A couple of days ago, I received a message on my personal Instagram. A beautiful young lady who is an arm amputee, was wondering how she can overcome a fear of showing her arm, which is not fully developed from birth. Wow! This reminds me of the old me! It is something I’ve dealt with for a very long time, and on occasion I still do. Why is it so hard to show others our “disabilities?” Why is it so hard to be yourself? Her response was that she didn’t want to be stared at! Oh girlfriend, I hear you! It broke my heart that a beautiful young lady was uncomfortable with herself because of others.
So why does the curiosity of others make us so uncomfortable? Here’s a recent story of mine. The other day, I was at Costco minding my own business, and I hear “You are my hero!” I rolled my eyes, sighed, and turned my head to see a young man addressing me. Yes, it’s a compliment, but I immediately felt uncomfortable. Is it really a compliment or a way for someone to compare their life to mine? I wasn’t at my nicest that day, and asked if it’s because of my legs, and he said yes. He said that if he was in my position … blah, blah blah! I replied that if he was in my position, he’d be just fine!
Friends, we live in a society where we are trying to accept every race, color, religion and so on. ..and we are getting a lot better at it! J But we have a long ways to go! Which is why we have a hard time accepting disability as a “normal” thing! Why can’t we stop making each other uncomfortable? Why can’t we be ourselves? Do we need to have a “reveal of disability” parties – a big moment of calling all the attention at once on to our disabilities, so that you can see us as “normal” from that point forward?
The point of this blog is that we need to see “disability” as just another sub group of humanity, along the same lines as someone who is LGBTQ, a minority race or religion, or any other of a number of things that make us different. We are all amazing humans, regardless.
We live in a time where we are more accepting then we have ever been, but at the same time we are not. Now instead of negative attention directed to my disability, I am getting misdirected positivity. Fifty years ago I probably wouldn’t have gotten that comment at Costco. I might have instead gotten something a little more negative. But, back in 2019, in Costco man’s mind, he thought he was giving me a great compliment – a compliment I wouldn’t have received fifty years ago. But in reality, it’s an uncomfortable moment because he’s highlighting my “disability” instead of who I really am. Usually, a disability is something visual, so I understand that it’s hard not to focus on it. But, if we work on educating and normalizing the disability, perhaps we’d feel more comfortable with each other.
My best advice is not to ignore disabilities, and not to draw attention to them either. It is just like any other characteristic. I may have pink hair. I may wear a hijab. I might have piercings or tattoos on my face! Or I might be missing a leg or two. Treat people with differences like you would anyone else!
Going back to my new friend from Instagram. I’ve been chatting back and forth with her hoping to encourage her to feel comfortable in her own beautiful skin! It may take her a while to “open up”, but I can’t wait for her to be herself!
“To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.”
― Ralph Waldo Emerson