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Stacey’s story: “We all deserve to feel confident”

Performing in front of a crowd has enabled Stacey to feel empowered by all eyes being on her. When people stare, she wants it to be because of her talent.

My name is Stacey, I’m 30 and I have Goldenhar Syndrome, which is a bone development disorder that usually affects one side of the body. For me, my right side is affected. I am deaf in my right ear and also have abnormal bones in my neck and shoulder which have caused long term, chronic pain.

Despite this, I’ve played drums for 16 years. When I was in school, I was often bullied due to my visible difference and lacked a lot of self-confidence and belief. Music was an escape and an outlet for me to find comfort and also express myself. Playing drums basically became a form of therapy for me. It was something to focus on and helped me regulate my emotions, something I’ve always struggled with due to having ADHD.

I was never confident about being on stage when I was younger. I didn’t like the idea of a lot of people staring at me, because usually people staring was a negative thing, which made me aware of how different I looked from everyone else.

Why shouldn’t we feel happy in ourselves, both in terms of who we are and what we look like?

I remember my first-time playing drums in front of an audience. It was a school show, so I was only about 14, and I was playing drums as part of a backing track for some dancers. I remember being so incredibly nervous but the energy I got from playing drums in front of a crowd was electric. People who I didn’t usually talk to were complimenting me and were surprised how well I did. I think this and my desire to ‘prove people wrong’ kept me afloat sometimes.

Over the years, playing drums has helped shift my perspective on people staring. It’s not always about how I look, it’s about what I’m doing.

A more recent example of this in action was in November. I got asked by the drummer of my favourite band, McFly, if I wanted to play drums for a song in their soundcheck after he had seen drum covers that I had uploaded on Instagram. I cannot comprehend how BIG of a deal this was for me. McFly have been my favourite band for 20 years, and suddenly I was going to be performing with them. They messaged me the day before the soundcheck, so I didn’t have much time to feel nervous, I just couldn’t believe what was happening.

Stacey on stage with her favourite band, McFly

The band were also inviting someone on stage every night to play the cowbell during their song, ‘Everybody Knows’. Which I was hoping to get chosen for as I had made a sign!

Playing drums with McFly was a dream come true. There were only about 50 people in the room for that, not that I could see anyone other than the band anyway with the light shining in my eyes. After I played drums, I took my opportunity to ask in person if I could play the cowbell. The frontman, Danny said he would look out for me. It was all happening!

I was on cloud 9. If I also got to play the cowbell with my favourite band, while my mum, sister and best friend watched in the crowd, it would be one of the best days of my life.

I got picked! At this point, nothing could have made me even think about people staring. I can play drums so I can hit a cowbell to beat. What can go wrong? Nothing. And nothing did go wrong. The freedom I got to feel while I was up there was incredible. I felt confident, like I was on top of the world -I wish could have bottled that feeling up. If people were looking, it was because I was on stage with McFly!

Believe that you can achieve it, because one day, you will get to show those who didn’t believe in you what you are made of.

I often think back to that day when I’m finding the staring difficult or on days where I’m feeling vulnerable, and I don’t fancy heading out in public alone.

We all deserve to feel confident and free to express ourselves however we desire to. Why shouldn’t we feel happy in ourselves, both in terms of who we are and what we look like?

I’ve been feeling very reflective over the last few months, possibly because I’ve recently turned 30, a milestone birthday I suppose. And I think the main thing I would love to tell my younger self (and other people who are going through anything similar to my experiences) is that, truly, you WILL be ok. The more you work on your self-belief, the less important the outside opinions become.

I would love to see more people with visible differences on stage, in bands, showcasing their gifts and talents and being accepted into communities that don’t judge people on first looks. Throughout my life, I have had to challenge assumptions about my abilities, and I’ve succeeded in doing so. I would encourage anyone who has been told they can’t do something, or have been excluded because of their visible difference, to prove people wrong! Believe that you can achieve it, because one day, you will get to show those who didn’t believe in you what you are made of.

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