A Teen's Perspective: We're Pretty Badass

The second post in this series comes from SD who shares her thoughts on how she finds her self confidence. SD is a 16 year old who plays the ukulele, will be the President of the student body at her high school next year, and her favorite lyric comes from Stornoway "on my way out for the very last time / on my doorstep straight into the sunshine / walking west and following the coastline looking for a sea change." 

I like to pretend my disability does not have an effect. I like to pretend that a handicap is like a hair color- an insignificant physical aspect, a small portion of who I am. And in a lot of ways, that’s true. In almost every way, my condition does not matter. It should not matter. I tell people it has no actual significance, that it should not determine anything in my life. This attitude has helped me become the social, successful student I am today. It’s shown people that I do not let the obvious get in my way. Because really, things like hair color and handicap do not matter in the big picture. What matters is who you are on the inside.
Unfortunately, I’ve found having a disability sours our sense of worth and stains our confidence. At least for me. Because in the back of my mind, there is this ugly little voice that says “You’re different.” It’s hard to forget when you’re unable to dance at school dances, run at the park with your friends, and ride easily in your boyfriend’s car. So I dance in my chair. I make my friends give me piggy back rides. I ask my boyfriend take my chair apart so it fits into his Prelude.  But even as you counteract all the obstacles OI throws in your face, it still is serving as a reminder of why you must overcome these issues in the first place.
I’ve done some thinking and have determined that it is time for OI teenagers to take control and create confidence for themselves! Here are five examples of what we can do to feel beautiful with our disability and confident in ourselves.

1. Don't wait for a Hello!
Sometimes our disability seems to act like an invisibility cloak, like people don’t want to talk to us. I’ve also noticed that at parties or in groups, people will converse over our heads, not bothering to tilt their heads and lok us in the eye. That’s okay. We do not have control of how people treat us. However, we do have control of our own actions. Be assertive! Say hello first! Don’t wait for people to include you. Include yourself while helping them realize that you are worth being included. 

2. Look amazing! (Hint: you already do)
It may seem a little hypocritical to say that the outside doesn’t matter and then encourage you to look your best. But your appearance matters in how it makes you feel. If you feel beautiful, then there is a higher chance you will act in beauty and compassion towards others. Enhance your already amazing features, dress in styles that flatter and compliment your body, and express yourself through your own unique style. Whatever you do to help you in your confidence, do it only for yourself. Do not try to please anyone else with your appearance.

3. Do what you love.
A great way to boost self esteem is to become involved in activities you love. Be involved with clubs and groups, with people who share your enthusiasm. If you are active in what you love, you will truer to yourself and meet amazing people who support you. Take no notice of what people say you “should” be involved in, or what social code dictates you be confined to. Stay true to what you love.

4. Forget the others.

People love to have opinions. All people. I, for one, have about a million opinions on things. It’s just what we do. We judge and we objectify and we determine and we interpret what the world means to our minds.  You see, people forming opinions is commonplace and should not affect you. Whatever they think about you is inconsequential to how you feel about yourself. Forget those who put you down. Surround yourself with positive people who have confidence and help you to feel stronger in yourself.

5. Laugh!

This may sound simple and that's because it is. If you laugh and smile you're bound to feel better, no matter how badly your day is going. Laugh at simple things and smile at the beauty of the world.

I just watched Seeking a Friend for the End of the World. (If you haven’t seen it yet, you should. Two words: Steve. Carrell).  It reinforced the idea that I had been mulling over for a while now- that time is fleeting and it’s a waste to worry. It’s a waste to hate yourself. It’s wasteful to be critical, to put yourself down. Life is so beautiful you guys! I don’t know about you, but I am so psyched to be here at all. Yes, I am disabled. But if I let it deter me from being the person I want to be, then I’ve let OI win. We’re pretty badass, if you ask me. You shouldn’t let that get to your head though, because everyone has difficulties. That’s the thing- we aren’t the only ones that are hurting; everyone does. And everyone struggles with learning to love themselves.  Once the world’s teenagers realize that our individual selves are bigger than our problems, confidence will surely follow. 

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