Me, My Identity and My Disability
@APFFDJourney Hi everyone! Hope your week has gone well. After my latest blog post talking specifically about the word disabled, I thought that I’d explore the topic a little more and speak more about my identity as a disabled person.
I was able to converse with lots of people about the word disabled and received mixed reactions about the word; therefore I assume that I will receive lots of mixed reactions talking about disability and identity, too.
As always, I’d like to let you know that these opinions are 100% my own and I am in no way speaking for other disabled people, just myself.
I’ll start by briefly recapping what I spoke about in my latest post. I used to absolutely hate the word disabled as I felt that it was a derogatory term! As a child, I felt totally able and didn’t want to class myself as anything but.
However with age I grew up to realise that I didn’t actually think being disabled was a bad thing.
Disabled wasn’t really a bad term… if I fit the criteria for a disabled person, why was I so ashamed?
I believe I was ashamed because of my poor self-esteem and this meant that I automatically assumed being disabled was a negative.
It took me years to accept my disability as part of my identity! I would hate any attention being drawn to my disability (people asking me about it, even going to hospital appointments for it) and now I couldn’t be any more opposite if I tried.
I believe that identity is a complicated thing whether you are disabled or not, I mean our identity changes constantly, doesn’t it? I never imagined growing up that I would one day be vegetarian for example, and now I believe it’s the best change I’ve ever made!
It’s just the same with lots of other things, we always assume we are going to stay one way forever but life gets in the way and shows us it’s OK to change.
We grow up and parts of our identity adapt to what’s around us… what music we like, what hobbies we have, etc.
But what about something you are BORN with? Now that’s a little more complicated.
I was born with my disability just like many others around the world, so we have to deal with this part of ourselves forever… that’s quite scary isn’t it? Imagine knowing you cannot change this thing about yourself even when you don’t like it, even when you know you are different and it’s just stuck there forever…
That’s what my life was like before I accepted my disability.
It emotionally pained me for every second of everyday that I couldn’t change and get rid of my disability, I just wanted to be ‘normal’ and enjoy what I saw in the mirror.
I felt cursed, unlucky, deformed and wrong… but most of all, I felt stuck.
This was my identity that I was stuck with.
As I said it has taken years, but the hard work on raising my self-esteem and being open about my disability has paid off more than I could have ever imagined! I’m happy with myself and I fully accept being disabled as part of my identity happily. When people meet me for the first time they sometimes notice my limp or my missing fingers and you know what? I wouldn’t have it any other way anymore… it makes things more interesting and is a SURE way of starting a conversation!
People rarely ever have a mean streak inside them about disabled people, of course sometimes they do which is awful but most of the time I’d say 99% of people are just curious… they find it interesting and want to learn about it!
Now when I see someone staring at my leg or my hands I don’t instantly hate them and think they’re mean… I think oh, they’ve never seen someone with 8 fingers and one leg before, they just wanna know more about it.
Curiosity is a natural human emotion that we all feel, when we see something we don’t understand we want to learn about it 🙂
I didn’t ever think there would be a day when I could say this, but just like I have brown hair and blue eyes, I also have 8 fingers and one leg.
It’s an identity that I’m happy with, and even proud to have.
The worst part of the hatred towards my own identity is that these monsters were created by nobody but me.. I made the decision to hate my disability and identity…nobody else!
My family loves me ever so much!
My friends love me, my boyfriend loves me… nobody apart from myself has ever wanted me to change, they love me for who I am so I have to say, making the decision to love myself for who I am just like they do completely changed my life for the better!
Now I finally feel free to live my life after 19 years of self hatred because of my identity, I’m happy to be the Amy everybody knows and loves and since I learned to love myself, my life has blossomed and is beautifully full of colour.
If you are or ever have struggled with this, I think a really simple way to look at the situation is to take a step back and think to yourself, Is what I’m thinking real?
Let’s say you make a mistake or bad decision, it’s pretty likely the people that love you will be honest with you and agree.
Now let’s say you think you are worthless because of disability, the people who love you are still honest with you and will OF COURSE tell you the truth which is that you are wrong!
What I’m trying to say is almost always our family and friends are honest with us and we believe them until we want to punish ourselves!
We have to trust them, to know that its way too easy to self criticize and self hate even though nobody apart from ourselves feels that way.
We have to love ourselves and as hard as it is, the first step is accepting love and truth from everyone around you because you’re amazing.
It’s a long journey to self-love but coming from someone that has traveled that road, you will NEVER regret it.