Let’s Get Real!

In some cases people with disabilities can be thought of as “inferior” to their able-bodied peers. Have you ever thought of people with disabilities as being sickly, feeble and fragile? Be honest. After all, this is a blog titled, “Let’s Get Real.” Another inaccurate perception is that someone with a disability is a “drain” on society or its resources. I touched on this false notion in a previous blog titled “Don’t Stereotype Me.”

In this blog, I want to be as authentic as possible to discuss the unique challenges people with disabilities face with regards to self-esteem and body image. I can only speak from a female’s perspective, but from my experience, a woman with a disability may not fit the narrow definition of the ideal female body or what is considered beautiful in our culture. Tall. Slender. Silky hair. Sparkling white teeth. These flawed ideals are not restricted to people with disabilities. I personally have internalize the negative body image that stems from this. I have experienced insecurities and emotional issues that are the product of outdated ideals. Yet, not enough people are discussing this issue.

In an effort to better understand my own insecurities, I reached out to my network of women with disabilities. I asked a couple of questions to get the conversation started.

  1. What has been your personal experience as a woman with a disability and self-image?
  2. How do you feel the media portrays people with disabilities?
  3. How do you relate to others as a sexual, attractive, desirable woman?

I was thrilled when other woman were bold and shared their thoughts. Here are a few of my favorite.

"If you truly believe you are a woman of value, you gain tremendous strength to forge your way through the most stubborn of barriers. I learned early on that everything that matters is in your head," shared by a SCI survivor with great confidence and a positive self-image.

“Our culture actively promotes low self-esteem for women by sending messages we are not enough without Product X, Y, Z. In order for a woman (disabled or not) to have a healthy sense of self-esteem, she must dispute and challenge these messages. In effect acting and thinking opposite of our culture.” This quote receives an exuberant, “AMEN, sister!” from me!

A healthy body image is important. I think it’s a topic of struggle for everyone. The bottom line is that we should understand that uniqueness is a quality we should embrace (individually and as a society). Here are a few tips that have helped me along the way:

  • Love and Be Loved. We all have the capacity to love others and to receive love.
  • Keep in mind that if we all looked alike, dressed alike, thought alike, this world would be very boring. Embrace your uniqueness as a wonderful contribution to the vast tapestry of humanity.
  • Actively seek positive friends. Find people that enjoy you just as you are.

Leslie

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