Who doesn’t suffer from insecurities? I can’t think of anyone in my own circle who doesn’t have them. Having a disability has it’s own dose of insecurities doesn’t it? What do people see when they look at me? Am I more than a wheelchair in the eyes of a stranger? How can I prove that I am still good enough? How can I show them that I am still every bit as much of a person as they are? I think it’s only natural for every human being to have such self doubts, especially when having been faced with a life changing event. How do you get past them and move on?
I have found myself struggling through the years at certain points. I felt that I needed to validate myself to other people after my accident. It was nonsense, because it was never about them, it was about my being insecure. It takes years to adjust to the sudden loss of your abilities. If you’re turned down by someone you’re interested in you tend to think that it was because of your disability and not the fact that they just weren’t into you. If you’re passed over for a job opportunity you want to say it was discrimination and not that fact that the next guy simply had a better resume. We as human beings are always looking for something to blame instead of accepting the fact that it wasn’t our time for that experience.
Insecurities about your new found physical appearance can be some of the worst to overcome personally! I know this isn’t something guys usually talk about, but we can chalk it up to having too much estrogen in my house right now. My accident left me with severe scarring on my lower body. My legs and lower back are covered in skin grafts from 2nd and 3rd degree burns. My skin is now an interesting shade of purple and deep red in most areas. Attractive right? Yeah, I didn’t think so either. You mix that in with my disproportionately skinny para legs and a guy has some reasons to be insecure. I did not wear shorts for the first 4 years after my accident unless I was home alone and I knew that there was no possibility of anyone seeing my scars. How’s that for going to great lengths to avoid shame? Have you been to central Florida in August? I was the guy in jeans cooking my own flesh. I suffered from severe dry skin from always keeping my legs covered. It was a choice between embarrassment or dry skin that I couldn’t feel. I was stupid and went for the easy out. It took my now wife literally yanking my jeans off of me on the floor to confront my fear. She simply stated “Omg, it’s just as I suspected, you have legs!” Then she ran to the bathroom to grab lotion and went on for the next 20 mins chattering about my dry ashy skin and proper skin care. I sat on the floor in stunned silence as she rubbed lotion on me. Why wasn’t she screaming in horror and running away? She didn’t even cringe. I asked her about my scars and she said so what? We all have physical scars. After that she forced me to wear shorts around the house to air out my skin. I do mean force, because this woman had no issues pantsing me on the living room floor! It took me several years to get somewhat comfortable in my own skin. I wear shorts around my family and friends, but being in public still leaves me self conscious at times.
What are we supposed to do? Do we allow our insecurities to leave us prisoners in jeans to sweat to death in subtropical climates? Only if we want to be stupid masochists. Eventually we have to let go of the notion that we are only as good as what others think of us. A bit of self reflection can help remind us all of our strengths and think of ways to highlight them. Even in jeans I can not hide my skinny legs from the world. I can smile at people who stare, wave, and ask them if they are waiting for me to give them my number. I can remind myself of all the good qualities I still share with the world, be they physically related or not. I don’t really care if you think I’m attractive at the end of the day. My wife finds me attractive and that is who matters in my life. My family knows I’m still the same ornery playful cocky guy I was before my accident. My friends know I will still throw back a beer and talk smack with the best of them. It’s time to let go of the nonsense that holds us back from embracing who we are as people today. “I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and doggone it, people like me!” I couldn’t have said it better myself Stuart.