Fall semester is known as “back to school” time around the nation. We come back to our schools for the year and join our peers again to work towards our education. Coming back to our social circles is another gigantic part of the back to school season for most of us. That added element brings typical social struggles to “keep up with appearances” and a possible change in our confidence levels.
Of course, people worry about this frequently. For students on campus who struggle with chronic illness or disabilities daily, it is worrisome from time to time to think about what the perception of our peers would be. Just like our other able-bodied peers, we struggle with our own demons of how we look to our peers.
Those concerns can consist of a range of things, depending on the disability or what the person struggles with in terms of chronic illness. An example of a personal appearance struggle can be something as simple as students who like to wear sweatpants and hoodies. Fellow classmates with chronic illness and disabilities sometimes already view themselves as “lower” or “inferior”, typically because society views them like this already. To know that they are in a place where they are “supposed” to be accepted and form meaningful friendships and relationships, having the mindset of fearing rejection is twice as much of a bummer.
A lot of us with chronic illness and disabilities don’t give ourselves enough credit, to be perfectly honest. We get up, get dressed and come to campus to get an education to try and create a future for ourselves. It is good to try and keep up with appearances, as it can make people feel good to look good for themselves. To make themselves look good for others will only bring more dissatisfaction to themselves.
To those who do face this kind of trouble and ask, “Well, how do I come to school with a disability or any kind of chronic illness and feel good about myself?” As a disabled person, here is my answer for you: don’t worry about anyone else. It is easier said than done, I know. Students are here to be students, after all! The time we spend here in college will give us the opportunity to inspire each other with each other’s stories.
Those of us that are challenged daily to do basic things are still coming to campus because we know that we can make a difference. Some of us don’t even realize it, but seeing someone else who is in a similar situation is enough to be a confidence booster and make some of us realize that we aren’t alone.