Incognito


Have you ever done something that you just want to go and hide and ignore that it ever happened? Maybe go incognito and no one will even notice.

One of the huge barriers I constructed in my mind after my injury was how gruesome my hand looked with two amputated fingers and a deformed middle finger. I looked at my hand for hours on end thinking of how my life was never going to be the same. I often thought about how people would perceive me or even judge me when they saw my hand. It may sound a bit extreme, but the amputation was so final that my mind magnified the issue into a grandiose delusion of failure. I recall being envious of everyone who just had a broken bone. My fingers were the first bones that I ever broke, but the fact there were bones in my fingers that were missing was tough to take.

What’s the first thing you do when you meet someone new? Extend your hand, then shake hands. How was that going to work for me? They wouldn’t even know me yet, but it was going to be immediately obvious to everyone how much I screwed up. So much for creating a good first impression. I felt like this would be something that would hinder me for the rest of my life.

For the first couple of months there was no hand shaking because my hand was all bandaged up, but even when my hand was healed up it was still tender for a long time. Some of my friends would extend their left hands to shake, but honestly that just felt weird. Within about 4 months I was cautiously extending my hand to greet someone, hoping they wouldn’t notice what they were touching.

incognitoMy injury was in November and I was actually thankful that I had a way to hide my injury, so I could be incognito. I felt like I needed a disguise so I would not be recognized for the failure that I clearly was. It was so simple, I just had to wear a mitt or glove and no-one would know. The problem is I know a lot of people and most of them were alerted one way or another about my injury. When I would see someone I knew, I was less afraid of the judgement and more eager to share my progress. The progress became my focus and how much I was healing and improving and the amazing resilience of my hand.

I recall numerous times talking to 2 or 3 people and before I knew it there was 6 or 7 people around me trying to understand what I was going through. There seemed to be a genuine curiosity from nearly everyone I interacted with. I actually began to crave the opportunity to share my experience with people. It was almost like I flipped a switch from wanting to be incognito to wanting to share my story wherever I could. I feel like a lot of this mental transition occurred after I forgave myself which converted my guilt to regret and helped me move forward.

During my recovery everyone in our family took some personality tests and it was a good opportunity to gain some insights. I found it quite interesting that 3 of us had “Uniqueness” as being one of our top values. I recall my occupational therapist saying that in 20 years of practice he’s never seen a configuration like my hand. I guess that shouldn’t seem odd since I’ve made a life out of being unique.

“Always remember that you’re absolutely unique, just like everyone else.”
– Margaret Mead

Biking_gloveFast forward a couple years and I was speaking for a client and ended up storm stayed for a couple extra nights. I took the opportunity to visit a tannery and the tanner provided just the solution to help me display my uniqueness. Who would think in such a short span I would go from wanting to be incognito to wanting to own the microphone and tell my story to everyone. It’s been a huge transition, but I’m thankful for the shift and the opportunities it’s brought my way.

Perhaps there’s been something in your life you feel guilt or shamed through and you’ve been trying to be incognito. You may need some help, but dealing with that issue will give you strength. I’d encourage you to look at the facts of the situation, not the distorted reality you’ve been focusing on, and practice forgiveness.

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