It was on a 20 week ultrasound when my mum and dad found out their baby girl would be different. Born missing her left arm. My mum began to struggle and my dad said don't worry she will be okay. My mum began to ask where will she wear her wedding ring? Or how will she put up her hair? My mum did as much research as she could and my dad would have piles of papers to read before he went to work in the morning. Soon my mum found a support center online for other families who were going through the same situation. My mum was able to find another mum named Teresa who was also having a baby girl born with one arm. Teresa had her daughter Paige six months before my mum had me and Teresa was able to give my mum support through the rest of her pregnancy. When I was born I waved my little arm to my mum and she knew I would be just fine.
As a child I often forgot that I was different from those around me. I could do everything others with two arms could do and no one at school ever bullied me for it. My parents always told me that it was the way God made me and he has a plan and purpose for my life. However, at the age of 8 was the first time I asked the question why me? I would watch my friends climb on the monkey bars at school, jump rope at recess, and put up their hair into ponytails. These were a few things I had yet to figure out and it frustrated me. I would try to tell my friends my feeling but it felt as if no one could relate. As a child I got a prosthetic at a very young age and I used it occasionally but it was more of a nuisance than a help to me. It was uncomfortable and heavy, and I loved my little arm. Through growing up my mum and Teresa lost touch and when I would go home from school I would tell my mom we need to find Paige! I need someone who can understand what I am going through. Somehow when I was 8 years old we found Paige and I was able to talk with her each day over email and later we began to use Skype. Soon became best friends. We were able to support each other and talk about the one thing only we could understand. As I grew up I learned how to do many things, I tied my shoes at the age of 5 and I never struggled with much. If there was something I couldn't do, my parents would say keep trying and you'll figure it out. I think it really helped me growing up that my parents didn't treat me like I was missing my left arm. They treated me like a regular kid. They never babied me or did things for me. They let me figure it out on my own and if I frustrated they always supported me. I later figured out how to put up my hair and more and I found that it just takes lots of time and practice, it takes determination.
I often get asked how I became confident in myself? I have three big answers to this question. My faith: The largest aspect that has led to my confidence is my faith. I have been raised in a Christian home by my parents. My mom is very strong in her walk with God as well as my father. Since I was little I have grown in my spiritual walk each and every day. I can remember a piece of advice my Parents told me that I will never forget. They always told me that God has created each and everyone different in their own special way and mine is just more obvious than others, but God decided to give me one arm not to be hurtful, but because of the plan he has for my life. I truly believe these words. I know that God has a plan and purpose for my life and each and every day I try my best to follow it. Since I was a child the bible verse that has stick with me and continued to push me in every aspect of my life is Philippians 4:13: "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." In times of doubt and questioning of having one arm, I went to God. No matter if the breakdown was in my room, car, or school; God was always there next to me helping me through all moments letting me know that everything works out in the end and he will protect me. My parents: I believe my parents play a large part In my confidence as well. They raised me to know that I was made in God's image and beautiful as I am. That I never need to change who I am. They pushed me to be the strongest I could be. My dad pushed me in everything I did, no matter if it was school or sports, he also never allowed me to give up on anything. When I was little I thought I couldn't tie my shoes, but he then said never say you can't do something you just have to figure it out. He soon found a way to teach me to tie my shoe with one hand and he learned too! When I was 8 I wanted to learn how to put up my hair, my dad thought of a way for that too, as well as riding my bike, and hammering a nail into a piece of wood. No matter how much I cried or how much I wanted to give up, my dad never let me. This made me strong, a fighter, and a leader. My mom was always the sensitive one, the one to comfort me when I cried and let me know that I could do it, my biggest cheerleader. They taught me to be proud of who I am and turn what could have been a negative situation into a very positive one. They taught me that I was truly "ImperfectlyPerfect". Self-Worth: Today so many of us struggle with self-worth. In today's society we are expected to look a certain way. Act a certain way, but all that is false. Everyone has days when they just don't feel good about themselves. We are humans and it's okay to have those days. Perfect is the harshest word you can think of to punish yourself for daring to look the way you do. We use “perfect” like a weapon. For eating too much or too little, overexercising or not exercising at all. Not looking the same as our sisters or mothers or best friends or the endlessly flawless women on Instagram. Our culture thrives off of telling people they are not good enough. It's wrong, Because in spite of all the sweet, inspirational videos, Instagram accounts and movements that continue happening, the word “perfect” continues to be used. So here is my advice: keep bringing positive thoughts and actions into your life. Go after what you want, on the day that you’re feeling your very worst, work that much harder at your job, on your relationships, on getting to a healthy place with your body, on achieving your goals and following your gut. Know that you are BEAUTIFUL. That perfect does not exist and all you need to be is yourself. But most importantly remember that you are not alone. Believe in yourself and your dreams.
