I was born with the most common form of dwarfism, achondroplasia. Some see my condition as a disability; I see it as a “different-ability” and a blessing. But I haven’t always felt that way.
I’m very familiar with laughing, staring, pointing, and rude comments from strangers. Even though it’s old hat by now (I'm 28 years old), it’s still painful and often, embarrassing.
As a child, I never dreamt of walking up to someone, pointing my finger in her face, and laughing. So I couldn't understand why it was happening to me? Sure, I knew that I was "different," but aren’t we all?
Afraid that crying was a sign of weakness, I rarely admitted to anyone that the ridicule hurt my feelings. Instead, I held it all in. Also, I knew that my parents hated to see people stare and point, and I believed I needed to stay strong for them.
So, rather than allow myself to express and feel my emotions, I chose to hide from them. By outwardly acting happy, I was able to mask the pain and humiliation I felt on the inside. Behind closed doors I allowed myself to cry, but I put on a bright smile for the world.
Gradually, my pent-up feelings led to anxiety, sadness and fear. Slowly but surely, my self-confidence dissipated and I started to believe what others said to me. I wasn’t beautiful. I wasn’t good enough.
In public, I immediately assumed that when people looked at me, they were judging me harshly. Kristen was no longer behind the wheel, fear and doubt were.
When I looked in the mirror, all I felt was resentment. What I wanted seemed nearly impossible: to be accepted for who I was on the inside. It just didn’t seem fair. Why was I dealt such a difficult hand? Little did I know that all of that sadness and fear over the years had peeled back my layers to reveal an unfamiliar, real me; raw, unfiltered and authentic.
My eyes finally opened to this raw version of myself a few years ago after seeking help from my Life Coach, Elli Boland. She taught me to ditch the fear, doubt and insecurity and regain control of my life with courageous authenticity.
With her help, I came to realize that I could be a survivor of my own self-neglect and fear — truly a personal milestone! My thoughts about how others viewed me were nothing but stories that I was creating in my mind.
My feelings of sadness and anger? They are valid. Instead of resisting them, I learned to open up to them and then let them go. Crying signified my inner strength and ability to identify with these emotions. More discomfort comes from spending energy wishing things aren’t a certain way. Learning to just let go and focus my energy on what makes me happy—that’s the ticket.
In recognizing my limiting beliefs—that I am separate, not good enough or not worthy, simply because my body is different—I am able to replace them with positive affirmations. You absolutely deserve to be happy. You are strong. You are loved.
Loving and honoring myself is a permanent priority. If I’m tired, I sleep. If I need to cry, I do. When I get overwhelmed and feel like I’m moving a thousand miles per hour, I stop, take a deep breath and return to the present moment. It’s amazing what happens when you take the time to listen to your mind and body.
Slowly but surely, my focus has shifted away from the judgments and actions of others. How others view me, or my stature, is not a reflection of me but of them. My condition does not define me.
Though I still have moments where I struggle with self-confidence or feel disconnected, I’ve come to understand that it's a normal part of life, something everyone experiences. As I continue to change the way I treat myself, the world begins to treat me differently. The more I own who I am, and show myself love, the more centered and connected I feel.
The inspiration we seek is already within us. With these little legs and a big heart, I am loving myself and continuing to learn how to live my dreams.
My hope for you? Own your story. Love it and live.
Written by Kristen DeAndrade
Photo Credit: Abigail Rosen