Embracing Vulnerability: Journeying Toward Self-Acceptance

Blue background with a photo of Laura as a toddler wearing a greenish dress and little white shoes and an expression of joy and wonder on her face. Pink text that says "taking charge of my story" and the "on the other hand therapy I have a thumb" logo and @ontheotherhandtherapy
Pink background with a photo of Laura in hiking attire while standing next to a rock formation at Cantwell Cliffs at Hocking Hills State Park in Ohio. Blue text that says "no more hiding my hand in photos" and the "on the other hand therapy I have a thumb" logo and @ontheotherhandtherapy"

Recently I went on a retreat with ten women, seven of whom I had never met before. 

On the first night, I decided to take a risk. When I introduced myself, I talked about my past struggles to feel a sense of belonging in spaces where I’m the only person with a visible physical difference/disability. I was born with a thumb, a palm, and four nubbins in place of fingers on my left hand.

I shared how as a child I always wished that people could meet me without knowing about my hand first so they wouldn’t judge me, make assumptions about what I can or can’t do, or ask invasive questions. 

This is why I often hid my hand in my pocket when I was with new people – until just a few years ago. 

Did I need to share about all this at the retreat? Definitely not! But in doing so, I got to:

  • take charge of my story in a way that I never could as a child
  • preempt questions about my hand 
  • verbalize my desire to be seen for both my strengths and struggles – neither as an “inspiring superhero” nor as “broken”
  • notify the other participants that I might ask for help with things like opening jars or moving heavy things that require the use of two full hands.

I was worried I overshared, but then several participants told me that:

  • talking about my struggles so openly modeled honesty to others and created a trusting group dynamic 
  • they felt surprised hearing about my hand because they hadn’t yet noticed it
  • they saw me as confident and comfortable in my body

I was able to drop my usual sense of vigilance that people would ask about my hand. Instead, I got to relax and enjoy myself and my time there. I didn’t expect to find all of this so freeing! 

I think my younger self would have felt cared for and wouldn’t have imagined ever feeling comfortable showing my hand so openly (and in photos!). What a gift to be able to give myself!

Seeing others show and share about their limb differences on social media has empowered and strengthened me. Thank you to everyone who is helping to change lives one post at a time.

© 2024. Laura Faye Clubok, MS, OTR/L, On The Other Hand Therapy

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