I have a little saying / quote/ two words that mean the absolute world to me. It is ImperfectlyPerfect. To me personally it is not just a saying, it is something I live by and something I truly believe in. Our Society. I was born in the millennial generation, advancing technology is bursting each day, social media has become an everyday necessity to many individuals. I personally and proud to be part of this era. Although it makes me sick to think about what this has done to many individuals self-worth. As a generation we receive so much negativity because of selfies, but have you ever truly thought about how much courage it takes to post that simple photo? It takes 50 or more tries to get a "good" selfie, a good photo that people will not notice your flaws or insecurities, a little pimple pops up one day and in most minds, they automatically will not post a photo because of it. I am going to be brutally honest, It makes me so sad to think that we live in a society where a simple flaw can ruin our self-worth and esteem. We see the so called "perfect" person / celebrity on the cover of a magazine and the first thought in our mind is "I need to look like that" First: NO YOU DON'T You are BEAUTIFUL just as you are. Think about this for a second, God has created each person on this earth perfect in his eyes, he has shaped and formed us, knowing everything about us, every flaw, insecurity, and challenge we will face in life. He knows how many hairs are on our head, and he has a plan for every second of our lives. Psalm 139: 13-14 "You created my inmost being; You knit me together in my mother's womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made." My goal in ImperfectlyPerfect is not to push my beliefs on others, or to change an opinion. I simply want to make a positive impact on today's society and change the way that people view perfection. No one is perfect and most people do understand that, but ask yourself do I really? We go into the mall, look around and see beautiful people and all we can do is wish we looked like them, wish we had their eyes, skin color, legs, stomach, and body. STOP. I encourage each of to that every time a thought like this pops into your mind instead of wishing you were something else, remind yourself of something you love about yourself. We all have things we wish we could change, that is okay we are all human. Although know your worth, that you are strong, loved and absolutely stunning. Some peoples flaws are easier to see than others. It just depends how a person perceives that flaw. Most people stare as I walk places, yes I look different I am missing my left arm, and when I get asked what happened I simply reply with "That is the way God has created me." But people automatically say I am so sorry! Here is the thing I do not want you to be sorry, I love my little arm! To myself it is not a flaw, it is a blessing, something I wouldn't change for the world. If I got offered to have two hands for a second I would simply deny. I do not need or want to, that is not who I am. I believe God has created me with one arm for a reason and purpose. We must learn to accept our flaws and differences. Know you were created in the hands of God, each differently and perfect in his eyes. So to end I believe in ImperfectlyPerfect because know one is perfect except God alone and so we are all ImperfectlyPerfect.
Doing things Differently
Since a kid I always had gym class in school, I never thought about it much as a kid because I just ignored it and did what I could. In elementary when it came to jumping rope I was always told to skip it or just jump up and down to get the same affect. I can remember as a kid watching everyone else in class jump rope just fine. I often wondered to myself why it was harder for me and it was always a goal of mine to achieve this task. I tried my best as a kid to achieve it but I often got too frustrated and just told myself I would learn when I was older. In middle school gym class continued and they added push-ups. We would have competitions to see who could achieve the most push-ups. When it was time I can remember kids looking at me wondering if I could perform them. Some teachers told me to try my best and others told me to just skip them. When I performed my push-ups I was always lopsided and it was uncomfortable but I kept with it because I wanted to prove people wrong and show that I could do anything people with two arms could do. In high school push-ups and jump rope were still in gym class and one more challenge was added; pull-ups. For jump rope I was told to skip the task, push-ups just try my best or skip, and for pull-ups I was told to skip that as well. The thing that bothered me most was that I never learned how to achieve these tasks until I was 17 and someone said to me, "Sarah we are going to find a way for you to learn." Never let anyone or anything stop you from achieving things. Yes, you are going to face challenging situations and get frustrated with them; but I can promise you that if you keep your head up and keep trying your best to accomplish the task one day you will finally achieve it. It is going to take time and lots of practice but you will get there, and never lose sight or faith in yourself. Remember that you can do anything you put your mind to. Believe in yourself and your dreams. It took me seventeen years to learn how to jump rope, and do a pull up. You will get there just keep practicing. So remember anything is possible and never let anyone tell you differently. If someone tells you that you cannot do something, look them straight in the eye and say “watch me”. Believe in yourself.
