In honour of Valentine’s Day, lifestyle blogger Sarah Alexander writes about how she learnt to embrace her disabilities and in turn, learnt to accept and love herself.
The body positivity movement has opened doors for those bodies that are often forgotten by the media (black, fat, queer, trans, disabled etc.), those not deemed socially acceptable, palatable, beautiful. It gave a platform to those of us that weren’t thin, white and non-disabled. Yet lately the term ‘body positive’ has lost its initial meaning and become saturated with the bodies we have always seen (thin, white, non-disabled) glorified.
This makes it much more difficult to stand out and raise awareness on social media. Especially when platforms like Instagram are curating feeds to silence voices that are often othered.
For as long as I can remember, I had always had a hate/hate relationship with my body, not only does it not work the way I want it to, but I’ve been plus size since my late teens. I prescribed to all the fad diets, exercised myself into month long flare-ups and treated my body like it was the enemy. All because I didn’t look like those girls in magazines or online. Where was the fat, disabled kid that looked like me?
I never saw a person that I related to on television or in the media and that made me question whether I was worthy. Growing up and having no role model that you can physically identify with is tough, and that’s why I decided to become that person.
It took me thirty years to finally be able to say that I love myself and my body. It might cause me pain, fatigue and much more on a daily basis, I may not be able to do what other influencers can do, but if I can show one person that it’s okay to love their disabled body then I am happy.
“ I love the person I am, the body I have, and my disability.”
Falling in love with myself was definitely a process and it’s certainly not a linear one. Some days I self-sabotage and fall back into my old ways of thinking that I am not good enough, but I quickly check myself and reflect on all the things that make me who I am. I love the person I am, the body I have, and my disability. Difference isn’t always a negative. Difference creates change.
I look back at what I would have thought seeing myself and other disabled people living their true, authentic lives online as a kid and how that would have positively impacted me, how that could have inspired me to love myself at an earlier age and not wait thirty years. Representation is important and it’ll change how future generations see themselves and those of us with disabilities.
“Lego have a wheelchair user which my nephew, a non-disabled child has and loves to play with as he thinks of me. There are also a wide range of other brands that have created toys with disabilities in mind. Not only is this great representation for disabled children but it teaches non-disabled children that disability is not something to shy away from.”
Disabled children can now see themselves in toys, cartoons etc. and it not be taboo. Barbie created a doll that uses a wheelchair and house with an elevator, which is absolutely incredible (I have the doll). Lego have a wheelchair user which my nephew, a non-disabled child has and loves to play with as he thinks of me. There are also a wide range of other brands that have created toys with disabilities in mind. Not only is this great representation for disabled children but it teaches non-disabled children that disability is not something to shy away from. Furthermore, it proves that disabled people are part of everyday society, that we are not othered. It will help young disabled children feel like they matter and hopefully give them a healthier relationship with their bodies as they are included.
Recently I have become apathetic to the body positive movement as I feel like it has lost its original meaning; it was for marginalised bodies to rejoice in difference but those of us that are different are being overlooked by those that have always had a place, always been celebrated. I am, however, very passionate about showing and sharing difference, especially when it comes to disability. You’ll find me sharing various disabled advocates voices and images across my platforms, no matter what disability, visible or invisible they have. I hope by doing this it inspires someone to understand that they are worthy of love, are beautiful and important.
“I began following likeminded people, engaged in their content and began writing more meaningful captions alongside my Instagram photos. I also started sharing pictures of me using my various mobility aids, which I had previously shied away from.”
No matter how you want to live your life, whether you share everything online or nothing, the journey to self-love is a vital one and I encourage you to embark on that journey. I began following likeminded people, engaged in their content and began writing more meaningful captions alongside my Instagram photos. I also started sharing pictures of me using my various mobility aids, which I had previously shied away from. This all helped with falling in love with me. It showed me that I wasn’t alone and that there are people that look and feel the same way as I do. So, maybe body positivity isn’t for you but give yourself a break and rejoice in all the things your disabled body can do. Nobody is perfect, no matter how they might portray themselves online.
Read more from Sarah at www.fromsarahlex.com