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  • Writer's pictureCristina Waldner

Stripping Down: embracing your uniqueness

Me looking out at the water

Who are you?

You’ll probably be asked this question a million times in your life, in a variety of ways. Whether it’s personality quizzes on Facebook, projects at school, or People questionnaires about your favorite TV show characters, we’ve all tried to pinpoint who we are and who we are not. (side note: I once took a quiz in Teen People called “Which Friends Character are You?” and I was Monica hands down. Obviously disappointed, I retook the quiz to be Rachel. I felt guilty though the entire time, proving that I am indeed Monica Geller!). These quizzes hold an endless fascination for us because they help us form a cohesive identity that we long for. Once we find our footing, it seems easier to navigate our way around. We need to feel like we “make sense,” that our identity “adds up.”

That we belong.

The concept of belonging is tricky though, because sometimes the desire to fit in can trump who we actually are. Oftentimes, we try to cover up our individuality, our uniqueness, our quirkiness to be like everyone else. But at the same time, we want to stand out. Be our own person. Be independent, self sufficient, and confident. Identity is therefore just as much about individuality as finding out where you belong.


Now, this isn’t just about our personalities either. Our appearance is just as much a battleground for identity issues as character traits, and even more so because it’s so visual. We use fashion, makeup, and what’s “in” to cover up our flaws, our weaknesses.

Don’t get me wrong, though. I love fashion and beauty and being interested in style does not make you superficial. The problem with being obsessed with beauty and appearance comes when people start to dislike themselves and try to fit in with the majority.

However, in the last decade or so there has been a slow but steady shift. Haven’t you noticed it? Instead of people being laser-focused on themselves and their #firstworldproblems, we are trying to make a conscious effort to drop our personas and show the world who we really are.

Live an authentic life. Come as you are. Be genuine. Get real. Really.

People are ready for a change. We are ready to accept people in all sorts of shapes and sizes. Each one of us can learn from one another even though our list of characteristics may be different.

So…let’s try the following list of descriptors and try to keep an open mind:

Female. Brunette. Milk chocolate eyes. Olive skin tone. Hundreds of beauty marks. Lazy eye. Crooked smile. Overbite. Five pins in hips. Steel rod in back. Six surgical incisions, ranging from half an inch to over a foot. Protruding bones and abdomen. Curved spine. Turned-in wrists and fingers. Garbled voice. Organized. Introvert. Motivated. Stubborn. Bookish. Christian. A realist verging on a pessimist. Muscular Dystrophy – Spinal Muscular Atrophy Type II. Chocoholic. Teaholic.

I’m guessing this list is a little unusual, a lot unrelatable, and maybe even scary for you.

Well, this is me, down to the last birth mark and surgical scar. While these phrases are obviously only a snapshot of who I am, they encompass the dichotomous themes of my life. Physical vs. Spiritual. Normal vs. Abnormal. Hope vs. Fear. Scarred vs. Whole.

As I begin this blog, I am apprehensive about shedding the layers and walls I have built up around me to appear "normal." Even the picture I chose for this post is unusual for me, since I don't really like to show the mechanics of the wheelchair. This picture—well, this entire bog, actually— represents stepping (or driving) out of my comfort zone to be a more open, confident person.

I invite you all to come along with me on my journey towards authenticity. I would love to get to know you as well, so don't be afraid to contact me with questions, comments, or sharing your own story.

Whew! First blog post... check!

Until next time!

- Crissi xo


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