Living with only One
Help is an interesting subject. As a person I often struggle with the idea of help. My parents raised me to figure things out on my own, whether it was opening a string cheese or riding my bike. I I continue to grow up I often see asking for help as a weakness to myself. As something that if I ask it will show that I cannot do it on my own and when I find something that I cannot achieve right away it breaks me. I have realized through my life that help is not shown as weakness, I am human and sometimes help is exactly what I need. I may need help putting up my hair, zipping my coat, etc. I can remember a time when the help of someone meant more to me than they would ever know. I was at Starbucks that day and I had ordered my usual coffee and a sandwich for dinner. With my shopping bags and purse on my left arm, my coffee in my right, there was no way I could hold a plate too. Although I did not want to ask for help, typical me. Thankfully the barista kindly asked if I needed help carrying and I said, “Yes if you could that would be amazing, Thank you!” This was something so simple but it made me want to cry because she did not have to help me but she saw I was contemplating on asking and she wanted to help. So I think it is good for me as well as others to realize that asking or needing help does not show weakness. It is perfectly okay to ask or need it, we are human. If you see someone who might need help don’t walk away, ask them if you could help and I promise that you are going to make their day complete. Accepting the Catastrophe · Oh the random breakdowns, these are something that happen every once in a blue moon. I believe everyone has them at certain times in their life. I call these random breakdowns through the looking glass. I will give you some personal examples… This summer I went to Chicago, while I was there it was an amazing day, but there came a point when I wanted to drop down on the sidewalk and begin to cry. In a big city there are tall glass buildings everywhere and no matter where you look you often see a reflection of yourself. That day I saw the reflection of myself in every glass window. I found peace in this experience. Although the reflection kept reminding me I was different it also reminded me of what I had overcome and of being strong. When I got home I broke down completely, but it was needed. I can remember a breakdown I once had thanks to a taco; yes a taco. I was holding my plate against my rib cage and my little arm on the opposite side, as I scooped the taco meat onto my taco somehow the plate fell to the ground and glass was EVERYWHERE. I stood there in shock of what to do, I did not mean to drop the plate. My dad automatically yelled, “Sarah Elizabeth why would you drop it?” The yelling sent me straight into a breakdown. It was not my dad’s fault he didn’t know any better and it was just his initial reaction to the situation. I went to my room balling because I had disappointed my father and dropped a plate. You are probably thinking no big deal it is just a plate; and while that is true it is also true that it was not just a plate to me. It showed me that I could not do something and that was when the crying began. To me it was the fact that I could not hold a plate properly like everyone else and do something so simple. I have had plenty of other breakdowns as well, my most recent happened at school. What I have learned from these is that it is okay to break down, these situations we go through have a purpose, and they make us stronger as people and prepare us for later in life. If you have a breakdown, first know it is okay, second, you will get through it, third, you are beautiful just as you are and you never need to change. Most importantly remember you are not alone. When I see someone like me · When I see someone like me I automatically want to run up and hug them, although that might seem a little odd. I feel some sort of connection when I see someone like me and my day is automatically made! I think should I go say hello or is that too weird? When the person walks away I think shoot I missed my opportunity! Should I go chase after them? I have never chased after someone but it has crossed my mind. The Stares · Getting use to the stares is an interesting topic, I believe that how you vie this is based on perception and confidence in yourself. As I walk through the mall of course I always notice the looks and stares but I do not allow them to affect me. I can remember the time I noticed the most stares, I was in TN in a waterpark with family and I confidently walked around, I forgot that my arm was more obvious that day with me in a swimsuit, over the years I have learned to ignore the stares. At times they can get to a person but overall it is not a big deal. I can remember walking in new Zealand with Paige and two girls decided to stare and whisper to each other about Paige and I. Yes it was probably odd to see two girls with one arm walking together but there was no need to do what they did. Paige made a funny face at them and they stopped. I have concluded I would rather someone ask me what happened kindly, rather than just stare and look at me like I came from another planet. Often when children ask their moms, what happened to that girls arm?!?! The moms automatically begin to freak out, as if what their child just said was a bad word. In my opinion, let your child ask me, it is a good thing for them to see and learn about. The child is not hurting my feelings by saying something, they are just curious. The awkward jokes · Often I get asked, “What happened to your arm?” as a kid whenever someone asked I would make up a silly story like an alligator bit it off or a shark bit it off. It made the kid stop asking and be quiet. I can remember being on the playground with my cousin Kaitlyn and a boy asking what happened, we decided to make up a silly story and he ran away from us. Or instead of making up a silly story I will make an awkward joke about having one arm. The other week I was at the gym and a guy asked me to get him a foam roller; jokingly I said, “You can get it you have two hands.” I started to laugh because it was hilarious but the guy didn’t know what to say. Once he heard me laughing he soon laughed and I grabbed him one. I have found through the years just to have fun with my situation and make a joke of it. I am comfortable with the way I was made so I enjoy getting a laugh out of it, even though people typically never know what to do themselves. I have a shirt that says Dude where’s my arm? I am pretty comfortable with being different. VI. Learning to love yourself · This is a very important aspect of being different or feeling different. We are all different and God has given each person in this world different gifts. We need to remember we are only human, that no one is perfect except God alone. We often seek to live up to what society’s standards are and that is wrong. There is no need for us to be anything except ourselves. Our flaws do not define us, but they are a part of us we need to learn to accept. I have learned that my arm is not everything but I do not consider my arm a flaw, I consider it a blessing. It gives me a chance to inspire and help others like me. I would never want to have two arms for even a second, when I get to heaven I am asking God to only give me one wing because why would I want two. No matter your difference or so called flaw, you need to love yourself first. Learn to love every part of yourself, because I believe with every negative situation it can always be replaced with a positive situation instead. It takes 5x as long to learn · There are always thing I wish I could do but I know in order to achieve them it is going to take time, practice, and determination. Learning how to tie my shoes took me longer than other kids my age, while riding my bike I was always lopsided and my back hurt afterward. Putting my hair into a ponytail was like rocket science. I finally learned how to put up my hair in 8th grade, I mastered a messy bun my junior year of high school. I learned how to jump rope, and do a push up as well as pull up at the age of 17. Curling my hair was a challenge but I figured it out. To this day I still have not mastered the monkey bars but one day I hope to. I have accepted that things take longer to learn and achieve but it allows me to have to work twice as hard and I wouldn’t change that. I know to never give up on my dreams.
