Kelly, Bournemouth – “My spina bifida means that my body looks different to everybody elses. I’m almost too anxious about it now to go clothes shopping and try them on in the changing rooms. How can I get some confidence?”
Mik – To me this issue is one of the biggest that many disabled people have to contend with. However much we might outwardly appear confident, and claim to be proud of our impairments, we live in a society that is obsessed with perfection and let’s face it, we are only human. We cannot help but be influenced by this growing need to be beautiful and perfect, and measure ourselves against the images that fill our media. It is a remarklable person, disabled or not, who is not touched by the dream of being perfect. I know that when I was a teenager, back in the early 80’s, I found myself so sure of my unattractiveness due to my disability that I developed an eating disorder. Even today what I see in the mirror and what I understand everyone else sees is very different. However, I will give you the advice I try to give myself every time I find myself looking at the mirror and seeing a monster, fuck em! You are the most perfect you ever. OK, you may not fit the stereotype of what beauty or perfection is, but who say that is right? Mostly a bunch or fat man who work in the press, or aging women in the fashion industry whose obsession with youth is driven by their fears over the passing of time. Disabled people wear their strength and individuality on the design of their bodies, like an amazing work of art. We challenge society to see what biology can actually achieve, and how robust the human form can be. Don’t let the non-disabled world make you feel less because you do not look like they do. It’s them who should feel inferior. So from now on when you get up, look in that mirror and know you see beauty and perfection. Your own totally individual form that no other person can achieve. Be proud of that, and if anyone dares to challenge it then they can go f**k themselves. As for finding clothes, I always advise find a style that works for you. Fashion is our enemy, as trends change so quickly. Instead experiment with style until you find one that fits.. and stick to it. Sure you can follow fashion, but make sure you model it to suit the style you have created. I used to wear loads of leather, not only as it looked great but because it was hard wearing and made me look like an injured biker. The alternative scene has always been less judgemental that the mainstream crowd and so I found my outrageous clothes allowed me to become part of scene who didn’t seem to care if I was disabled, or sky-blue pink!. So best bet, scan the fashion mags plus books on the history of fashion. Find a look you like and that you think will work, and THEN go shopping. With a look in mind, you are already half way there. And if you find a shop without a changing room, remember the Equality Act demands that they have one. So get shouting…. “I know my rights!” If you need any styling tips, drop me a mail, maybe with a pic or two, and I’ll see if I can help. Believe it or not, I actually studied fashion as a overly trendy new romantic youth so I do know what I’m on about!