Everything you ever wanted to know about me and some things you didn’t… Again … Again
Have you always been so self-aware?
The short answer is no. The long answer is…
As a small child, apart from play, you don’t do much for yourself. You get meals cooked for you, your washing done and until a certain age, people even dress you. So as long as you have everything attached and in relatively good working order you have no reason to think that you are anything other than utterly fabulous. If people are looking at you in awe (some may call it staring), it’s obviously because you’re awesome!
When this (the staring) becomes a regular occurrence and is accompanied by; pointing, laughing and the occasional comment you begin to wonder, what’s wrong with me? This is what happened to me.
As I got older I had to do things differently to other kids and there were some things that I couldn’t do for myself at all. My confidence took a tumble. Then I learned this had a name. I was disabled and there was no way I would accept it. I have been made to believe (by certain members of my extended family) that being disabled was something to be ashamed of and that the term “disability” was even more offensive to use than the F or C bombs.
This spawned an identity crisis for me which lasted many, many years. I wasn’t allowed to be disabled (which meant I refused various forms of assistance despite the pleas of my parents) but I wasn’t allowed to be “normal” either. I felt I had to constantly put on an act which was exhausting and very emotionally draining.
So where does the confidence come from?
Once I reached adulthood and thus became the master of my own destiny, I began spending less and less time with these people until eventually I stopped spending any time with them at all. Not having to hide my disability meant I could relax.
Now in the big wide world I was mixing with lots of different people and began crossing paths with other people with disabilities. I realised I was not the only one and I had people in the same boat as me to learn from. When I started this blog I started receiving emails from people who said they were learning from me. There are few things more confidence boosting than that!
When I entered the workforce I found myself in an environment where I was actively contributing and gaining respect and the confidence of others based on the quality of my work. Because of this I was encouraged to move further within the company and it made me realise I was far more capable than even I have given myself credit for.
I also started dating. Not just dating but online dating (this is the very first time I have ever admitted this). I put up a profile and (with some trepidation) a photo, but I honestly never expected anyone to show any interest. But they did! Having actual proof that I was attractive when I had never thought of myself this way before, and finding someone who was actually willing to snog me (ahem) etc., was eye opening. For the record, yes I am currently a free agent.
Because of these thing and some counselling, I have come to realise that disability is the new black and I can honestly say that I have never felt more confident and better about myself than I do at this point in my life.
If I needed proof of this I got it last Sunday at the Angove Street Festival. I was sitting in the sun minding my own business when a guy who was handing out stickers to little kids suddenly came up to me and in a very patronising voice asked “would you like a sticker?” The old Nina would have dissolved into tears but when I looked at him the only thing that crossed my mind was, “excellent! I can write about this in my blog.”