Don’t Hide It, Flaunt It

We all start out so unabashedly unashamed.  Whatever makes us unique and special, we regard without concern; we flaunt it without a care.

Then we grow up and we begin to absorb rather than deflect how others see us.  If we are fortunate, we learn how to cope and just maybe grow stronger, but it’s not easy.

As we close out the year, I choose to highlight some individuals who have learned not to hide, but rather flaunt whatever difference may cause others to judge them (or their children):

  • Oscar Pistorius:  “You are not disabled by the disabilities you have. You are abled by the abilities you have.” In 2011, Pistorius became the new face (and body) of A* Men fragrance by Thierry Mugler, and was named GQ’s 2011 “Best Dressed Man.”  Pistorius lost his legs at eleven months old, and ultimately learned a different way of mastering balance through competition.  He not only won several medals at the 2004 Paralympic Games in Athens, he has since become a triple world record holder and triple Paralympic Champion in the 100, 200 and 400 meter races.
  • Andrea Gormley“Acceptance is a very big issue for me. I try to teach my children that no matter what color someone is or how they look, we are all people and have feelings. My daughter once asked my hubby & I why she was tan and Daddy & Mommy were different colors.  I told her everyone is like a different flavor of ice-cream.  Some have nuts or jimmies, and sometimes you get an unexpected chocolate chip in the plain, but that’s what makes it awesome!  When she sees someone different from her and has questions, I encourage her to talk to them and remind her of the ice cream scenario. ” Via Parents Magazine’s Facebook page in response to my article, “It’s Okay to Stare” in Parents, when giving advice to her own daughter when people stared at her different skin color.
  • Megyn Kelly: Kelly is part of a new generation of TV anchors that have juggled their careers and family life in a way that their female predecessors did not.  As recognized in a recent NY Times article: “Rather than hide their pregnancies, they flaunt them; rather than cover up their off-hours role as mothers, they turn it into part of their on-air persona.” Kelly is a Fox news anchor who was told in the past, “You’re going to need to choose: you can either have a family or you can be a major anchor.”
  • Matthew Sapolin: Sapolin was the captain of his high school wrestling team in Islip, N.Y., the town where he was born. He went on to be co-captain of the wrestling team at New York University and was profiled in Sports Illustrated when he had the Division III nationals within reach, competing against sighted wrestlers.   Sapolin went on to become New York City’s inaugural Commissioner of the Mayor’s Office for People With Disabilities.   An early bout with cancer at age five left Sapolin blind for the remainder of his life, but it did not hinder him. Many who knew him explain that Sapolin’s blindness did not narrow his life — “He was informed by it.” I had the privilege of meeting Matthew Sapolin recently, and he was a great supporter of my Don’t Hide it, Flaunt It message.  Matthew passed away from cancer on Tuesday, November 29, 2011 at the age of 41.
  • Nick Newell: “It’s more of a message I’d like to send, that if you have a goal, go out and do it. Try it, whether it’s fighting or something else. Whether you want to be the best at your job, or at sports,  just do your best. Give it everything you have. Winning is very important to me, but at the end of the day, even if I lose, as long as I know I gave it everything I had, there’s no shame in that.” Nick is a professional American mixed martial artist.  He is well known for being an one-armed fighter, with his left arm ending just after the elbow.  Nick describes his early MMA career as a struggle, not because he could not win (he is currently undefeated), but because other fighters did not want to fight a one armed fighter.
  • Jyoti Amge: An eighteen-year-old Indian student measuring just 62.8 centimeters (less than 2ft, one inch), Amge was confirmed in 2011 as the world’s shortest living woman, according to the Guinness Book of World Records.  Amge’s goal in life?  She has expressed hopes of becoming a Bollywood actress and loves that her height will set her apart from the other hopeful actors.   Amge, who has a form of dwarfism called achondroplasia, is a high school student and just finished her final exams.
  • JR Martinez: Iraqi War veteran turned actor who won 1st place in ABC’s “Dancing with the Stars” in the Fall of 2011.  “What really made me sign-on to the show was the fact that I wanted to step outside of my comfort zone. That’s how we grow and continue learning; that’s how we create those memories that we’ll never forget.”  In 2003, JR was badly injured when his truck ran over a landmine leaving him with burns on over 40 percent of his body. In addition, due to the explosion JR lost most of the hair on his head and one of his ears.

