to keep these icebergs hidden and walk around wearing masks of serene still waters.

I used to joke that my iceberg always be hangin’ out, melting all over the place, while others only reveal their still waters.

And sure, it’s wise and discerning to only share your iceberg with your “safe” people but for some folks, even their closest loved ones don’t REALLY know their deepest fears and pain.

While most people I know would like to appear to be happy and “together,” why do I have this compulsion to confess my ugly bits? I NEVER want to appear like I have it all together. Why? What does that do for people? You rarely convince anyone of it anyhow.

It sounds like a humble-brag but truly, I just can’t relate and sometimes I feel disconnected and lonely as I find myself muttering, “REALLY?,” after yet another exchange where I can’t help but go beyond small talk and/or fact-exchange and the other person is tight-lipped or desperately trying to keep it light and “LOL.”

So what are y’all’s default settings? (If you’re private, message me – haha.) If your iceberg hangs out, too, then let it flow next to my puddle, by posting a comment or three.

5 thoughts on “Be. Yourself. (Sometimes?)

  1. This is an attempt to be private as I am using another more anonymous blog login…I have a ridiculous way of sharing too much…my husband is excessively private…its a serious issue of contention with us…I hate to feel limited in what I can share…I don’t like having to have self-control. I enjoy anonymous support groups where I can tell all, and he will never hear about it. Small groups at church always present a problem…bc as well meaning as folks are, how can I be sure stuff won’t accidentally get back to him… I hate being taken advantage over as well, and have had a similar experience with a PREViOUS dentist…emphasis on the previous….she got me to buy a $400 dollar night guard that doesn’t fit properly after two remakes and 6 in office adjustments when she could have sent me to Modells to buy a sports guard for $10.

  2. Thanks for your comment “Christian.” I want to stick to my dentist as the good outweighs any bad, especially after I left her to go more locally around my place and encountered the WORST dentist ever (have yet to write to the Chamber of Commerce about him) and also because many places don’t take our insurance. She and her staff were so great with my toddler on his first visit. BTW, I bought a Modell’s sports guard YEARS ago when she told me that I would have to get fitted for a nightguard. They will NOT do the same job as sports guards are bulky and uncomfy whereas a nightguard SHOULD fit perfectly on top of your teeth and gums. Sounds like you made the right decision to leave your dentist (my dentist did awesome with my nightguard).

  3. The WORST dentist ever gave me a couple shots to numb my teeth for a routine cleaning, then only used a rubber-thimble-like thing to just clean my teeth as if I were a toddler. When he said he was done, I told him that he has to use DENTAL INSTRUMENTS. I think he was trying to cheap out on me because my insurance wasn’t going to get him paid. I asked him if I can eat immediately afterwards, since I had never been shot up for a CLEANING, and he said, “Why, are you tryna go for dim sum after?” I didn’t write a letter reporting his awful practice (that seemed like it was being run in a back alley in Tijuana) only because my baby was a newborn and I had sleep deprivation to deal with.

  4. “Sometimes, I feel alien because I cannot relate to what others struggle with within their God-given temperaments. People generally work on being more vulnerable, opening up more, whereas I have to dare myself to be more closed off and guarded.”

    I’m the same way, and I get burned for it sometimes. Work in progress. Glad to find another Korean mama out on the interwebs! 🙂

    • thanks jisun! always bahngahwuh to find another ko-am mama doing our thang. out the door to rush to the gym and rush back to nurse the youngest so hope to holla anotha time. will be checking your blog out tonight after bedtimes!

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