As a member of many ABS (amniotic band syndrome) support groups, I see the question a lot about whether or not you should be explaining your differences to strangers, or saying something before they ask. Or what if they don’t feel like they can ask you about it…. or what if things are awkward. My best answer to this is to just be yourself!
In my twenties I tried my hardest to never wear shorts or open shoes so that people would see my prosthesis. I wanted all the padding and skins to cover it so that I looked normal. But I’ve since learned to accept that normal for me means a prosthesis.. It means odd looks and curious questions sometimes. But, it also means I’ve been blessed with the opportunity to spread the word about ABS and join support groups to help others struggling with some of the things I’ve already been through.
The biggest hurdle to confidence I’ve found is over thinking things. I wear shorts out and about with sandals and have found if I just be myself, go about my day, rather than being weirded out by my situation, many are impressed with my abilities. Don’t stress yourself out about whether or not you should bring your difference up. Do what you do. If someone asks then feel free to answer or talk about it, but only if you want to. Don’t go psyching yourself out and adding anxiety about when or if to say something. Just letting the conversation happen naturally. There’s not really ever a perfect time to say “Oh by the way… my leg..”
I think of myself just as someone of a different race, different hair color, different height, weight or whatever. We’re all born different. Just because my “normal” is different from someone else’s normal, I don’t have to go out of my way to explain myself or make myself acceptable to anyone else. Granted, I am an advocate for being open and sharing the truth about ABS (or any other issue you have had), but I know that doesn’t always work for everyone. If you don’t yet feel comfortable with explaining yourself if the questions do happen to start, don’t feel like you HAVE to.
Most of the time I welcome folks asking me questions and getting the opportunity to explain my differences as it tends to help with the odd stares and awkward moments. My differences are what make me me. Anyone who knows me knows they can always ask. But there are days I just don’t feel like playing 50 questions. On those days keep it simple. I’ll often say my leg didn’t develop fully before I was born so now I walk with a prosthesis. That will usually cover about any question someone will ask. Occasionally more will come up but just keep it simple. Although I usually /LIKE/ to volunteer information, I never feel like I /HAVE/ to. I don’t /OWE/ anyone an explanation of why my fingers are missing digits and webbed or why I walk on something that looks like a pirate leg when it’s not Halloween.
The more comfortable you are and act in your body, the more comfortable people will be to ask you things and the less awkward these times will seem. You don’t have to treat yourself any differently than the next person. It only causes undue anxiety and stress. Don’t make yourself out to to be anything other than a normal person and others will see you as such. Sometimes family or friends will forget I even have a prosthetic limb and something I’ll do (like adjust my leg) will have them looking at me strange and then saying, “Oh yeah, I forgot about your leg!” Family and friends love you for you. Don’t let insecurities stir up undue anxiety. Be yourself and you’ll be loved for the wonderful person you are.