The bottom line? We cannot control other people’s reactions to us. (And it’s important to remember that other people’s reactions are not about us. They’re about them.)
But in finding power where we can and take control of our lives in healthy ways can help. I haven’t really given much thought to ways I do this in my own life, to be honest, but I’m glad to share suggestions where I can:
1) Make the choice to wear what makes you feel the best. Choose your clothing, your hairstyle, your fragrance, your jewelry, knowing that it’s about taking care of the most important person in your life: you. If that means wearing sweats, or dresses, or a suit and tie or leggings or jeans, or jewelry or no jewelry or Axe body spray or Lady Gaga perfume, do it! Just do what works for you. This way, even if dressing yourself is a struggle, you have a say about how you look.
|[Image is: an elegant perfume bottle]|
2) Choose to speak up or stay silent. Know that there is no wrong response in a where you are being stared at or ignored. I find that if I choose to speak up, it helps to be respectful, and confident. If someone’s staring at you and you want to say something but don’t know what do say, offer a smile, a greeting, or introduce yourself. Saying your name may see simple, but it helps to remind the people staring that you are more than your disability. (This is in no way, your responsibility, however.)
3) Find your voice. Maybe, like me, you don’t feel comfortable or confident confronting people about their staring or the way they ignore you. Sometimes, even your family may do intentionally or unintentionally hurtful things that you don’t know how to respond to in the moment. I have been there. Try writing about your experience, paint it, draw it, photograph it, dance about it, sing about it, just do something healthy to express it. Get the negative feelings out of you in a way that doesn’t hurt you, and doesn’t hurt anyone else.
4) If you’re comfortable answering questions, make that known. If so, and people ask you questions, answer them honestly. No one understands your own personal experience better than you. Make it clear what language you’re comfortable hearing (person-first, disabled, crippled, handicapped, etc.) If your friend asks if you mind them helping you, tell them honestly. If they wonder what to tell their children about your crutches or wheelchair, or walker, give them suggestions. And if children are fearful of what you use to get around, you can not only normalize it but make it positive by emphasizing all the ways it helps you. Let them come close to you, if you’re comfortable, give them permission to touch your crutches, wheelchair or walker etc. Children learn what they experience, embracing these things as positive, they’ll learn to see them in that light.
5) If experiencing stares and being ignored is making you feel isolated, reach out. There are people who are experiencing the same things you are, but we don’t know you’re struggling unless you let us know. (And as a note, I’m always here, if anyone has questions, or likewise, just wants to talk to someone who “gets it.”)
Hope this helps!