I struggled with my appearance for quite some time, especially in my tween and teen years. Most of my insecurity came from my spastic cerebral palsy, which has causes me muscle stiffness and a lack of balance and has required that I use a wheelchair.
Because I have trouble with my balance, the doctors recommended that I wear special leg braces called AFOs. My first pair of AFO leg braces was dark blue, and I loved wearing them. At first, I never felt ashamed of them or had any issues with them.
But one day in elementary school, I had an encounter with an able-bodied student who didn’t understand my cerebral palsy or my AFOs. From then on, I was bullied and became the outcast of my 4th grade class, which made me want to completely stop wearing my leg braces. I wouldn’t even wear my braces to physical therapy because after that horrible experience, I just wanted to forget that they existed.
It wasn’t until I was a high school senior that I finally decided to conquer my fear and wear my leg braces in public again. I wanted to stop acting like my cerebral palsy didn’t exist and take off the mask that I had been wearing for so many years. I learned to embrace who I am, find self-confidence and self-love, and be proud of who I am as a person.
I’m thankful that I struggled to accept my leg braces because my journey taught me how to love myself. It may take some obstacles for you to practice self-love, but just one moment can put you on the journey towards loving yourself. Learning and practicing self-love can be a difficult journey, but once it ends, you will realize that the love you gained was worth the ride.