For years, Alexandra Vyatkina, from Moscow, Russia, felt worthless, ugly, and weak.
Now she’s a model who’s learned to love her body, thanks to getting a bionic arm.
Alexandra, 25, was born without a left arm and faced shame and judgment growing up with a prosthetic.
Throughout school she was called cruel names like Frankenstein and Captain Hook, and was told by adults that she should hide her hand to avoid judgement.
Alexandra said: ‘At first it was really hard, sometimes it seemed like hell for me. From the day I was born only my mum, aunt, uncle and two cousins supported me and literally everybody else tried to make me feel worthless, ugly, weak.’
‘Imagine hearing that you should be ashamed of yourself every day of your life even from part of your own family.
‘Other kids were afraid of me and called me Frankenstein, Doll or Captain Hook. Adults felt only pity and said things like, “You should hide your hand, or nobody will want to be friends with you”.
‘My only dream was to be treated equally because inside I didn’t feel like there was anything wrong with me. I felt normal and wanted other people to see me as a normal person. So, every day was a battle for me.’
Luckily, Alexandra’s parents were there to support and encourage her, and slowly she learned to ignore the criticism and embrace her body.
In December 2018 she had her first bionic arm fitted, which gave her the confidence to become a model.
‘I’ve always wanted a bionic arm ever since I saw it on the Discovery channel when I was a kid,’ Alexandra said. ‘I knew that it’s really expensive and thought that I would be able to afford it only at the age of thirty.
‘But a year ago I found out that actually there’s a social programme in Russia that gives you a bionic arm for free if you prove that you need it and that you can use it through the medical commission.
‘So, I contacted a company that makes bionic prosthesis, went through every bureaucratic procedure and got my first bionic arm.
‘The fingers didn’t move, it could only open and close like a crab claw, but I was so freaking happy about having at least this small movement.
‘I even cried the moment it moved for the first time. It felt exactly like having a left hand for the first time in my life. I quickly got used to it and stopped being excited about it moving.
‘Since then I became more confident and finally found courage to start working as a model; this has always been my dream job, but I didn’t love myself enough to do it before.’
Alexandra is sharing her story to show that missing a limb doesn’t have to hold you back from your dreams.
She said: ‘The main challenge was to prove that I’m a normal person and shouldn’t be treated differently; that I can do as much as any other girl. I overcame it with a lot of hard work.
‘The other challenge was to learn to love myself the way I am. When I was a kid and a teenager, I hated my body and felt ugly even when other people told me I’m beautiful.
‘I thought that they’re lying, that a handicap can’t be beautiful. I hid my hand and didn’t feel comfortable without a prosthesis.
‘But after psychological therapy I finally conquered my own fears five years ago and now I love myself so much that I’m actually proud of my hand and can easily walk without the prosthesis on a podium or in any other place.
‘Never let anyone tell you what you can and can’t do. They were never in your shoes and probably will never be so they can’t know what you’re capable of.
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‘If you have a dream, do everything to make it happen and never let others discourage you. You’re beautiful, I know it. Having a birth defect means being unique and in a modern world that’s a treasure.
‘While others can spend their whole life trying to become different from the crowd, you’re like a snowflake; one of a kind from the day you were born and everything so rare is undoubtedly beautiful.
‘Use your originality to make this world better because there’s definitely a reason for you out of all people to be born different.’
Have you overcome a challenge and learned to love your difference? Share your story by emailing [email protected]