#MyBodyStory is an ongoing storytelling series uplifting the diversity of women’s voices. Because every body has a story, and every story deserves to be heard!
The opinions expressed in #MyBodyStory are the writer’s own.
And now, here is Marit’s #MyBodyStory
“Oh no! Something horrible has happened!” the midwife said to my parents the moment I was born. My parents thought I was going to die, until she said “She only has one hand!”
I know this because as a kid I used to ask my dad what it was like having a disabled baby. He always told me this story, followed by his thoughts: ‘oohh, is that all?!’
I was very lucky to be raised by parents who loved me no matter what, but I still struggled to face this world. A world that’s so cruel to anyone who’s different from the norm. As a kid I was quite happy being myself, I just missed a hand, and that was that. But as I got older and more self-conscious, I began to notice that I was different and it wasn’t in a good way.
One of the things I remember from childhood was being teased by kids in our neighbourhood. My difference made me an easy target. They yelled a lot of ugly things to me, but I always felt that kids just tease anyone…so I didn’t let it bother me that much.
What did bother me was how I never saw myself being represented in a positive way.
I remember a huge campaign in Holland about playing with fireworks (it’s legal to use in Holland during New Years). In this one ad there was a boy who had lost his hand and girls were staring at him in disbelief. The ad sarcastically said ‘Yeah, now they’re looking at you’. I think I was around 10 years old reading a Donald Duck magazine when I saw that ad inside… It felt like a punch in the stomach. That was the day I cried over my disability for the first time.
High school followed, and the pressure to look perfect only grew bigger. When you’re already different, this pressure can get overwhelming. I remember people telling me things like ‘Well, it’s a good thing you’re thin. Imagine if you were fat AND disabled.’ At that time I just said thank you, but it always made me feel awkward and I didn’t yet understand why. It wasn’t until years later that I understood how incredibly mean and marginalizing these comments were. Not only to me, but also to fat people. The underlying reasoning in this comment is: a disability is ugly, and so is being fat. And combined? Terrible.
And so I hid. I hid my disability as best I could, and I was becoming a professional at it! If I didn’t want you to know about my disability…trust me, you wouldn’t know. When someone got out their camera, I had reflexes like Spiderman – my arm would be hidden in a split second. That’s why I don’t have any photos from my teens where you can see my arm. But lucky for me, things were about to change.
I am Nemo!
When I was 16 years old, I watched the movie Finding Nemo for the first time. I LOVED IT! I didn’t really know why it touched me so much until I found The Lucky Fin Project on Facebook years later. I was Nemo! I had a lucky fin! For the first time in my life I had found someone on TV that I could connect with, that I could relate too! And he was a complete character, a character with a story, with feelings, and he was badass!
But how wild is it that there’s only one role model for disabled kids to look up to, and this role model is a fish.
After that I realized more and more how fucked up our society is for people who are different. I recognized my need to always look perfect, my need to excel in everything. I began to understood my harmful fear of getting fat (I mean, I was already disabled, I couldn’t face more marginalization!), getting zits, or become less desirable to society in any other way.
Last year I had a burnout. I called my doctor crying and told her I didn’t know what to do anymore. So she sent me to see a therapist. Looking back it was the best decision ever. Talking to someone made me realize the immense pressure I put on myself for being different. The immense pressure society puts on us women for being perfect. The pressure to always look flawless, to be a perfect wife, mother, businesswoman, friend, model, etc, etc. I was exhausted!
My therapist asked me why I felt the need to do all those things that I was doing, and I was shocked to find out it all came from my disability. Deep down inside I was telling myself that I was not good enough just being Marit. I was disabled, imperfect, incomplete. And so I had told myself that I needed to excel in every other aspect of my life. I had to become the perfect person so I didn’t have to feel ashamed about being disabled. About being different, about being a burden to society. I needed to be thin, beautiful and successful.
I’m learning to let go of this toxic ‘perfection mentality’ more and more everyday. I’m learning about diet culture, about diversity, and all the ways that we as humans are different. I’m learning about companies making money off of our insecurities, and it makes me mad as hell! I’m learning to be a rebel, and to start loving me for me. With my disability, with my squishy belly and thighs, with my cellulite, my zits, the hair on my body… all of it.
In the end I’m learning to be ok with myself more and more everyday. And in this process I’m also trying to show the world a different kind of beauty. There are so many things that we’re taught to be. For instance, Megan Crabbe’s book “Body Positive Power” (@BodyPosiPanda on Instagram) has opened my eyes to the scam that is the diet industry, and I’m trying to let go of the need to lose weight. But there’s still so much work to do!
In Holland, my body still feels like a side show attraction and people stare at me without any shame. There are no disabled actors, models, or any other people on TV or media. I think that’s shocking! Especially after knowing how a cartoon fish named Nemo helped me! I hope that together we can change the world, and show everyone a new kind of beauty. A beauty that is inclusive for each and everyone, and where we all feel worthy of an amazing life.
And that midwife who said those things to my parents so many years ago? I think she may have said what she did to ease the blow for my parents. But how great would it be if a baby missing a hand wasn’t a blow for new parents in the first place?!
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