“You don’t mind showing your flesh, do you?” | Disability and ‘Body Confidence’
Today is ‘International Day of Persons with Disabilities’ and I always like to do a bit of a deeper, personal post on this day. Last year I wrote about the weird questions people ask me as a disabled person. If you didn’t catch it, you can read it here. This year I asked on twitter what readers would like me to talk about and the topic that was picked most was ‘body confidence’.
So, body confidence. What does it mean to me? Well the weird thing is that I feel like I’ve always been pretty confident in my skin. The only time I’ve ever felt not confident is because of people around me. I remember the first time as a teenager I questioned my body is when an older distant friend said ‘you don’t mind showing your flesh do you’
First of all ‘flesh’, eurgh what a weird term. And what a weird thing to say to a teenager. What do you say to that? I said ‘no I don’t’ and felt really puzzled all day.
Why would she said that? I like my skin, I like to dress up and feel good. Now as I’m older I know that she was suggesting she could not wear the same thing as me as she may have not felt as comfortable. But it did feel like at the time she was suggesting if she had my body, she would want to cover it up. Which really, is a dangerous thing to say to a teenager who is just starting to develop their thoughts on themselves and the world.
Back to present (ish) day, picture the scene, I spend time and effort making myself look #100% and feel buzzing. My hair is bouncy, I’ve got my hoops in and legs out. I go to an event and Someone says “you’re still confident and dress nice even though you’re disabled don’t you!” Boom – back to reality. It’s comments like this that affect me the most but as they say you have to ‘get back on the horse’ and keep doing you.
People expect disabled people who have significantly different bodies or features to be really insecure or down about their body. Obviously I can’t speak for every disabled person, but for me I love being small and bendy. It means that I’ve got my own body that I don’t need to compare with others. Time spent looking at my body and comparing it to women’s in the magazines is time wasted. I’d rather spend that time getting outfits that make me feel good and stand even more out of the crowd. If I’m going to be stared at, I want to give people something I’ve put effort into.
Obviously it’s not all rainbows and sparkles and I’m not pretending I’m totally unaffected by pressure in society. People’s reactions do play a part in my body confidence, laughs and sniggers in the street will always be something that get me down for a moment. But I always have to tell myself, it’s their ignorance that they can’t deal with – not my body. If I could change anything, if I had a choice from head to toe what do you think it would be?
It wouldn’t be my height, my limb length or my bendy bones. It would be to have a visible smile with pearly white teeth. It’s just always been something that I’ve never had. But I think everyone has that something that they would alter don’t they?
So what’s the point of this post? Well first of all it’s to say to non-disabled people, don’t pity disabled people and expect us to be longing for the ‘perfect body’. It’s not always the case. And to fellow younger disabled readers, having a different body is actually great. See yourself as a unique canvas, and paint it how you bloody well like!