Introduction - Nicole
Hey guys, I'm Nicole Brennan, founder of the IAMPOSSIBLE Foundation. This is the IAMPOSSIBLE podcast bringing together experts, scientists, Paralympians, adaptive sports professionals, authors and disability advocates to talk all things limb difference, disability and inclusion. Today I'm talking with Shannon Crossland about her journey to becoming an influencer within the disability community.
In 2019, Shannon started using her Instagram account as a platform to share her journey to body confidence. She joined the IAMPOSSIBLE team shortly after an over the last two years has become a strong and positive voice within the community. She has been featured in publications worldwide, from Metro to Forbes, whereby she raised awareness around limb differences and hold society accountable for his current treatment of those deemed as different.
I'm now proud to say that she's joined us as a trustee at IAMPOSSIBLE and is leading the development of the support committee!
Without further to do, let's get to our chat!
Hey Shannon, how are you?
Hey, I'm good. How are you?
Yeah, good thank you. Thank you so much for joining us today.
No problem, I'm excited to be recording with you.
How first recording! So I gave the audience a little bit of an introduction to you.
And as I said, even on such a journey over the last two years, what was it that triggered you to start using your platform to advocate for disability?
So I think when I initially started my Instagram, it was basically to talk my document my own journey on Self love and accepting how I was. But then I started to get a lot of positive response from other people and that was something I didn't actually expect to happen. And I think it was sort of the messages that I was getting from people saying, wow, I've never seen anyone else like me before and this encouraged me to show pictures and show myself and be more confident that really made me think. Wow, this is actually making a difference to somebody elses life, not just my own.
It just made me feel amazing that I could have that sort of impact on somebody else's over the Internet, so I wanted to sort of keep that going and see if I could help, even if it was just one person feel more confident or encourage them to also start on the shelf of journey to that would just be like amazing. So I decided that I want to keep going and see if I could help anybody else. And I also wanted to. Be part of changing the narrative, because obviously there's a lot of stigma attached to being different. Having a limb difference being disabled, so I wanted to be a part of trying to change attitudes in society. And even if just a real difference, just be a part of it in some way.
You do such an amazing job at it! I remember one of the first post you shared with IAMPOSSIBLE and you said that you always used to cover your hands and your feet before.
What was the trigger to change that for you? because everyone's journey so different.
Yes, absolutely. I think everyone's going to experience it differently and for me it was the start of 2019. It was like an you year fresh start. You know the typical right New Year's resolution sort of thing, and I just sort of realised that I got to like 22 and I was still covering myself. I was still wearing clothes that had my hands and I wouldn't wear particular shoes because I didn't like the way my feet looked in them and I just thought like this is no way to live. I'm not getting any younger, you know. I'm only going to be getting older and I'm going to be wasting time thinking about how other people view me rather than just living life and wearing what I want to wear and embracing myself. So I mean, it wasn't an easy journey. It's not like I just woke up and it was like I could do it.
It was I sort of woke up and I thought right. I want to actually make an effort to change it, and that's where it starts started. I think I just realised life is way too short.
My journey side off of Instagram as well, and I think once you kind of post your first picture of your limb difference, it empowers you to continue doing that. So I think the community is really, really important in that journey as well.
When I posted my first picture of my feet, that was something that I never ever thought I would ever be able to do, like, even when I started my journey, posting my hands, I was like right comfortable with that now, but I don't think I'll ever be comfortable showing my feet on any pictures.
But then sort of as my confidence grew, I finally did get to that point. So it's sort of just about persevering and just believing that you are eventually going to get to that stage, even if it seems impossible at that moment in time.
Yeah, 100%. So let's talk about #notawitch then because that was quite an intense few weeks for I think a lot of people with limb differences. How did you experience it?
Ohh wow, yeah there's a lot of emotions there. I think I pretty much experienced every emotion in that sort of few weeks it was all kicking off. I think you know I was just probably running on adrenaline above the time because it was so busy. I feel like my Instagram went from zero to 100 in the space of 24 hours.