Dare to Be Different
My whole life I have took the stance and dared to be different from those around me. Even though my difference is more obvious than others, we all are different in our own way. Although often it is a challenge to take this dare. In school for some reason we believe it matters what others think of us, we think if the people around us don’t like us then nobody ever will. You want to have the cool brands of clothing, guys care way to much about their shoe and sock game, and girls go on diets to get the so called "perfect" body figure like the Instagram models they see as their scroll through their social feeds everyday. Kids at school tease us, for being "fat", too skinny, growing up in a broken home, or being even slightly different from everyone around us. We believe we are not good enough, strong enough, pretty enough. If we look too “different”, too weird, we cannot do this and we can’t do that. I am telling you right now stop telling yourself this. Those bullies at school, in your head, at home can’t define you! Only you get to decide that. We all fall down sometimes, but we must learn how to get back up. Do not put on a mask for school, you do not need to. We all have moments when we ask why me? We lay in bed and cry because of doubt, fear, worries, and broken homes. These obstacles in life are part of our story, there is a reason and purpose why we go through them. We must try our best to find strength in ourselves, and overcome the obstacles that are put into our lives. To stop concentrating on the things we do not have, or wish we had, and accept the gifts God has blessed us with. When you ask yourself who am I? You are the only one that can answer that question, and know that it may not get answered right away, it takes time to fully understand who you are. No matter what you are going through you can get through it, find confidence in yourself. Finding confidence in who you are is key to daring to be different. We all have quirks, flaws, differences, it is a part of each of our lives; although learn to love yourself. Once you accept your differences and love them you no longer will want to be like everyone else, you will learn that being yourself is the best person you can be. We are all created different in some way or form. Some people’s differences are just more obvious than others, such as mine. We must take a stand and dare to be different, to show the world that being different is amazing, and beautiful. Tell society that they are wrong, we need to break down the walls of perfection, letting others know that it does not exist. No matter what your situation is, one arm, one leg, a broken home, depression, anorexia, anxiety, fear of failure, we have the power to turn what could be a negative situation into a positive situation. I stand before you today as living proof that something perceived as different, negative, can be changed into something positive, something beautiful, a blessing in my own life and others. I am living proof that if there is a will there is always a way, with determination and practice, hard work and sometimes failure. In life you will either find a way or find an excuse. Accept yourself as you are, God created you with his own hands, for a plan, and a purpose. Dare to be different. Dare to love yourself as you are. Dare to love your differences, your flaws. Dare to be imperfectly you. Your differences do NOT define who you are, your differences are a part of your story.
I am not disabled
I am not defined by my difference. I do not have a disability. Although, I do have an ability. I have an ability to educate others about my difference, I have an ability to achieve things differently than others. It may have taken me sixteen years to learn how to put my hair in a ponytail, seventeen years to learn how to properly do a push-up, pull-up, and jump rope. But I achieved these tasks. I may never learn how to do the monkey bars, but I know that I will continue to try to. I have the ability to love my little arm, to love myself just as I am. I have the ability to be me. You have this ability too! If there is a will in yourself I promise you will find a way. No matter the task or the situation, you CAN do anything you set your mind to. Next time you spot someone who is “different” ask them to share their story, trust me so much can come out of it. Also, remember to not automatically assume they can’t do something, if they need help they will ask. Keep encouraging and educating being different. Embrace your differences and LOVE BEING IMPERRFEECTLY YOU.