Over the past couple of weeks, I have walked to the edge of my cliff of insecurities and leapt into the murky waters below. I broke a rule of mine on social media: I made a video of myself.
I’ve avoided filming any videos of myself since the beginning of time. The main reason is that looking at and recording my own videos caused physical pain and an exacerbation of my symptoms.
But the more nuanced, yet powerful, reason I’ve avoided portraying myself on video is that I’ve been told I shouldn’t be heard or seen. People with disabilities are constantly scrutinized under a microscope. When people without disabilities are a guideline for normalcy, it becomes apparent that the world doesn’t want to see my face.
The world castigates my uncoordinated movement, jerky speech, abrupt head turning, and almost every other characteristic. So why would I subject myself to further torture? Why would I make a recording of all of my perceived abominations to be watched over and over again?
Over the past several months, I’ve regained the ability to watch short videos of myself without bringing them to an abrupt end. Earlier today, I was reflecting on how this past year has been about breaking rules for me. For most of my life, I talked in absolutes. I created dichotomies that I believed would keep me safe and set me on the path of joy. I was wrong. The path they set me upon was torturous.
I placed an enormous amount of pressure on my own shoulders to conform to a very narrow definition of “the right life.” The irony is that in trying to control outside influences, myself, and everything in between, I limited my opportunities to find what I was most looking for: love and acceptance.
I have a host of conflicted feelings about where true love and acceptance come from. Whether the seed begins with self or is cultivated through the gentility and warmth of others, I cannot pinpoint the etiology. I can say with confidence that learning to embrace oneself with the kindness and compassion I extend to others is crucial.
Although recording myself on video didn’t begin as a step in the process of self-acceptance, it quickly moved in that direction. As uncomfortable as I felt watching my own reflection, cataloging all the wrongs I was committing by simply existing, I kept going.
A flurry of fear consumed me after I uploaded the video for my followers to view. Making myself vulnerable to further criticism, rejection, and other ugly traumas of my past, I told myself this really isn’t about other people. This is about me.
What I perceive to be a wild act of conscious rebellion against the status quo and an indication of self-appreciation has turned out to be an affirming experience. Not only was I flooded with encouragement, validation, and support from others who expressed the same apprehension in sharing videos, the most rewarding experience has been the opportunity to see myself in a new way.
Instead of focusing on the totality of ugly characteristics I’ve been told I have, I’ve been able to recognize my beautiful ones. I can recognize the kindness in my smile, the passion in my voice, the eloquence of my thoughts, and the warmth in my heart.
The process of learning to view myself in a new way, to encompass myself in a cocoon of warmth, is unfamiliar and tenuous. It is also long overdue and groundbreaking. As 2020 gains momentum and I imbue the days to come with intentions of connecting with, giving to, and receiving from others, I will keep in mind to also bestow kindness upon myself.
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