I just felt anger at what happened. I felt excitement at old new opportunities that will come into me to speak about limb difference or raise awareness. I felt incredibly exhausted because I was trying to keep up with everyone's posts. I was trying to share everything I was trying to make videos. I was trying to write articles about it. Reply to emails. So yeah, it felt like I didn't probably get enough sleep that week. I was sort of on a buzz.
Just looking everyone else's posts an as well. I think it was just a sense of community in a way like a really great feeling come out with it, even though it was such a horrible thing. And seeing everyone come together against it and stand up and be like no, this is wrong and everyone just supporting each other and encouraging everyone to stand up together was a really great feeling. So I think a lot of good came from it. Even though what we were advocating against something that wasn't very nice.
But yeah, it was crazy. It was a crazy few weeks to say the least.
Yeah, definitely. I think it's it was such a hard time. But like he said there good that came out of it. The conversations it started with people that possibly would never even thought about limb difference or representation in the media. I think it's thing it's been the silver lining. Definitely though, it's sad that it happened in 2020.
Also, how did you feel when you ended up hearing from Forbes and hearing that they wanted to feature you?
I felt it, you know, I just felt surreal like I think about a post about it recently about how everything that happened towards the back end of last year. And you know, being featured in articles, all the zoom calls with reporters, people interviewing me.
It's just crazy. It's something that I never ever imagined I would be in that position. And to think that just because I'm standing up for something, I believe in that it's just second nature to me, all these people wanted to talk to me about it and I try to even think it set in about the whole Forbes thing until probably a few weeks ago and I sat back and I was like wow, that was crazy. I was in a Forbes article. My picture was there. That's absolutely insane and I still can't believe it. To be honest, I feel like it's some sort of dream that happened.
Need to frame it I think!
Yeah, definitely need to get that sorted.
So the way you advocate is incredible. Is there anyone that has inspired you along the way in the way that you advocate? Or anyone else out there that you look up to?
Do you know what I feel like there is so many. So many people it would be impossible to name every single person because I come across someone new every single day because obviously social media is a constant thing and you always seeing new people, new posts and it's incredible. The amount of people who are on there just doing that thing be so powerful an encouraging. So over the past two years I've come across so many amazing people. But the first few people that I really remember seeing and thinking, wow, you know they are so confident and I want to be like that. That's encouraged me to do that too is probably Kelly Knox. And she is so incredibly powerful and the way that she just comes across is like, bad ass, I don't care what people think about me, I'm a strong independent woman and it doesn't matter that I got a limb difference and that really resonated with me and I was like I want to be like that.
Also, there's someone on Instagram called Kim. She thinks she goes by the one arm, wonder mum, and she's got one 1/2 an arm too and she's just so incredible. It was them two that really encouraged me at the very beginning to feel like empowered and to go ahead and do my own sort of advocating.
Yes, I love Kelly Knox. I love all her posts and everything she stands for. I make sure I put their names in the podcast right up so that everyone can find them.
So we spoke about the journey to self-confidence and body confidence. What would be your tips for anyone who started off on that journey?
Yeah, I think a lot of it is obviously your own mindset and nobody is probably going to be able to change that other than yourself, and it is hard to get to that position from when you've been in such sort of a dark place about yourself. But it is possible.
One thing that really helped me was thinking. Somebody once said to me like nobody is actually looking at you, but you think they are. because they are more bothered about their own lives. You know, they probably have something that their conscious about and they are thinking "oh, are they looking at me about this" and you’re both feeling insecure, Your both thinking that everyone is looking at you. Realistically your all just focusing on yourself and your own insecurities. So just get on with it. You know, just get on with your life. You feel like everyone is looking at you, but realistically there not.
