What This Selfie Doesn't Show About My Life With Cerebral Palsy
I’m a Summa Cum Laude graduate with a Bachelor’s degree in psychology, a former student leader, a respite care worker, a mental health and disability advocate, and a published writer, but one of my proudest accomplishments in life is… taking a selfie.
No, your eyes do not deceive you. While most other 22-year-olds are celebrating graduations and new beginnings in advanced degree programs or in the workforce, I’m celebrating participating in a hallmark of “self-absorbed, social media-obsessed” millennial culture.
A picture may be worth a thousand words, but a seemingly simple selfie virtually never reveals the complex truth concealed behind it.
I have lived with mild hemiplegia cerebral palsy since birth. Essentially, the muscles on the left side of my body are significantly tighter and weaker than those on my right side. Consequently, I perform tasks many people complete with both hands exclusively right-handed. Simultaneously holding and angling a phone and reaching over to press a button to take a selfie with my left hand is nearly impossible.
I recently discovered that in the search for self-love and peace with my body and my physical abilities, I have been settling for comfort over physical functionality. In viewing my body through a lens of love and acceptance, I was inadvertently losing the will to foster growth, to push my body to accomplish the impossible. Embracing my body exactly as it is, tight muscles and all, meant accepting an artificial limit on my physical prowess. I was forcing myself to plateau in the name of self-love.
As a millennial woman who is constantly inundated with an unending stream of perfectly-posed selfies, I longed to be one of those girls who could snap a cute selfie with either hand — despite my cerebral palsy. However, I convinced myself that any attempt to take a selfie exclusively with my left hand would either result in a broken phone or a broken spirit, so I carried on with the hackneyed routine of extending my right arm to the perfect angle to take a flawless selfie.
One night, with pin-straight hair, razor-sharp eyeliner, and clad in a cozy, oversized sweater, I felt restless. Adventurous. I wanted to try something different, something that would push me in a way I had never dreamed possible. Despite being caught in the throes of reoccurring body image issues, I was feeling my look, and I wanted to document it.
I immediately knew the perfect way to challenge myself. With my left hand, I grabbed my phone and began angling it to take a selfie. Slowly, gingerly, I reached toward the shutter button, trying my hardest to simultaneously keep a firm grasp on the phone and prevent my slightly shaky left hand from wobbling it and, in the process, blurring the picture.
I pressed the button. The distinctive “snap” of the shutter filled my ears as I discovered that miraculously, the photo was clear, and my phone remained in my affected hand — not shattered on the floor of my bedroom. I smiled wider as I realized that I had stopped settling for “good enough” physical capability and had begun reaching towards growth.
Snap. Snap. Snap.
Over and over, I pressed that button, relishing the unquellable surge of pride I felt in my body for accomplishing something I never believed I could. After a lengthy series of critiques, I finally took a selfie I deemed Insta-worthy, and, like a stereotypical millennial, immortalized my left-handed selfie-taking success on social media.
It isn’t the most flattering selfie I’ve ever taken, the prettiest, or the most perfect. On the surface, there’s nothing particularly special about it. But it’s more than just a selfie; it’s a symbol of growth, of achievement, of rising to meet challenges, of refusing to plateau. It’s physical proof that self-love does not equate to settling for “good enough.” It’s a representation of joy in its purest form — experiencing the pride in pushing the body to its limits to make the impossible possible.
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Photo by contributor.