Growing up with only one hand taught me everything I know about confidence
Everyone has their own “normal” in this world, and due to a light amniotic tangle-up in the womb, my normal just happens to involve having one less hand than most of the population. I feel great about the whole situation, and have long wondered how my specific story could help people. How I can extend my wealth of one-handed knowledge and personal confidence to the masses in a way that both empowers the reader and sheds light on an experience many don’t get to be apart of?
Growing up and continuing to live with one hand will always be a bumpy road. For me, it’s usually been a beautiful road full of happiness, love, and support; other times, it’s full of patronizing, offensive, unnecessary little hurdles. Hurdles that have nothing to do with my own abilities and everything to do with other people’s perceptions of them.
While being “different” and “overcoming adversities” are great subjects for college applications or for tearjerking news stories about the kindness of humanity, actually living daily as “different” isn’t something you can just scroll past and forget about.
I’m constantly reminded that people see what isn’t there before anything else. And if that sounds annoying as hell, you are absolutely correct!
My regular Tuesday is not “inspiring” just because it’s slightly outside of the average.
I am not here to be an example. I am not here to make someone feel better about themselves because I give them ~perspective~ on how their life “could be worse.” I’m just here, living my life as best as I know how, all while noticing every not-so-subtle glance at my left side, thank you very much.
Over the course of my 27 years, I have learned how to handle certain situations; when to get angry, when to let things go, when to joke, and when to stand up for myself. A lot of the learning has come with growing up and becoming comfortable in my own skin, while the rest, unfortunately, comes from having to interact with inconsiderate human beings on a regular basis.
From the silent stares and pointing, to the “she only got (various accomplishments/praise) out of sympathy comments, to the random “what’s with the arm passersby on the street, ignorance is a spectrum you learn to operate within pretty quickly.
Thankfully, my family and the environment I was born into has always supported me, allowing me to thrive despite any of my perceived “differences.” I was never held back and was always encouraged to try, to not hide from the world. From all of that trying and literally rolling up my sleeves, I was able to cultivate a sense of confidence within myself. I know that I can speak in front of a crowd, hold a bat at home plate, walk into a room, or be in the public eye even if I’m being stared at, questioned, or judged. I know that I can keep going about my business, remaining mostly unbothered.
I was able to embrace the fact that, yes, I am seen differently — but there’s nothing I can do about that, so I might as well be seen. And I shouldn’t try to be seen just to prove that I can do something, but to show who I am as an individual, to show that I am far greater than any perception.
And to the best of my memory, despite all of the challenges, I have never wished for two hands.
I have absolutely wished that people would stop bugging me about my lack of having two hands — or occasionally for my own personal tailor — but the core of who I am as a one-handed individual remains constant. If I ever desperately need to climb a rope or do a pull-up, then perhaps my tune will change. But this body, and all that it does or does not come with, has shaped me into the person I am and will continue to be. And I am 100% on board with myself.
When I talk about my experiences, good and bad, I’m intending to do more than expose the infuriating behavior of strangers. I want to encourage people to learn to love themselves and recognize their own greatness despite outside forces trying to bring them down.
Life is too short and too wonderful to care about the incorrect opinions of others. Confidence comes from within, and only you can decide how you’re going to wield it. In other words, to quote Canadian philosopher-poet Aubrey Drake Graham: “Know yourself, know your worth.”
Emily O’Connor is living the dream in Salt Lake City and gets way too excited about books, fancy cakes, and whatever Harry Styles is wearing today. You can find her on Twitter @emilyoestevez