Growing up, I never really felt insecure or embarrassed by the fact that I was in a wheelchair. Having a wheelchair was a norm for me, I didn’t see it as something that made me a complete outsider. I only saw it as something that gave me freedom and independence. I still see it like that to this day.
Growing up, my insecurities and embarrassments came more from how my body looked. The bone disease I was born with left me to mature with uneven shoulders, a differently shaped chest, and a very short stature for my age.
When I was younger, of course, I didn’t really notice how different my body was. I was too focused on playing outside with my friends. I was too concerned about what Disney movie I was going to watch before bed. I was comfortable in my body.
It wasn’t until middle school where I started to realize how different my body was from everyone else’s. I think disability or no disability, a lot of people have that realization around that pre-teen age. It’s the age where adults tell you that you’re going to go through “changes.” It’s the age where the health teacher comes into your class to pop in an awkward video about puberty. Basically, it’s an age very few want to go back to.
It was this point in my life where I wanted so badly for my body to look like the other girls’. I would try my hardest to dress like how a majority of them dressed only to face the reality that the clothes didn’t fit my body like I expected them too. I had to face the reality that soon the clothes I wanted to wear would very rarely be found in a size that could fit me. Safe to say, these were pretty frustrating realizations.
My breaking point, though, was when I finally went to go purchase my first bra. Now, if any of you have read a Judy Blume book, you’d know that buying your first bra is a pretty big deal. It’s up there with getting your period and liking a boy (which, though I loved Judy’s books, aren’t the greatest experiences honestly). Anyway, I remember I picked out two that looked so “cool” and “mature”. In all reality, they were pretty average-looking bras, but pre-teen me was stoked about them.
When I got home I wasted no time trying one on and throwing a shirt over it to see what it would look like. I remember how uncomfortable it felt because it didn’t fit my chest perfectly. I remember seeing how lumpy it looked under the shirt. I remember feeling absolutely and positively drained.
I just couldn’t understand why my body had to look the way it did. It wasn’t until I was absolutely sick of feeling this way that I tried to turn my thinking around. I started feeling a bit better about my body in high-school once I realized that this is my body. It’s the only body I’m going to get and I need to take care of it. I didn’t need my body to look the way society promotes bodies to look. I needed to look like me.
The older I get the more representation I see of women with disabilities. There’s models, beauty vloggers, actresses, business women, etc. Though I see that representation, I definitely believe there needs to be more of that representation in the media. Tons more.
I often wonder if I would’ve struggled as much as I did if I saw more representation as a kid. I like to think I would've struggled less, just like how I like to think about today's representation possibly helping out someone who has faced the same struggles that I have.
Now, though I feel better about my body, this doesn’t mean that my insecurities are completely gone. I still have those days where I just don’t feel comfortable. Where I feel like there are so many bits and pieces I wish I could change. But, those days make the days where I love my body feel ten times brighter.
To anyone who can relate to what I have shared, I know it’s frustrating. But, please know that working towards loving your body is completely worth it. It’s hard work, I won’t lie to you about that. Like I said, I still have days where I don’t like what I see in the mirror. At the end of the day, though, that is your body. It’s unique and beautiful because it’s yours. Please take care of it and please take care of yourself. If I learned anything from my experiences, self-love is one of the best kinds of love.