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WATCH: Irish Paralympian Ellen Keane Nail A Brilliant TedTalk


By Jennifer McShane
25th Jun 2017
WATCH: Irish Paralympian Ellen Keane Nail A Brilliant TedTalk

Confidence, in work, in relationships, about our bodies, comes from acceptance. Accepting that you were hired because your boss truly believed you were the best person for the job, that the person wanted to see you again because you were you with all your obsessive quirks, that your body was different to the others, but that was okay. It sounds so easy when you read it on a page, but self-acceptance can feel like a never-ending quest. Because it isn’t easy to accept the flaws or the good stuff and let the confidence flow, depending on the person you are.

“If only I had x, then I’d be confident.” For years, my x used to be replaced with, “normal body.” Or I used to switch the sentence. “If only I didn’t have a disability, then I’d be confident.” The fact that I have mild Cerebral Palsy has taken me years to accept. Knowing that I would always be different has taken me years to accept. When I was younger, I had a few good days and mostly bad days. On the good, I would think having the CP was the reason I would always try so incredibly hard to do something meaningful with my life and be happy, and on the bad, I used to think that the CP was the reason I felt stuck or the reason I’d yet find a plus one who wanted to be with me – without minding that I would never walk like the other girls. My acceptance of my otherness brought the confidence. I know that I would have been a hard worker regardless and I tend to be unlucky in love but that’s because it isn’t my time yet, and not due to the disability. As I’ve grown up, the good days have more than outweighed the bad.

It’s because of my own feelings that I empathised so much with Irish, three-time Paralympian Ellen Keane when she gave her powerful Ted Talk My Lucky Fin back in April. An athletic champion and self-assured at just 21-years-old, during the eight-minute talk, she spoke of how this wasn’t always so. Born with no left hand and forearm, she explained she had to change the way she looked at her disability before she could have confidence in who she was. “Now I love the fact that I won’t easily be forgotten,” she says. “I hope that this can inspire anyone who is struggling with who they are. Everyone?has an insecurity or a quirk, but this is what makes you who you are.”

She explained that her moment came when she decided to roll up her sleeve in a cooking class after years of wanting to keep both arms hidden so that no one could or would tell the difference. The singular action, she said, changed her life. And anyone who has ever felt at odds with themselves can and will be inspired by her powerful words and story.

Her message is one the world over can relate to: Bite the bullet and roll up your sleeve. It could change your life.