Body Image Issues- Lesson 2: Healthy Is Beautiful

Body Image is one of the biggest challenges faced by a new amputee. I’m a member of many amputee support groups and it does not surprise me that so many amputees have difficulty coming to terms with their new body, which does not fit the norm.

Body image issues are so prevalent in modern society, that even average folk (people without any amputation or disfiguration) have a negative perception of their own bodies.

The first point that I want to make in this article is that there is no such thing as absolute beauty. Beauty has a social & cultural context. That means, what one finds beautiful is to a significant extent dependent on society & culture. And media shapes society and culture. And media is driven by monetary interests to make us feel ‘not beautiful’ in our natural state in order push products for us to buy. So, if you are an amputee, you need to throw away any preconceived notions of beauty that you may have prior to your amputation. So that you can start from a clean state, and understand beauty in a completely different light.

Secondly, no matter where one goes, no matter which society or culture one belongs to, ‘Healthy is Beautiful’. We are biologically tuned to find healthy specimen of our species attractive. Good health does not imply six pack abs or 16 inch biceps. Good health is what radiates from a person moderately fit & full of life. Good health is what your new definition of beauty ought to be.

Third, an amputation is not a sign of bad health. An amputation in itself is not a disease. It is a loss. You might have had an amputation due to a disease or an accident, but most likely your amputation was in order to get rid of the ailment, and prevent it from spreading. So, there is no reason to be ashamed of your amputation. This is one of the biggest challenges. Too many amputees are ashamed of their own bodies and try to very hard to cover up their limb loss in order to fit into the tradition image of the ‘normal’. I’m not saying that an amputation a good thing either, or that you should wear it up your sleeve like a medal. It is not. It is painful, it is a significant & unrecoverable loss. But it is not a sign of immorality, criminality or weakness. So there is no reason to be ashamed of a limb loss.

Consider your amputation as an experience. And you have the choice to make good of it or worse. The worse side effect of an amputation is that it  poses challenges when it comes to taking care of your health. Both functional & emotional challenges. And in the short term it also has a direct negative impact on one’s health since you are bed ridden, on severe medication & in so much pain. But you can compensate for the short term negative health impact by working on your health and looking healthy and attractive otherwise in the long run.

Finally, to make good of your amputation, consider it as a chance to a new life, & motivation to take better care of the your body. Do not let amputation make you obese, ungroomed, or otherwise unattractive due to bad habits such as drugs or alcohol.

Body Image Issues- Lesson 1: Appearance matters

Body Image or Self Image is one of the key issues that an amputee has to face after an amputation. Am amputation is a significant change in how you look, and it is a deviation from the normal. Therefore most amputees are affected negatively i.e. they will have a negative image of their own body.

Many people, including therapists and family members will try to dismiss this issue, most conveniently by asserting that appearances don’t matter. Or, that it is what is inside, rather than outside – is what is beautiful.

Well, the fact is – Appearances matter.

Accepting that appearances matter, is the first step in your journey towards a positive body image.

The next steps are understanding what makes us beautiful, how we perceive beauty, and what we can or cannot do to be and look beautiful.

There are many aspects to beauty. Trying to be someone you are not, is definitely not one of them.

As an amputee, there are some elements of beauty you can choose from in order to look presentable and attractive. The first element is grooming. Grooming is critical. Cleanliness is beautiful. you can choose any style, but you must maintain it with care and cleanliness.

The second element is a pleasant disposition. Happiness is contagious and happy people are attractive people, irrespective of the shape or their body or of the limbs they are missing. People want to be happy, and therefore are attracted to people with a pleasant disposition.

These are two habits or key features – grooming & a pleasant disposition –  you can incorporate into your life, even after a recent amputation. And this will help you feel better about the way you look from the get go.

In the future posts, I will talk about other factors and habits that Amputees, or others with body image issues, can incorporate Ito their lives to feel and look beautiful naturally and easily.