This story is part of 30 Under 30.
Sarah is a 29 year-old blogger who writes about beauty, lifestyle and living with chronic pain, as well as running #SpooniePost – a project to support fellow chronically ill people. She has a Masters in English and she’s also a trustee for Enhance the UK and the editor of their new online magazine, Liability Magazine.
For 30 Under 30, Sarah has written a guest blog about her passion for beauty and society’s problem with people who don’t ‘look disabled’.
I’ve experienced quite a lot of judgement, negativity and ableism over the last few years. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve also had so many positive things happen too, but I wanted to address something that seems to be a common occurrence: the view that some disabled people don’t ‘look disabled’.
I don’t know where this skewed idea of what a disabled person looks like has come from, but I’m getting a bit tired of hearing that I ‘don’t look sick’, or I’m ‘too pretty to be in a wheelchair.’
Disability doesn’t discriminate
I’m a 29 year old woman who suffers with a long list of conditions that I won’t bore you with, but ultimately, I live with chronic pain. I use a powered wheelchair, various splints and compression supports, and I don’t ‘look sick’. Do you know why? Because disability doesn’t discriminate; my appearance has absolutely no bearing on my health.
How is pain supposed to be represented on the body? You could see the suitcases under my eyes from not sleeping due to the pain, if I didn’t hide them with concealer. You could tell me I look pale and ill if I hadn’t added foundation and blusher to my morning routine. Should I be covered from head-to-toe in bruises because then it’s visible? Then an outsider can see, and then they believe my pain is real. Then I’ll ‘look disabled.’
Should I not care about my appearance because I use wheels instead of legs?
I make an effort whenever I leave the house. I make it my mission to go out at least once a week (unless I’m in a flare-up), even if it is just to the Post Office. I brush my hair and I always, always, do my makeup. I’m going out, once in seven days, I want to look presentable, I want to look cute, and make an effort. Should I not care about my appearance because I use wheels instead of legs? Should I not wear heels because I can’t walk in them?
I am just as entitled to slap on some lippy, blend out a smoky eye, contour my face like Kim Kardashian and rock stilettos as much as the next person, and my wheelchair, my disability shouldn’t determine whether I should or not. I’ve seen the sideways looks, heard the snide comments, and I’m here to tell you that disabled people have the same interests and insecurities as able-bodied people. I love beauty, I love playing with makeup, it makes the little girl inside of me happy; so when it’s time to go out, I do my best to make sure I present myself in a way that makes me feel good. After all, I put all these products on my face for my benefit.
Doing my makeup is a form of self-care for me
I’m a girly-girl, I love makeup, hair, lashes, nails; and being in constant pain has absolutely no impact on the way I look when I leave my house. Doing my makeup is a form of self-care for me, it makes me feel confident and it helps with my mental health. I know I’d feel self-conscious if I went out without some concealer at least. I don’t always put a full-face on if I’m just popping to the shop, but sometimes I do, and that’s my choice. Not for one second am I saying that you should wear makeup to feel better about yourself, because I’m not, it just helps ME take on the world.
The perception of disability is looking like you’re suffering
But because I do wear makeup and I am disabled, there’s negative comments and misunderstanding among some. ‘Why make an effort, nobody will want you anyway…?’ ‘She’s wearing makeup, there’s clearly nothing wrong with her,’ ‘she must be better,’ – if only cosmetics had the ability to eliminate disability! This archaic way of thinking is still very much ingrained in some people as they don’t see the person, they see the disability; and it appears that the perception of disability is ‘looking disabled,’ looking like you’re suffering, being different. If you can’t comprehend that disabled people are so much more than their disability, your view is so outdated.
Wearing makeup does not make me or anyone else with a visible or invisible illness any less disabled; it doesn’t change our conditions in any way whatsoever. And no matter whether I wear a truck-load of makeup, wear the highest heels, have tattoos and piercings, it shouldn’t make you question if I’m faking, miraculously better or disabled.
I’m disabled and I wear makeup, so what?
Sarah is sharing her story as part of our 30 Under 30 campaign. We’ll be releasing one story a day throughout June from disabled people under 30 who are doing extraordinary things. Keep up to date with all of our new stories on our 30 under 30 page.
To read more from Sarah, check out her blog Sarah in Wonderland.