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Body Image: You Are More Than Your Appearance

Losing a limb through trauma or a planned procedure is bound to affect your mental state. It’s not uncommon to have feelings of sadness or depression, or even panic about the future. Many limb-loss patients to go through the five states of grief: Denial, anger, bargaining (I promise to … if …) depression, and finally acceptance and hope.

Getting on with your life is sometimes easier said than done. A prosthesis and assistive devices certainly help with mobility and function, but there is another important aspect and that is body image. (Are people staring at me? Am I ugly? Will I still be loved even though I am missing a limb?)

The Amputee Coalition offers some strategies for achieving a positive body image*. They suggest:

“Remember that you are so much more than your appearance. Catch yourself when you are being self-critical and replace negative messages with positive ones. When you project yourself as comfortable and at ease with who you are, others tend to be more at ease too.

“Remind yourself of all the things your body is capable of, regardless of a limb difference. Your balance with a prosthesis will improve and focusing on the pride in that accomplishment will make you smile each time you walk outside. As your body becomes stronger and you grow more comfortable in your own skin, mental hurdles will be easier to overcome.

“Seek peer support from others with limb loss. It can be a powerful force in helping you to accept your new body.

“Working through body-image and self esteem issues presents a unique opportunity for personal exploration and discovery. This is an important part of your journey to live well with limb loss.”

*First Step, Volume 7