By Keren-Or Rosner
Most people aren’t aware that 15% of the world’s population has some type of disability, but among them, only a fragment identify themselves as disabled
Presenting yourself as a person with a disability can often lead to low self-esteem and insecurity. However, new research published by the Rehabilitation Psychology Journal proves otherwise.
According to the research, having an inner sense of pride and confidence regarding your disability has a positive impact on your self-esteem, image, and social circles.
As a person with a disability since birth, I can testify that accepting my disability was a profound process that taught me many things – most importantly self-compassion. By developing an inner pride for my physical disability, I was able to accept and embrace myself as I am. Surprisingly, once I embraced my condition, people around me stopped paying attention to the way I walked. Moreover, the stigma and labeling that I’d felt previously was almost nonexistent.
A life changing experience
Personally, the turning point for me was when I had to lecture on stage during my first year of university — in front of hundreds of people.
You may wonder what I find so difficult about having many eyes staring at me – and the answer goes back my childhood.
I was born a premature baby, born two months early to be exact. This caused a lack of oxygen to my brain, which later lead to a neurological disability, affecting my movement, equilibrium, and walking.
Having a mobile disability made me appear unusual among the other children. I walk with a slight limp, which made me an object of interest to other children, who were constantly checking me out while I walked. Some would just stare, while others would laugh or whisper. So, you could imagine why having over a hundred eyes looking right at me was a traumatic experience.
My assignment was to give a lecture, by heart, on a live stage. The topic was about the international growth policy of Asia. At the beginning, I felt my body tighten up – feeling extremely nervous: “Hello. My name is Keren Or.” I said with a stutter. “I have a slight motor disability, so occasionally during the lecture I will be sitting down. I’m a little embarrassed to be standing here in front of all of you, while you look at me, because until now when people would look at me – I would look the other way. However today, when you look at me I’m going to try to look back. If I occasionally forget to look back at you – just wink at me, that’ll be a great reminder.”
Right after having said that, I started speaking talking about Asia, feeling at ease with my body, talking freely.
Live, laugh, love your disability
Having that inner sense of confidence and being proud of my condition was a gradual process. Its core premise was based upon changing my perspective with regard to my disability – putting my ABILITIES first. Yes, there are things I can’t do. But the things I can do are so much more significant, and my new goal was to focus on those abilities, instead. I have studied abroad, learned to read and write in 5 languages, and lived through many defining experiences which have made me the person I am today. Recently, I had the privilege of joining Sesame Enable’s team in assisting other people who are living with disabilities.
In addition, having a disability has improved my creative thinking. On a daily basis, I am forced to find out-of-the-box solutions to physical challenges that I face. I have become a go-getter, motivated to achieve my goals. All of these have allowed me to embrace an inner sense of pride. Eventually having the courage to face a crowd, to stand upright while hundreds of people stared- that was my personal icebreaker.
It was a lifetime experience – transforming me into who I am today
Today, when I face new people – I know that there is a chance that they will judge or label me, falling into stigmas and stereotypes. Despite that, I remind myself that there is no need to try to keep up, to attempt to be faster or smarter. I am perfect exactly the way I am. Having a sense of humor towards myself is the tool that I choose as an icebreaker in new environments. On that stage, I smiled and presented myself as a fun-loving redhead, who just happens to have a disability that affects my walking – just as others have glasses or blue eyes. For me, using humor was the key to building that inherent sense of pride, my very own “Disability Pride”.