Don’t feel sorry for me – I don’t want to look like everyone else

Gemma wearing orange outfit

When I meet people, especially people older than me, even at a glance, they feel sorry for me. I can tell. I get the sympathetic look, bow of the head or worst still – a pat on the head. People think I’m sad, I’ve got a hard life and it must be so difficult being small and in a wheelchair. People say “I don’t know how you do it” or “I couldn’t go through what you do” when they have literally just met me. They think it’s a complement but actually, I think it’s basically saying, “thank god I don’t have your life – it must be awful.”

Here’s the thing that may blow your mind. I’m happy. I love my body, all 2”11’ of it. Yes, I have Osteogenesis Imperfecta which means I have broken a lot of bones (over 300 to be precise). It’s a genetic condition I was born with. It’s who I am, my identity, my genetics and who I’m proud to be. I’ve used a powered wheelchair since I was 2 years old. I have made friends throughout my life starting from school, then University and now work. I’ve developed as a person and found my personality and dry sense of humour. I love people, society and find reactions to my disability fascinating.

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Photo by: @phoebe_hounsome

Speaking of which, the world we live in is a weird one isn’t it? We’re so obsessed with how we look and how we’re seen both on and offline. In society we all want to look different, stand out and be noticed. We want people to look at our social media and get that ‘like’, to get more views or comments. People get that new hair cut that everyone’s getting or wear those high-waist trousers like the instagrammers do. But really we’re scrolling through the same old thing everyday. We’re all copying each other to ultimately stand out. Is it just me that thinks that doesn’t make sense?

I’ve got something that sets me apart from the crowd and I use it to my advantage. So, don’t feel sorry for me, I don’t want to look like everyone else. Being different is actually something I am grateful for. I’ve chosen to use it to my advantage. I’ve done this from a young age. I’ve never looked at other people and thought – I wish I could look like that. Instead I look at people and think “I wonder how I could make that look good on me”.

Fashion for me, is an extension of who I am. It makes me feel confident to go out and deal with the looks and stares I get from people who are curious about my disability and wheelchair. Going out can be an effort at times. I have to listen to people making comments in the street or strangers asking very personal questions that they really shouldn’t ask. (If you follow me on social media I’m currently sharing some of these!) Expressing myself through fashion helps me feel confident to be my best self and tackle these situations.

When I was younger, I would look at magazines (we didn’t have blogs then!) and I never saw anyone like me. Although I don’t want to be exactly like the people in the media, I do think representation is important. It gives you confidence that you’re part of a community. That’s why I started my blog in the first place.

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Photo by: @phoebe_hounsome

I wanted to combine my fashion tips that I do to make clothes suit my body and also be someone that another younger disabled person could maybe read about and see how clothes may fit on them too. I love to experiment with clothes – using long t-shirts as dresses, using my wheelchair belt as an accessory and how to jazz up my wheelchair. I think about how I can style my hair with limited reach and where to get my adult-looking children sized shoes. These are all things you just don’t see in the mainstream media. My blog has slowly morphed into just talking about what it’s like being a young disabled woman and I’m really loving the opportunity to do so. I not only share my own stories, but get to hear so many others too from readers who get in touch.

So to the people who feel sorry for me or think it must be hard being me, please don’t. I’m a 25-year-old disabled woman enjoying my life as who I am. If you’re someone who is seen to be ‘different’ – use it. You may find that, instead of it being a ‘flaw’ like society makes us think, it’s actually a blessing and a stepping-stone to your goals. Make people stop and notice you because really, everyone else is out there trying to do exactly the same thing.

Thank you to Phoebe Hounsome (@phoebe_hounsome) for taking the photos in this post.

6 thoughts on “Don’t feel sorry for me – I don’t want to look like everyone else

  1. glad I found your post (via twitter …). It seems to me it’s about more than just being different. You manage to be yourself. And confidently so. And that ain’t easy 🙂 Encouraging. Thank you.

  2. Love it Gem, you keep telling it how it is kiddo! Sara and Alice were reminscing the other night about when you were all in Sheffield Children’s hospital and you woke in the night as the glow sticks you and Ali had were leaking, they still laugh about it now!

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