Opinion Piece by Bonnie Millen
Everybody loves a confident, bold and resilient person, don’t they? Those types of people who can battle life’s crap with a swat of a hand, grinning as they do it. They are also the type of person who appears, to everybody else, to have success, money, holidays, friendships and the best jobs handed to them on a silver platter. It is what we, as girls and young women, see when we look at the appearance of confidence beaming from somebody else – particularly when they have a disability like us. How do they do it? It takes a lot to appear confident and resilient, particularly when we have a disability that sets us apart in appearance, body image or our rights to exist in society in general.
Confidence is being comfortable with who you are – as a person and a member of society. Being comfortable with who you are doesn’t necessarily mean that you are bold enough to visit the mail box in the nude, but more so just accepting that your disability does not define YOU. Society is beginning to embrace diversity and the changing of views on disability. You are showing yourself to be gutsy, fearless and willing to call out any discriminations or injustices.
Think about where you most feel confident – is it in school or university? Is it at work? Is it during a hobby group that you most enjoy? What makes YOU happiest? Another great aspect to having confidence is being willing to laugh at yourself and your imperfections – that is laughing at YOU. It shows to others, that you are comfortable in finding things that are funny and unique that you experience every day. The harsh reality of living with a disability is that it’s never going to go away. So use your confidence to show others that you have many skills and abilities, and your disability does not define who you are.
That said, confidence doesn’t come easy. For some girls and women, it can take years to kick into gear, and for some, confidence may not be something they ever experience. Something like a compliment, for example, ‘I love your hair!’ or ‘your outfit looks awesome’, can often be the boost that some girls and women need. However, the best confidence comes when we can recognise the positive skills, abilities, and traits within ourselves.
Resilience is often referred to navigating through the crappiest parts of life and coming out through the end, the Light of Positivity beaming straight in your face. With a disability we have no doubt experienced a wealth of bullying, discrimination and shaming – just for being different. We become resilient through our past experiences that have shaped us to be the girls and young women that we are today. See something that you like about YOU or others, and own it as part of your confidence. Feel happy and bold when wearing those bright, spotty tights? Wear them! Want to wear your hair in 100 mini-pigtails? Why not!? Love a subject at school, or your job? Own it, baby!
Bonnie is an enthusiastic and hardworking advocate for people with disabilities. She lives in Adelaide. In 2014, Bonnie was selected, along with seven other young Australians with disabilities, to be a Youth DPO Delegate at the 7th Session of the Conference of States Parties (COSP) on the CRPD at the United Nations in New York. Bonnie is currently Secretary of the Board of People with Disability Australia (PWDA) and a proud member of WWDA, as a member and part of the Management Committee. Bonnie is passionate about changing public perspections on women with disabilities, improving confidence of others and making social justice. In her spare time, Bonnie enjoys being an avid foodie, loves her wine, reading heavy books and comedy.