Awesome Humans 01 Dec
How I learned to love my disabled body
By James Parr
I wanted to start this blog at the beginning of my journey to gain confidence in my own body, especially as this has been something I’ve always struggled with. Three years ago, I was overweight, unfit, and struggled with my job’s physical aspect. I also had severe issues with both my confidence and body image.
As a male, I am constantly overwhelmed with seeing images of society’s ideal of a masculine man: chiselled abs, a sharp jawline, and bulging muscles. I was constantly comparing myself to the point I felt I wouldn’t be happy or confident unless I looked a certain way.
Living in a consumer-driven world, we are constantly exposed to social media, advertising, and the news. So, when it comes to body image, most of us rely on pictures in advertising and social media when comparing ourselves or our bodies and reflecting on our own image. But, it also was the motivator for me to take control and work on improving myself.
Throughout my journey, I’ve lost around 35kgs, I took the time to educate myself about nutrition, and I fell in love with and developed a passion for being active and exercising.
As I finally became healthier and felt more confident within myself, I was suddenly diagnosed with an osteosarcoma in my right ankle. I had to start chemotherapy immediately, and three months later, my leg was amputated.
I had finally begun to feel comfortable and confident in my body. But because of my amputation and the chemotherapy’s effects, I felt like I found myself right back at square one in terms of my body image and confidence, but the knock felt even harder because I was also now disabled.
The pressure started mounting again and felt even more unattainable because I once again relied on the images of other men in the media, which lacked any representation of the disabled community.
Throughout my recovery and being fitted for my first prosthetic, I struggled to accept my new body and this idea of identifying as being disabled. It wasn’t just me who was coming to terms with it either; other people looked at me differently, which knocked my confidence.
Even though I was happy and proud, I couldn’t help but reflect on how I now looked. I eventually embarked on a new phase of my journey and began owning my disability, which helped build my confidence.
As my confidence grew, I knew I had an opportunity to change the way people looked at me as a disabled man and be a voice for helping take away the negative stigma around the word disabled.
A friend of mine asked me if I wanted to be in a promotional video for her family’s clothing shop; I didn't think anything would come from it at the time, so I was surprised a few months later to get cast in my first paid photoshoot for JAM the Label.
After that shoot, I realised that after all that time spent idolising a specific type of man, I didn’t need any of it to indeed be happy with myself and achieve what I wanted to.
I had the opportunity to represent the disabled community and bring a different image to the table that will hopefully make other people feel more comfortable, or perhaps change the way they think about themselves or challenge how social media makes us reflect our own self-image.
When I went from being able-bodied to disabled, I had never seen representation, which made it difficult for me to accept the difference, especially how society would now view me.
Since my amputation, I have met new amputees who have also felt the same way. So for me, modelling is my opportunity to share my confidence with the hope I can encourage people to feel confident with themselves. I don’t want anyone else to feel alone the way I did because of the misconceptions that social media and society has created, especially with a lack of representation. I wanted to be a part of that change.
It also reminded me of the time I was looking for adaptive clothing as I needed to keep pulling my pants down to adjust my prosthetic and wanted pants with zips or magnets to do this easily. The little adaptive dress I could find two years ago wasn’t flattering, nor was it fashionable, which is why having an outlet like EveryHuman is so important.
Since this blog, James has modelled for EveryHuman in Melbourne Fashion Week 2021 in a groundbreaking show focusing on inclusion and diversity. We couldn't be prouder to have James and disabled models at the forefront of the fashion industry.