Today, as we close the chapter on 2011, I celebrate these beautiful and courageous people, and look forward to seeing who else may turn up on my list for 2012.

Happy New Year!

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11 Responses to “Don’t Hide It, Flaunt It”

  1. Kris BurbankJanuary 6, 2012 at 12:58 pm #

    Kudos to you for shining a spotlight on why differences make the world go round. I am the mom of a delightful and fabulous 15 year old son born with severe cerebral palsy. He continues to teach me and the rest of our family so much, and I\’m so glad a friend pointed me to your blog. Thanks for what you\’re doing.

    My blog is: http://www.accessibilityanswers.com

    We need to support each other and our kids and shine the spotlight even further!

  2. PamJanuary 5, 2012 at 2:22 am #

    Hi Meg,
    I just want you to know that 5 days later, this wonderful post is still swimming deliciously in my head. I agree with Karen that you will be required reading – and I’ll add that your writing will be the assignment that everyone enjoys -and remembers!
    Thank you for your BOFFO insights and writing!
    Pam

  3. Tina HousleyJanuary 5, 2012 at 1:22 am #

    Hi Meg,
    I saw your show today on tv and i wanted to say Thank you. I to have the same birth defect that you have. I have 6 kids.. 3 nautral and out of them 3 two of my kids have the defect. One is a girl and one is a boy. My daughter has two children. Her daughter Madison has it and my daughter just gave birth to a son and he has it. My son Cody was the first boy in my family to have this. My mom, grandmother and one aunt also have it. I have two sisters who also have it. And they both have kids who have this. For the longest time i thought we were the only ones in the world who had this defect. Until i was watching the news in San Diego, and there was a news caster named Bre Walker. Then i felt relieved that i wasnt alone. I have always taught my kids that no matter what you can do anything you put your mind to. They work, drive, type on the computer( faster then anyone i know ). Well i just wanted to let you know that we are out here… Thank you again
    Tina Housley

  4. Sylvia BroyhillJanuary 4, 2012 at 7:22 pm #

    Hi Meg, It’s about time that someone like yourself opens up about the beauty of being different. I came to the realization many years ago that I too was special because God used me as an example to teach others about what life is all about. Until I realized this, I used to feel ashamed and sad about my disability. Now I feel proud and feel that my mission is as unique as yours. I have to honestly say that once I had figured out that I had a purpose, I became empowered to do anything. My teen years were my worst but now that i look back even if you were “normal” teen years are a struggle. I would like to propose that we reach out not only to young kids, but to middle schools and high schools on embracing people that are different. I came to another realization about five years ago when I was preparing for my final design presentation. I was thinking about concepts in my design and came up with a statement “The most beautiful things in life are those that are imperfect, it is through life’s imperfections that we can see God’s true beauty” What I started noticing was that the most beautiful things that are readily apparent to us like a rose or a rainbow do not last. Nature is a asymmetrical, beauty in nature comes in odd numbers, like the points on a star, flower petals, fibonacci sequence, etc.. If you look at things with variations of color and shapes they seem interesting compared to things that are solid in color. So if you look around us, real beauty is in all of us that are different.

    You and I have embraced our uniqueness, let’s use it to our fullest potential to teach others that only through challenges and struggles we learn about life. I tell my kids each day if something comes easy to you throw it away because it will not last. If something is hard embrace it, face it head on and you will learn and grow from it.

    Thank you for starting your blog, the things you felt were some of the same things i felt growing up, like the prosthesis, the wedding dress, the halloween dress with long sleeves etc. These were the same feelings I had. I too married an amazing man, God brought him to me to give me confidence about myself and being accepted. You are special because you are there as a messenger for your boys as they go through life stronger and better prepared to face the world.

  5. Lisa CarpenterJanuary 4, 2012 at 3:50 pm #

    Hi Meg,
    Great article in Parenting Magazine and love your blog. I work with a non profit which provides a summer camp for children with limb differences. You are a real inspiration! I would love to post your website on our resource list. Please visit our camp website and let me know if it would be ok to add the link. We would also love for you to visit our camp. http://www.adventureamputeecamp.org

  6. Karen RosenbergJanuary 3, 2012 at 9:43 pm #

    I think that within the next 10 years (and I hope it is a lot sooner!) you will be required reading for all education and childcare professionals, new moms, and hopefully school-age kids. Everyone has some part of them that they perceive as “not normal”, and I wish that we all could learn to celebrate what makes us different and special, rather than wish we were just like everybody else. As a psychologist and a mom, I love your blog and your message!

