The other day Shannon sent me a message that got me thinking.
Dangerous, I know.
Shannon is the same age as I am and was born with a similar limb-difference. She said, “I have never felt sorry for myself because of it, but I hate the stares and the self-consciousness. I find myself ‘hiding’ my hand in my shirt most of the time and I hate that I do that, but I dont know how to change it! I have never met anyone else like me so it’s cool to see you just embracing it and not feeling self-conscious. How do you do it? I was never like this when I was younger but I feel so different from everyone else now.”
She didn’t bold that question, but that’s what it looked like when I read it. It took me a while to respond. And honestly, my answer to her was pretty lame. I floundered. I was basically like, “Uh…a lot of it is probably just my personality. And maybe my parents? Or, like, maybe it’s all an act and I’m really just a horribly self-conscious person who pretends he’s someone else all the time?” Could be, I suppose.
The truth is, I do know I’m different and most of the time I’m cool with it. There are times when it bugs me, sure, but usually it’s no big deal. I certainly can’t remember hiding my arm. If pressed, I’d say that one of the main reasons my limb-difference doesn’t bother me is because the rest of me is so normal. I have self-discipline issues when it comes to eating healthy and exercising, just like anybody else. (That was a fancy way to say, “I sit on the couch and eat crap way more often than I should.”) I have bad hair days. I forget to take out the trash. I love watching football and rooting for my Badgers and Packers. I love to laugh at my kids when they say funny stuff. I love when my wife and I are punch-drunk in the middle of the night and can’t stop laughing at stupid things we say. I love taking baths. Yes, baths.
The point is, while my arm is different, on the whole, I’m mostly not. What’s funny to me is that we all seem to have this love/hate relationship with being different. Shannon hit on this when she talked about how she never felt different as a kid, but does now. When we’re kids we’re told that we’re like snowflakes. Every single one unique. I don’t know if that’s even actually true or how you’d prove it, but it sure sounds good, right? And when we’re really little, we love that idea! I’m the only me in the whole entire universe! And then, at some point, that stops being awesome. We all start getting self-conscious and mean and this tension arises wherein we want to be unique, but we also want to be accepted and we believe that the way to do that is by being like everyone else.
Well, let’s stop that.
I totally get that being teased or rejected because you’re “not the same” can be devastating. I’ve been there, as have many of you, I’m sure. Still, my encouragement is for you to accept and embrace whatever makes you different. Whether that’s a limb-difference, or glasses, or your height, or your hair color, or anything else. There’s no reason to be ashamed. No reason to be embarrassed. You are different…and that’s awesome.
Be you. Be awesome.
To that end, I’d like to reveal the new design I commissioned my friend Wes to create. It says what I believe and what I hope you come to believe, too. Let’s spread this idea. Let’s empower people to embrace what makes them different! Let’s get people to smile.
This week I’ll be giving away SIX sets of LOH/”Different Is Awesome!” stickers! Just use the Rafflecopter widget below to rack-up as many points as possible and then the six winners will be announced next Monday. I’ve also added the design to the LOH Cafepress shop, so check that out, too!
Finding you and your words of wisdom has given me anew attitude towards my “difference” You can put in to words what I cant. I’ve always been able to joke about it but after reading your posts it is like a weight was lifted and I was able to just let somethng go that I didnt know was tensing me up. Thanks Ryan!
My 4 year old grandson was born with abs missing left arm below elbow.
this is such a great initiative. i love being different because it makes me unique and awesome 🙂
I’ve been showing my daughter all your articles since she lost her arm. she is age 15. you have been a source of inspiration for her…and she is doing well adjusting.
I’m so happy to hear this, Tracy! 🙂