A Work in Progress: Body Confidence
After experiencing limb loss, it's common to go through many challenging months. New amputees need to regain mobility and independence. They also struggle with self-acceptance and the absence of body confidence, which can affect different areas of life.
For Lianne Forrest, Manchester Hub Coordinator for The Limbless Association, it took five years after losing her leg to reach a place of self-acceptance. Her current job requires her to speak openly about her experiences, and she recently shared her story on the AmpLAfy podcast.
The struggle with self-acceptance
Forrest was born with spina bifida, a congenital condition that affects babies' spines. This condition left her with minimal sensation in her right leg. As a child, she had to get her leg amputated after contracting a bone infection. And at 18, Forrest went through another amputation due to a loss of sensation in her residual limb.
For years, Forrest hid the fact that she was an amputee. She covered her prosthetic leg with flesh-colored silicone and hid it under baggy and shapeless pants. Forrest also couldn't look at her residual limb for a long time and avoided looking at herself in mirrors.
She only "came out" as an amputee two years ago, when she received a C-leg—a new prosthetic leg at that time. The C-leg featured a microprocessor knee that could bend and sense movement. However, Forrest couldn't cover the prosthetic leg with the flesh-colored silicone she was used to.
Forrest described that point in her life as a forced liberation. She didn't have any choice, so Forrest decided to make the best of it. While preparing for a family lunch, Forrest put on her first pair of denim shorts and took a photo of herself. She debated whether she should share the photo on her Instagram account or not. While the internal debate was going on, Forrest was also mentally encouraging herself to be proud of who she is and not care about other people's thoughts.
Her son was the one who pressed the "post" button because she couldn't bring herself to do it. Forrest was pleasantly surprised to find an overwhelming number of messages filled with support, encouragement, and love. Forrest has never looked back since.
Still a work in progress
Despite her job as a body confidence speaker, Forrest admits in the podcast that she still has her off days. She struggles, especially when her leg needs her to rest. Forrest often feels that forced rest days like this are a setback. She said it takes her back to the early days when she was too ill to go out. She also feels that she has to constantly catch up on lost time because of these forced rest days.
However, as she approaches 40, Forrest told herself that she would be body confident in every way, even if the process of being body confident is always a work in progress. She also mentioned that she took advantage of the last lockdown to become healthier and fitter. Forrest reports slowly becoming happy with her naked body, whether she has one leg or two.
Forrest's advice for people struggling to love themselves is to appreciate their bodies' unique capabilities. She also points out that our bodies are not for anyone else to approve of or judge. And learning to love your body and embracing what you have is what sets you free.
Forrest also urges all amputees to speak openly about their struggles, especially when it comes to their bodies. Being open about it is a great way to educate others and eventually change how society views visible disability.
Through The Limbless Association, Forrest will continue to support others in the same situation as her and help them see that there is more to life than hiding from others and feeling ashamed.
Body confidence and positivity will always be a work in progress, but pushing through with the process is essential inner work to help you live a better quality of life.
What about you? Would you say that you are body confident? If yes, how did you arrive at this mindset?