models versus role models

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It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that our shallow and perfection-obsessed culture is poisonous for girls and young women. Our society constantly smacks us in the face with ads, images, and stories about how we need to look as beautiful as possible in order to succeed and be happy. And even Hollywood is starting to take notice of how unhelpful this is. More and more celebrities are opening up about their eating disordered pasts and unhealthy relationship with their bodies. Stars like Lady Gaga and Demi Lovato and Katie Couric have come clean about how their poor body image led to dangerous health problems. And the ironic thing is that these women are all thin and conventionally pretty. So if these beautiful people can barely manage to accept their figures, how is someone who is missing a limb supposed to love her body? And what does it say about us as a culture that many of the bodies we envy and wish we had are the results of eating disorders and low self esteem?

15-tips-for-raising-kids-with-a-positive-body-imageAs a young woman born without a left hand, I quickly learned that the way I looked did not exactly conform to the ideal. I was a chubby kid with extremely frizzy hair and glasses a few sizes too big for my face. Looking back, there was nothing inherently wrong with my appearance but, back then, it certainly felt that way. When I was 12, I went on a crash diet and soon became addicted to the feeling of pride that came with moving the bar to a lower weight on the scale. Exercise became my obsession and food became my nightmare. I lost way more weight than was healthy and was diagnosed with an eating disorder promptly upon my first doctor’s checkup of the year. And to be perfectly honest, I still struggle with food and weight and my eating habits on a daily basis….even 9 years later. And trust me, there’s nothing I wouldn’t give if I could stop at least one person from going through the same grief I did.

I don’t want to be a Debbie downer, but I do know that a lot of the readers of this blog are young women with limb differences and parents of little girls with limb differences. And I feel like this is a very important topic to address, especially earlier in life. Self image is important and it doesn’t just have to do with weight. I also struggled for years with the thought that I was ugly and that boys wouldn’t like me for the way I looked. But these are obviously not healthy and not productive thoughts.

39778401487Now as a 21-year-old woman, I’m the most confident I’ve ever been. I’ve learned (albeit the hard way) that self-hatred is not attractive and that guys don’t go for perfection anyway. A guy who really loves you will love you for everything you are and not for the fact that you’re not as skinny as Angelina Jolie. But before that (which I also learned the hard way), you have to love and be comfortable with yourself. That’s harder said than done, of course. But I won’t leave you completely alone on this. Here are 4 things that have helped me feel better about the way I look:

– Tell yourself that you are beautiful. (Or if you’re a parent, tell your daughter that she’s beautiful.) It sounds really corny, but this is essential. You know when they say “fake it ’til you make it”? Go by that rule and say it to yourself until you fully believe it.

– Pamper yourself. There’s nothing like a manicure or a bubble bath to make me feel like I’m worth it. Relaxation is so necessary and so healthy.

– Surround yourself with positive people. If you’ve ever seen Mean Girls (or walked into any high school), you know that body-shaming is often a group activity. Ban your friends from talking about their physical flaws in your presence and make a pact to focus on what’s good in your lives.

paraplegicELLE– Surround yourself with positive images. While it’s impossible to avoid the ubiquitous ads featuring women with seemingly perfect figures and features, remind yourself that beauty is diverse and is not limited to one body type. Check out Elle Magazine’s spread about Paralympic swimming champion Jessica Long, who looks as gorgeous as any standard model in the fashion industry.

I hope these tips help and lead you to realize that a limb difference is just that: different. And “different” is not synonymous with “ugly.” Difference can be beautiful. And as Ryan Haack from Living One-Handed says, “Different is Awesome!”

At the end of the day, this is the best tip I have for you – In order to be happy and have others like you, you need to be younger thinner prettier yourself.

 

Peace,

Caitlin Michelle

 

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media monday – how to put on bracelets with one hand

Happy Monday, everyone! Today’s video is of Danielle, a YouTube fashion/beauty vlogger who recently started a second channel to explain how she does certain everyday things as a congenital amputee with one hand.

Also check out her style vlog channel RazzleDaniDazzle for some cool fashion haul videos and beauty advice.

 

So tell me: what fabulous jewelry are you rocking today?

 

Peace,

Caitlin Michelle

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limb different girl takes on ‘the bachelor’ (and what this means for the limb different community)

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I know I’m a little late jumping on the bandwagon with this story, but how awesome is it that a girl with one arm/hand is on The Bachelor? I’ve never been a fan of the show before, but I’ll definitely be watching this season and rooting for Sarah Herron, a gorgeous 20-something hoping to find love with the handsome Sean Lowe. And you know what I think about her being on the show? This is a HUGE deal for the limb difference community.

Before I continue, let me just mention that I know The Bachelor is not exactly the most serious or positive or life-changing show on television. It’s pretty mindless entertainment where vapid young women basically fight for the attention of their “ideal” man (and the cameras). But think of it this way: how many people with limb differences do you see on TV? The ones featured on scripted shows (with the exception of Kurt Yaeger on Sons of Anarchy) are able-bodied actors using green screens to look like they had a limb amputated. Reality TV is only a little more accepting. We’ve seen amputees on The Amazing Race, Survivor, Dancing with the Stars, The Real Housewives of New York, and American Gladiators. But a DATING show? This is a first! People and characters with disabilities, especially missing limbs, are typically not depicted as glamorous (think Darth Vader or Lieutenant Dan from Forrest Gump). They are usually evil or gritty characters with a chip on their shoulders.

Now The Bachelor, which is a show that pretty much epitomizes society’s obsession with physical perfection and beauty, features a beautiful and accomplished woman with one arm competing alongside dozens of other mannequin-pretty girls. Now the mainstream media (and all its audiences) can see that we limb different folks are not the Captain Hooks they had previously thought us to be. We can be pretty like Sarah Herron on The Bachelor. We can be elegant and stylish like Aviva Drescher. And we can be light on our feet (or foot) like Heather Mills. We are not stereotypes; we are people. And I just hope that everyone who watches Sean Lowe make out with a million girls over the next few weeks realizes this.

I also hope that everyone who has or who knows someone with a limb difference sees that we can be totally normal. Beauty is not as standard and rigid as society wants us to believe, and even the media is waking up to this fact.

So I’m super excited for Sarah and I hope she makes it far on the show. But if not, it’s cool to know that she changed (at least Sean’s) perceptions of people with physical differences.

 

Peace,

Caitlin Michelle

 

 

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