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Aug 5, 2020

The Way I See It Blog Series: Reflections

INTRODUCTION

My name is Marlene Cust. I am a senior citizen, and legally blind due to retinitis pigmentosa (RP) and age-related macular degeneration (AMD). In my writing, I want to acknowledge both the challenges I face and the positive coping strategies I have developed over time. Blindness is experienced by individuals in unique and various ways. There is no ‘one size fits all!’ Always there is that hope for a cure sometime in the future. In the meantime, for me, hopefulness lies in acting with courage, competence, confidence, and decisiveness every day.  My blog entries present living with blindness ‘the way I see it’.

REFLECTIONS

As a child, I was fascinated by my physical image as it appeared in photos, shadows, and mirrors. I marvelled at their magic qualities and the different ways they showed myself to me.

Photos captured me at one moment in time, and froze me there unchanging, forever. How amazing to the child that was me!

My shadow also gave me a portrait of myself, but it was a whimsical image that changed me, erratically, from tall to small, from thin to bulky, from huge to tiny. It could dwarf me or make me grotesque. It was impish, following me everywhere, frolicking, leaping, gamboling. At times, my shadow was barely visible or disappeared totally, only to reappear later on. What fun!

A mirror reflected back to me an image of my physical body. But it was fickle. It changed my appearance from one time to the next, depending on the clothes I wore, the way my hair was cut, the momentary expression on my face, my features as I grew from child to adult.

My childhood fascination with photos, shadows, and mirrors metamorphosed into a profession in which I worked with children and adults who struggled with issues related to self-image.

What is self-image? According to life coach, Adam Sicinski: “A self-image is in its most basic form an internalized mental picture/idea you have of yourself. It’s how you think and feel about yourself based on your appearance, performance, and relationships that consistently impact your outlook on life as well as your level of happiness and fulfillment.” (Adam Sicinski, 2018, blog.iqmatrix.com)

As my eye disease progressed, I began to question my competency, worth, and purpose in life; my own self-image became distorted and cracked, and I began to lose sight of myself. I had to apply to my own situation the techniques I taught my clients. Listed below are 10 strategies I have found effective in building and protecting one’s self-image.

  1. Remember that you are in control of your thoughts, feelings, and behaviours. Don’t let them control you.
  2. Stop negative thoughts about yourself from entering your mind. Turn them away at the door.
  3. If/when you catch yourself entertaining a negative thought about yourself, substitute a positive one.
  4. Avoid indulgence in self-pity. Don’t see or portray yourself as a victim. Count your blessings and focus on gratitude.
  5. Accept that you are not perfect. If you stumble or fall, get up, brush yourself off, and start over or carry on.
  6. Surround yourself with positive people who support you and build you up.
  7. Avoid comparing yourself to others. Each person has unique strengths and challenges. Focus on what makes you unique and strong.
  8. Stand up for yourself. Don’t let anybody put you down. “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” (E. Roosevelt)
  9. Practise serenity, changing the things you can and letting go of the things you can’t.
  10. Don’t under-estimate yourself. “…always remember: you’re braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.” (A. A. Milne)

Because I can’t see them anymore, photos of myself have lost their allure. When I go outdoors, I still look for that shadow friend who has been my lifelong companion. It is still there with its magic, and walks along with me – just a bit slower, a bit more ethereal, quicker to fade away into my twilight world. I can no longer study my reflection in a mirror. But, occasionally, I talk to the face that I know is looking back at me. “Hello there,” I say cheekily. “I cannot see you, but don’t worry, I am still here.” I often reflect on the notion that there is far more to seeing than mere physical perception, and that when you cultivate an inner vision of yourself, you will never really lose your way.

– Marlene Cust

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