  7. Melissa SchneiderJanuary 2, 2012 at 1:14 am #

    Hi Meg,
    My name is Melissa Schneider. I just finished looking at the Parent’s Magazine article of yours. First the title of the article caught my eye. It is amazing how very rarely there are differences seen in the magazines. I was looking at your picture thinking what could be wrong. Then I started your article and something inside of me felt a sense of relief. I was 35 when I conceived, with fertility help, my twins. At week 17, during a high risk pregnancy ultrasound, the gynecologists couldn’t find the ulna bone in either arm of my one daughter. I panicked, was scared and couldn’t believe this could be happening to me. We went to The Ohio State University, which specialized in high tech ultrasounds to see if this was an error. It wasn’t an error and where was I going to go from here? We had many tests done to rule out other syndromes such as TARS, Chromosome 10, Cornelius Delange, etc. Everything came back ok. My daughter, Addison, was born with what is called bilateral ulnar dysplasia. A very rare syndrome not genetic or hereditary and happens to 1 in 450,000. I felt very alone. Her arms are shorter, she has two fingers on each hand, one which is fused together and they don’t know if they will be able to separate them or not. She uses it like a hook. And she has no elbows. The twins are 27 months. Alexis was bore with no deformity. I cannot even begin to tell how much she has changed our lives. She does everything else a typical 27 month does except feeding herself with a spoon. It used to bother me when people would stare. I would get angry and want to say things to them. Now I want Addison to show herself off. She has the best personality, most beautiful long blonde hair, and is as cute as a button. We don’t even notice the disability as our parents and friends don’t either. It is Addison and she is so remarkable. I think my biggest worry for her, since I am an educator/guidance counselor at a middle school, is I see the cruelty among students. But I am strong and adamant of making both of my girls very strong both emotionally and physically to deal with any situation.
    During one of my guidance lessons in third grade, I showed two pictures of each of my girls. One was just a head shot and the other was a full body shot. First we talked about both girls, head shot only, and I asked them what difference they saw between the two girls. Then I showed them the full body shot and asked the same question. Very few of the kids noticed my daughter’s arms until I told them to look more carefully. Then the shock came over their faces, but suprisingly no cruel comments. I ended the lesson with this question. How many of you can walk, run, hold a pencil, color, talk, crawl, cry, laugh, feed yourself, jump? When they all answered they could, I said…SO CAN ADDISON. So is she really all that different from you? They all responded NO!
    Addison is treated just like Alexis. We push her and don’t baby her. She is capable of doing anything. We do have some relative that live further away, and when they visit I will hear them say, “Oh poor Addi, things have to be so hard for her.” “How can I help her learn how to do this or that?” “Oh let me help her.” NO! I get really frustrated because we don’t see it as poor Addi. She is very independent and she has the most contagious laugh. She is the happiest and bubbliest little girls even and so many people say they just wish they could take her home with them. I wouldn’t trade either of my girls for anything.
    I absolutely love your top 10 reasons to have two figures. Of course #1 is one we already thought of and is the best. But it is so true how people think the little things Addi does are so remarkable. I can see people looking at her, so amazed.
    Thanks again for publishing a very inspiring article. I think more need to be published so people who think they are alone, see they are not. And those new parents that need some encouragement have somewhere to turn. Because in all reality, everyone is different in some way as you stated. Some are just more visible.

  8. Jean GoldmanJanuary 1, 2012 at 1:10 pm #

    I agee and love all your individuals comments who learned not to hide , rather flaunt. Oscar Pistorius “Abled by the abilities you have”. As a mother of Autistic child, He may not be able to speak, but he can Ice skate, swim and use use Ipad like a super star!! Love ya Meg – keep up the great work.

  9. LeslieDecember 31, 2011 at 12:21 am #

    Another great post!

  10. MaggieDecember 31, 2011 at 12:00 am #

    YOU are at the top of my list! Happy New Year!

  11. Mat ZuckerDecember 30, 2011 at 11:16 pm #

    Great examples of great people