Disability and body image are intrinsically linked, thanks to a world where societal norms often dictate the standard of beauty. It means that individuals with disabilities face unique challenges in navigating their sense of self and encounter obstacles that extend beyond the physical implications of disability and serious injury.
The psychological and mental impacts on body image can be profound but our society is making positive movements towards inclusivity and visibility for disabled bodies. This article will explore the intricacies of body image in the context of disability and discuss the new empowering options available to cultivate a culture of confidence and self-acceptance.
Living with a disability or coping with the aftermath of a serious injury can take its toll on your mental health. Individuals may grapple with a sense of loss and mourn the perceived ‘normal’ body they once had, alongside the absence of freedom and independence.
This grieving period is not limited to sorrow but can elicit other emotions such as fear, rage, anxiety and feelings of alienation. The resulting psychological struggle can lead to the development of mental health disorders such as depression and body dysmorphia.
Following traumatic experiences or a lifetime of difficulty, it is not always possible to address the mental impact that a disability can have on body image on your own. Professional therapy, whether through counselling or therapeutic interventions, is a crucial resource in addressing complex self-esteem issues.
Therapists can help navigate complex emotions that contribute to poor body image, build resilience and cultivate a positive relationship between mind and body. This will contribute to replacing negative thinking patterns that lead to poor body image with more positive, realistic thoughts.
Building a supportive community to empower those with disabilities is key to embracing their bodies. Support can also be provided in financial and legal terms. For example, encouraging someone going through an amputation injury claim can help them on the road to regaining confidence and feeling comfortable with their body.
The fashion industry is making strides when it comes to barrier-free clothing that is suitable for disabled people. Due to mass production and standard-sized models, there has been little to no consideration of the different perspectives and needs of consumers. Adaptive fashion is pivotal in reshaping how individuals perceive themselves and is the future of making the sector more inclusive.
Thanks to the efforts of iconic disabled models such as Jullian Mercado and Ella Goldstein, the fashion world is gradually moving away from its prevalent ablism. It allows those with a disability to feel visible in the industry and foster empowerment.
From easily adjustable pieces to stylish garments that accommodate mobility aids, adaptive fashion provides both functionality and personal style. This brings inclusivity to people who were previously unrepresented in mainstream fashion and contributes positively to body confidence.
The Role of Cosmesis
Cosmesis is the art of imitating or restoring the natural appearance of a body part using prostheses and cosmetic enhancements. This provides another avenue for individuals seeking to feel more comfortable in their skin and enhance their body image.
Currently, in England, 45,000 people rely on prosthetic limbs and these innovations have been instrumental in restoring as much function as possible to the original limb.
Such plastic and reconstructive surgery aims to improve both the function and appearance of the body. Recent studies show that cosmetic procedures produce psychological positive benefits and can boost self-esteem.
There are however concerns emerging about the rising popularity of cosmetic surgery to correct disabilities and reduce body dissatisfaction. Individuals may have unrealistic expectations about the results of the surgery or underlying mental health conditions could be exacerbated by the procedure.