No Longer Hiding My Authentic Self

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Happy New Year, readers. I hope the first few days of this year are treating you well. So much comes to mind when I think of the phrase “new year”. It’s a fresh start, a clean slate. It’s the forgiveness to leave mistakes and past pain in the rear-view mirror. It’s the promise of an opportunity to move on. For some, it is the motivation for goals, resolutions, and dreams one is tired of dreaming about. It is a call to action. Or at least, it is for me. This year the goals for me are simple- well, simple to say, more difficult to do.

Love myself.

Show the world my true, authentic self.

Under those central goals are much more specific ones, however, I felt as though it could be best summed up in those two resolutions. If you know me personally or have followed the blog for a time, I have discussed the love/hate relationship between my self-esteem, my disability, as well as my identity. For me, this trio is my perfect storm. For too long, I have tried to separate one from the others, maybe two. I have fought for years to establish my identity beyond my disabilities. My self-esteem was poor because I made the mistake in building my self-worth on the validation of others. I wanted to be known for Ashlee, not the young lady with disabilities. It was this internal fight that made me realize something important: I am a young lady that is made up of so much more than my disabilities, but when I tried to strip that factor away, I was unknowingly telling myself that there was shame to be had in my physical condition. This epiphany  inspired today’s post. It made me reflect on everything that I do to try and hide my physical condition from the world, or lessen what they see.

  • I walk with a cane so that my muscle weakness is not quite so apparent.
  • I use a wheelchair when I’m expecting to go a further distance, so that people are unable to see my limp.
  • I sit down at parties so that people around me cannot see my legs quiver when I have reached my threshold.

Ironically, I went out and about yesterday to take pictures and I demonstrated some of the very behaviors I do to lessen my disabilities’s visibility. I leaned against a tree for support. When my friend was taking the photos, I specifically asked to throw my cane into the snow so that it was not visible in the pictures. Honestly, trying to hide these things from the world is quite silly. When I’m not engaging in these behaviors, the world is inevitably going to see the truth I’m trying to hide; and always engaging in this game of hide-and-seek is quite exhausting. So I am not going to hide anymore. I’m going to stop hiding from the very things that make up parts of my identity. I will no longer fear falling, because I know I have the strength to stand tall again. I will not shy away from the limp that I gained because of the blessing that is my ability to walk. I will be unashamed of the cane that is my companion, because it is similar to a friend’s support. I will do this with the knowledge that it is okay. I am both different, and disabled, and I’m damn proud of it. I will embrace this, with the genuine hope that in my resolution to not hide, I am able to connect more completely with others.

How can people truly see you if you’re hiding your authentic self from them? So, this is me. This is who I am. I’m ready to stop hiding what makes me, me. This is my New Year resolution. This is my everyday fight, and I’m ready.

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