Often I feel as though I get so caught up in the flow of life that what is most important gets put on hold. Moments flee by, and I barely have a second to react. But then something stops me in my tracks. One particular incident ignites a spark, opens my heart and reminds me who I am and why I’m here. Lately, society has been testing me; difficult situations bringing clarity as to why my presence on this earth is so important. My physical body — what sets me apart from everyone else — is a gift and also the essence of my message. Paired with an intermittent yet unwavering ability to stand up for myself and desire to spread the message that Different Is Beautiful, my heart and soul break open, wanting to be heard. That is what recently prompted this open letter to society.
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Why has different become so intolerable in your eyes? Are you aware that your fierce tendencies of singling out individuals with any disparity, whether physical, emotional or spiritual, are cause of hurt? As a child, I was always told our world would become an incredibly boring place if we were all the same, and I still believe that to be true.
Often times you insist you’re accepting of anyone and everyone, but are you really? Through my eyes, I see standards set for everything — an endless set of obtuse guidelines outlining how one can be viewed as desirable, attractive and valid. In adhering to them, people allow these criteria and rules to not only define who they are but also dictate how they live their lives.
Why? Because everything has the potential to be perfect? Perfect, meaning we would all be the same. Skinny but not anorexic. Tall but not a giant. Wealthy but not obnoxious. Lovers but only with those of the opposite sex. That’s not perfection but deficiency — people unable to be who they are for fear of judgment, rejection and abandonment.
The word “perfect” is ambiguous, with everyone’s idea of perfection varying. My body certainly isn’t perfect. It doesn’t even come close to adhering to any definitive standard. You see, I was born different. I have achondroplasia, the most common form of dwarfism. Compared to the average woman my age, I’m short. My arms and legs are slightly disproportionate to the rest of my body and according to most, this defines me and often times can merit specific labels I find offensive.
This idea of perfection is a smokescreen clouding everything that makes me unique — my accomplishments, my dreams, my story, all of which also make me a beautiful human being. No one else in this world has walked in my shoes. When you think about the enormous complexity of such a phenomenon — that everyone has their own inimitable story – that alone is beautiful.
This criterion we call perfection is ever-changing. Physically, I will never fall under such a namesake. My body is the way it is. Period. As an emotional and spiritual woman, I choose to look beyond the physicalities and do what lights me up — not what makes the majority happy. Besides, there is no one way to achieve beauty. Something better will always emerge: lifestyles, clothing, procedures, opinions.
I’m fully aware that I cannot prevent these ideas of perfection from evolving. They will always be present. But, society, your casting a negative light on any person who’s different and expressing it as repulsive, is hurtful.
When I was a child, while everyone my age was learning to tie their shoes, ride a bicycle and say their ABC’s, I was learning that there was always going to be that person who was going to discount me because of my height. That time I went home crying because a classmate made others laugh at my expense was not going to be the last. People, even strangers, were going to force the phrase, “You can’t,” into my vocabulary because my adapted way of doing something was incorrect.
These judgments became evidence to support your theory that I will never be good enough. My short stature, according to you, always warranting name calling, laughing, pointing and staring. Why? Simply because I look different.
At first, I was angry and sad, slowly allowing such harsh attitudes and judgments to stifle my light. But in realizing that dimming my happiness was allowing you, society, to win, I said, “Hell, no.” That extra weight on my shoulders was not going to slow me down. If anything, it’s fueled my fire, causing my light to burn brighter. As a result, I’ve been gifted a softer heart. My reaction to this derision is not one of retaliation but sadness — for you and your ignorance.
More than anything, I wish to open your eyes and convince you to change your perspective. What if you began to see that anything different makes everything beautiful? What if we all stopped with the judgment and replaced it with love? Let’s erase these standards of perfection and embrace who we are inside and out.
Take the time and look a little closer before you are too quick to judge. In doing so, when you look at me, you would see that despite my different-ability, I’m a radiant, passionate, loving human being. As a woman living with short stature, I refuse to identify myself as anyone other than Kristen. A little person. An ambassador of love. A passionista and a dreamer. Lover of laughter, dance parties and hugs. Unafraid to show my sassy side. My personality making up for what I lack in inches. A woman determined to change how you view different, because different is beautiful. I see love and kindness like glitter, and I’m going to continue sprinkling that sh!t everywhere.
My belief is that those of us living with a handicap (or different-ability, as I prefer to call it) are put on this earth to make things exciting and spread the message of no separation. Although viewed as different, we are messengers of perseverance, tolerance, compassion and love. We deserve to be respected, we deserve to be heard and we deserve to be loved. Anyone’s differences should never warrant ridicule or discrimination of any kind.
Strength comes in numbers, you know. Poet Ryunosuke Satoro said it best: “Individually, we are one drop. Together, we are an ocean.” Collectively, with more radical acceptance and kindness, we can do anything. Where there is distance, there is resistance, fear, sadness and anger. Perhaps you can drop the judgment and your seeing anyone not abiding to your paradigm as unworthy of love and respect.
Society, I encourage you to choose love. Have a more compassionate view of the human condition as a way to welcome what is rightfully so: we’re all different. Recognize these differences as bright splashes of color on what would be a lackluster canvas. Be open to beauty of all kinds. Think of it as a celebration. This life, the only one we are given, it goes by quickly. The more we focus on our visions; what makes our heart sing and puts our mind at ease, the more we erase hatred and unite into love.
Stop judging and start loving. Perfectly imperfect is in. Authenticity cannot be bought. When you peel away the superficial, outside layers, we all experience pain, have dreams, know joy; inside, we are one. You can love different just as you love yourself, no matter what. After all, love knows no barriers and Different Is Beautiful.
With Love and Gratitude,
This post originally appeared on Little Legs, Big Heart.