And if there is somebody looking at you, it's probably because their curious. It's not probably with bad intent. It's because you are an individual unique person and it's something that probably not come across before, and it's fine for people to be curious. It's human nature and don't always take it as a bad thing. Maybe it's an opportunity for you to teach that person something new or its a chance for them to learn something about different people and life is too short. Like I said before, it's if you're going to go around worrying about other people, when they are not worried about other people, then you just wasting your time. You could put all their energy into yourself and then just feel amazing on the inside. So I think it is all about mindset and getting in that sort of tunnel vision and realizing that life's too short you deserve to love who you are an we've been given this body for a reason.
But I think just following people on Instagram who are also like you who are sort of at that point already can really help encourage you because you can see them and you can see it's possible and you can see that they managed to get to that point. So there's no reason why you can't either.
Yeah, definitely it’s all about having that representation, isn't it? Those role models out there that we can look to and see how they navigate the world with limb difference and model on that. I think when we were younger, we possibly didn't have those role models around us and there wasn't any representation in the media. So, it's really important that we use our platforms and social media to raise the visibility and representation of limb difference.
So we're super excited to have you as a as a trustee, but also as a lead to our support committee so over the next year, what's your vision for that?
I think I mean it's so exciting to be a part of it, so thank you for asking me to even be on board.
I just want to create a really powerful team of motivated, amazing individuals who really want to make a difference and who have that sort of motivation to create content that's going to be encouraging and create content that's going to support people because they've probably been in that same position where they needed that support. So they understand the support of, you, know, the support that people need.
I think you know for this year it's about just getting a great team together who are really wanting to make a difference and then work on making some really inspiring, amazing content that's going to make a real difference to people's lives, change perceptions and get that little bit closer to changing attitudes and ending that stigma that is attached to being different or having a little difference.
Awesome, I’m super excited to see the committee grow and everything that it's going to do for the community. So, thank you again for joining us.
I have one more question for you. If you could use one word to finish off this sentence, what would it be and why. I am?...
That's really good question. And i feel like thats a hard one to answer because you never really look at yourself and compliment yourself. And I definitely don't. But I think if I was going to finish that sentence, I would probably say I am powerful. I don't want to come across in like a really obnoxious way, but, um. Obviously having a difference and growing up. Like with a disability, I always felt so inferior to people. I was felt sort of. People looked at me as if I could never be a strong independent woman, and I feel like I've completely proved that wrong.
Proved myself wrong approve of the people wrong and I do hold power when it comes to encouraging people, you know, I've managed to grow apart form on social media and I've received so many messages from people saying how I've changed their life because they are now able to go outside with a short sleeve top on.
I made someone learn something new, or I've introduced indifference to their life and would never even knew what it was before and to me that is like a really powerful thing. And so over the past two years I have felt that sort of empowerment like an empowering woman. Which is something that I never thought I'd be able to feel.
So yes, powerful is the word I would use.
Yes, I love that. I love that I think, especially with International Women's Day coming up on Monday is the perfect word and it's the perfect word for you.
Thank you so much, thank you for joining me today and keep your ears peeled everybody as Shannon will be hosting a few episodes in the weeks to come, so you'll be hearing more from her. But thank you very much.
Yes. I'm so excited and so excited for that. I mean, I'm a little bit nervous, but I'm excited. So thanks for having me on today and I look forward to doing some more podcasts.
Thank you for listening to the iampossible podcast, I hope you enjoyed hearing about Shannon’s journey to limb difference influencer, her experience of #notawitch and top tips for anyone who is starting off on their own journey to body confidence.
If you enjoyed todays episode be sure to share it, tag us in your social media and subscribe so that you wont miss an episode. We have some really exciting guests coming up that you wont want to miss!
This podcast is brought to you by the IAMPOSSIBLE foundation. We are a Non profit which aims to increase the visibility and representation of individuals with LD, create a worldwide community, Create and share information and resources that will equip and empower our community to challenge perceptions of ability and overcome obstacles.
To learn more about our work and how you can support our cause you can find us over at iampossiblefoundation.co.uk
See you next Friday!