Your name/a little about yourself ?
My name is Katherine McCain, @katherineeanne, and I was born with one arm. I am a freelance model and a student getting a degree in Psychology upon completing this semester. Being born with one arm may not seem like a big deal or a burden, but as a teenager it felt like one.
What is your story?
When I was 16 I started starving myself because I wanted to have the “perfect” body. I wanted and still struggle with trying to look perfect because I saw myself as already having something so obviously wrong with me. If I couldn’t change the fact that I have one arm, I decided that I had to seek out perfection in any other way possible and seek acceptance from any and all peers. When the bullying got worse upon entering college I felt the need to further be accepted by society and my peers, and that led to poor decisions and coping mechanisms like drinking excessively, using drugs, starving myself, and occasionally partaking in casual sex. I felt like I had to be the girl that everyone thought was cool and up for anything just so that people would stop defining me as “the girl with one arm,” or the girl that is “pretty still despite having one arm/a disability.”
When I was 19 years old someone I trusted very closely called me a retard- he called me this out of pure anger and with the intention of hurting my feelings. This comment, unbeknownst to him, is something that has haunted me since and that stays with me on my bad days. Therapy helped me find better ways to cope.
How have you overcome your struggles?
The thing that really saved me and that keeps me going was my discovery of a beautiful women on instagram that was born with one arm just like me. Following my discovery of her page I was amazed at her beauty and confidence and I quickly discovered that she (@sarahherron) had an organization called SheLift (@sheliftgrams) that is all about empowering women- especially those of us who struggle with vulnerability like myself--for those of us out there with or without limb differences. I reached out to her and was invited on the organization’s first ever retreat, where 7 of us girls all born with varying limb differences were able to learn to ski together and have deep conversations about being bullied and growing up limb different. I now serve as a SheLift Brand Ambassador because, seeing as it is a non profit, it runs entirely on donations. It was life changing for me to be able to hear other girls stories that were similar to that of my own. I know now that my calling is to not only post pictures of myself to empower girls like me, but also to provide the resources and tools for friendships and support.
After finding her page and joining her organization I have learned that one person’s opinion of me isn’t everyone’s, and I want to make it my goal to continue putting myself out there on social media in the hope that anyone getting bullied finds my page and finds confidence in reading/seeing my posts. Just because society has a beauty standard or because your peers call you ugly, gross, or retarded does not diminish your self worth.
What do you do to stay positive and focused?
To stay positive when I am unsure of myself I think of the bigger picture. I have already had people tell me how helpful my page and me putting pictures of my arm out there has helped families and young children and that’s what needs to be done.
Bullying ends when you see diversity in our society. If people are exposed more to differences, whatever they may be, they become normalized and that is my end goal and the goal of me modeling freelance. Something else that helps me remain positive is reminding myself that everyone has something they are initially self conscious about. Mine is a little more obvious but still everyone has something. People will love you for who you are and how you carry yourself, not for the way that you look. My other goal is to prove people wrong. I’m constantly underestimated- I think because of society’s lack of educating people on differences- and I want to show the world that I can do EVERYTHING that “able-bodied” people can do. Thinking that those of us that are limb different can’t do something is entirely wrong and often silly. Again, a lot of it is a lack of education. To parents reading this, educate your children. Tell them that not everyone is like them and that is okay. Normal even. Bullying and fear comes from a lack of understanding. Being born with one arm is the way that I am, just like I was born with brown hair and brown eyes.
Do you have any words of advice for other girls out there?
To anyone out there like me that worries about what others think- don’t. Be proud of who you are and find your voice and your confidence. It’s been a very difficult journey of finding self love and being vulnerable but opening up has helped me a lot. If you are struggling, find a way to talk to someone about it. To quote Carrie Bradshaw, “The most challenging, exciting and significant relationship is the one you have with yourself. And if you find someone to love the you that you love, well, that’s fabulous.”