“I was born missing a limb on my left arm from below the elbow. It was so hard on my parents at first, not knowing what my future held, scared of how they should raise me. A year passed and my mom didn’t pray at all. She was kind of mad at God. She asked, ‘Why? Why me?’ One day, it suddenly hit her and she became stronger. She got back to praying and raising me just like a normal child, like she raised my sisters. In fact, she was harsher on me, as she wanted me to grow up and be strong. She wanted me to do anything on my own and to never ask for help.
When I went to school I remember how my classmates loved me, until I was 10 years old and my mom decided to buy me my new prosthetic arm. I wanted to show her I was strong and not afraid of putting it on at school, but in fact, I was terrified of it. I tried it on just once, at home, and went to sleep and had a dream that thousands of hands were running after me and I was crying, trying to run away from them. I woke up crying, not wanting to even see the hand, and since then, I had a phobia of getting a prosthetic.
Growing up was a bit scary for me. I was always scared of getting to know new kids, getting bullied. I was scared of not being able to do something on my own and people not liking me. I was even afraid of my hand. Everyone used to stare with pity. It hurts. WHY?! It’s not my fault for being born different. Nights passed and I cried myself to sleep, blaming God. I asked, ‘Why me? What did I do wrong? Do you want me to suffer and be sad? Am I not good enough to have a normal hand?’ I was sure having both arms would make my life easier and better.
I grew up in the same school. I had the same friends growing up with me, which made it easier than getting to know new people and starting from zero. It was somehow a relief. I graduated from school and went to college—new life, new routine. It made me feel terrified. I asked myself, ‘How am I going to fit there? How can I make them like me for who I am?’ I think God had a plan for me, especially in having sweet people in my life. My colleagues loved me, never made me feel different. They used to joke about me having one hand. I felt comfortable because I knew they loved me for who I am. They don’t care I am missing a limb. They just know Rita, the beautiful, smart girl who can do anything on her own.
The first year I had to take an internship course and go to a company to work, it hit me. I can’t find a job, I can’t use a computer, I can’t do it on my own. It was terrifying. My neighbor convinced me, ‘You shouldn’t be scared. You are strong enough to do it on your own and figure out your own ways to work.’ 4 years later, in September of 2013, I graduated in graphic design. And the third scary journey was about to start: FINDING A JOB. I was 21 years old. I still thought I was the only one in Lebanon with this case. I wanted to find anyone my age like me. I had questions, I wanted confidence and I wanted help. I couldn’t find anyone. I was confident, but not enough. I was still scared.
I worked in a library, as a salesgirl. It was nothing to do with being a designer, but I was confident. I helped people with everything. I was strong but still, it wasn’t enough, and I was scared of getting out and applying for a job in the field I am in. I had no problem when people asked about my hand, but at the same time, I didn’t show my hand on Facebook, thinking people wouldn’t like me or wouldn’t want to get to know me more. The times I didn’t show my hand, people wanted to talk to me and meet me, but when I mentioned my story and how I was born, they stopped talking. I knew this was the reason for them changing, but I never mentioned anything or even asked. It was hard not letting it affect me or bring me down and lower my self-confidence.
Until one day, I went on a date, and the person who was with me was surprised when seeing my hand. I saw the weirdest look on his face and when we left, he stopped talking to me. I knew then I didn’t want to hide my difference anymore. I wanted everyone to see the real me. I am different and I have the right to living a normal life, without people staring and not wanting to be with me just because I’m missing a limb. What surprised me was people loved me, loved the photo of a girl smiling with all her heart, even though she’s missing a limb. They saw strength in me. They started talking to me and complimenting me, saying, ‘You’re so strong,’ and, ‘I feel so small focusing on silly problems, while you’re here standing with a huge smile, not caring if others love you for who you are or not.’ It was a relief. It was amazing.
Parents with children having the same cases as mine started contacting me, asking for advice on how to raise their children, getting confidence from me. I was so happy. It was true I didn’t have anyone like me to support me, but I am going to be there for everyone else, especially those with limb differences. The support I started getting from friends, and especially people I don’t know, was amazing. The compliments and love from them are unconditional. I got thousands of chats throughout my journey, which pushed me forward into becoming the person I am now, to realize my dream and my mission, and to know being born with a missing limb is a gift from God.
True, it was hard growing up, and scary, but all the pain faded away the moment I decided to love myself the way I am. The moment I realized how much people loved me for who I am and loved me for the difference I have. It’s my signature, it’s my strength. My real journey started about 5 years ago when I decided to love who I am. I started doing sports and posting them, doing photo shoots to focus on how difference is a beauty, doing lectures to children of all ages, going on TV to tell my story. I met a lot of celebrities and became really good friends with them. People such as Wissam Saliba, Joseph Attieh, Wissam Sabbagh, Wissam Breidy, May Chidiac, Dolly Ghanem…
On May 13, 2020, when I thought this year was going to be awful, I received a call: ‘You’re going to be the first story in the Candle of Hope Campaign.’ It was a life-changing journey. It was like a light came into my life, helping me take my first steps to make my dreams come true—in having my first bionic arm, becoming a bionic model, and in becoming an international public speaker. People all around the world starting lighting virtual candles for me on an app, helping me reach my target and be part of this dream. I got my bionic arm—it is my first prosthetic.
I’m not going to stop here, my dream is still going—I want to become a model to prove beauty is not in being perfect. I want to help everyone and light a candle in their lives and get them a bionic arm. I want to spread tons of confidence to each person in need. My life is beautiful, my dream is huge, and I’m going to make it happen. Dreams do come true, just dream big, and have faith in what you believe in. Love yourself and people will admire you.
We are all different in a way; it’s us who decide to make a difference a strength or choose to hide it and be scared. Show your difference. Let it be your signature and you will see how life gets much easier.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Rita Esber of Lebanon. You can follow her journey on Instagram. Submit your own story here, and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.
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