Oh My O.I. Self-Image

It hasn't always been healthy and though I am now an adult, I am far from being comfortable with my self-image. In elementary school the problem wasn't that I looked differently from my peers, it was that I wasn't as physically capable. I couldn't run and play soccer with 90% of the rest of my class during recess. Field day involved a lot of adaptive competitions and it took me a long time to be okay with asking one of my fellow first grade friends for help reaching something. In middle school I had to get used to my friends towering over me and talking with my head tilted up. Going to the mall with my friends or to the movies was never a simple 10 min car ride where my parents could drop me off and pick me up later - the wheelchair had to be loaded, me carried in, and places had to be researched for accessibility. During high school it was frustrating to never be able to fit into the designer clothes that everyone else wore, or being unable to participate in drivers-ed with the rest of my friends. In college I encountered the awkwardness of trying to dance at clubs, what my alcoholic intake is like, and being confident about developing into an independent adult.

Surround yourself with awesome people always helps!
Self-image, for anyone, is an evolving concept. It grows and expands with every year and day that we are living and learning. It is added on by the people we surround ourselves with, or even the people who we choose not to associate ourselves with. But having a disability that may get worse or better over time also molds the self-image as well. There are still days when I avoid looking at mirrors or prefer going shopping on-line instead of going to the mall. Or some days I will don my sunglasses and cruise through town with a face that says: I don't give a damn about what you think. Some times I will flirt without shame and other times when I would rather be a shadow in the back corner at a party, it depends on my mood and how 'good' I feel about myself that day. The frustrating thing is that sometimes my self-image doesn't always reflect the severity or status of my physical disability. I might not have a fracture or have a cast on but I may still feel totally embarrassed about the way I look. Other days when I do have a cast on my self-image may appear to be more bolstered than it usually is. This can be frustrating because others may be thrown off by this and as I have come to find - internalizing the perceptions others have of us has a tremendous impact on self-image. I think the trick is to maintain an unrelenting grasp on Who Am I and then nothing else can splinter or fracture that idea.

Needless to say I have a ways to go before I am able to say that my self-image is consistently dependable. Sometimes I wonder if it ever will be but I have learned a few things that have helped this figuring out process be a lot easier.

Keeping up with evolving self-images:
  • Have friends and family who are supportive of who you are and understand what having O.I. entails
  • Know that your self-image will change. Understanding that it WILL change will help brace yourself for the inevitable uncertainty of what it will be in the future
  • I learned only recently that talking with others who have OI and are around the same age as you is incredibly helpful
  • Your self-image is made up of what you put into it! Fill your life with things that you love to do, people that you enjoy being around, and a positive attitude. It's a bit weird that an image, in this case, is not composed of the surface but what's inside of it. 
  • Your body is a reflection of what you have gone through and it's not something you should ever be embarrassed or feel guilty about. This, I admit, is something that I still struggle with. 
  • It is okay to feel down about things at times. If it's not okay, well, somebody better tell me! It's normal to have a negative response about your self-image. This means that it's something that either you would like to change, or it may be something that you will come to embrace over time. 
  • Self-image is not a homogeneous concept. There may be parts of your self-image that you are proud of and other parts that you consider to be 'works in progress' - but trying to make everything balanced and equal might not be worth the effort. 

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