Growing up as a child I never saw myself as different from others, even though I was, until those differences were pointed out. They were cruelly pointed out as well, shouts of ‘you look anorexic’ from across the halls, or whilst I was waiting in line for lunch. The thing is though, I didn’t have an eating disorder, I had a disorder but not anorexia. I have a rare genetic disorder called Marfan Syndrome, a condition that happens to cause me to be quite slim and also tall, which happens to highlight my slimness even further. The other kids saw our differences before I did so their comments caught me off guard and that’s when my body confidence issues started.
I think something like disability, invisible illnesses, and mental illness etc can definitely affect your body confidence majorly. For me it was the comments about my weight and size that started off my negative body image but things went downhill further when I was diagnosed with Scoliosis, the curvature of the spine. One day I just noticed that my ribs and waist looked a little different and soon after I was diagnosed with the condition, it didn’t take long at all for me to spend ages fretting over whether people could see my wonky hips and shoulders through the clothes I wore though. I began to wear baggy clothes, in fact until I had corrective surgery I don’t think I ever wore anything too tight fitting. I remember looking in the mirror for the first time after my operation, metal rods and screws were used to straighten my spine, I just stood in front of the mirror and cried. These were happy tears though as I had never seen my body like that, it looked ‘normal’ and at that age ‘normal’ was the only thing I wanted. My body confidence soared and I wore tighter clothes and embraced fashion more, I wore whatever I wanted without a care in the world.
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Things changed again though, I went back about 10 steps when a wheelchair was thrown into my life. My health declined again and my body confidence was short lived, using a wheelchair made me go back to my old ways. I didn’t see the point in caring about what I wore because who would be looking at me? The girl in the wheelchair that people never see. It took me ages just to take a selfie in which my wheelchair was visible because I had so much internalised ableism that was causing my body confidence problems. I felt that the wheelchair made me look ugly and so what was the point of dressing up.
The online disabled community and the body positivity movement helped me so much though. I saw photos everyday of people embracing their wheelchairs, wearing whatever they wanted and rocking it at the same time. It made me realise that there was no difference between an able bodied person and myself, why should wheels make a difference in how I see myself? Slowly but surely things improved and I learnt to love my body again. I learnt how to dress best for sitting down and my love for fashion grew again and in turn my body confidence grew more.
I felt as though I would never love my body again when I started using a wheelchair but I was so wrong, things can and do get better over time. Learn to love your wheels, mobility aid, tubes or any other medical necessities. Jazz them up, customise them, or whatever you need to do to make them a part of you because it truly does help. And remember this if anyone tries to knock your confidence, what Susie says of Sally says more of Susie than of Sally.