Based in Sydney, Australia, Foundry is a blog by Rebecca Thao. Her posts explore modern architecture through photos and quotes by influential architects, engineers, and artists.

Being Confident As A Deaf Person

[Image Description: Rikki sitting in her car, looking at the camera. Background colour is pink. Text says, "Finding Acceptance."]

[Image Description: Rikki sitting in her car, looking at the camera. Background colour is pink. Text says, "Finding Acceptance."]

A video has been uploaded on my YouTube channel to go along with this article. If you would like to view the video, you can do so here.

Over the past few years of talking about deaf awareness across my social media platforms, I’ve received comments asking if I was always as confident as I am now, how I became confident, etc. I thought that this was a good thing to talk about since self confidence is something that affects everyone all the time (and I’m doing a presentation about deaf identity at the end of March, so this post will help me get my thoughts together).

Growing up, I was not as confident as I am now (and even now, I’m still not always confident or accepting of my deafness). 

Now, I was 11* when I was diagnosed. At 11-years-old, having hearing loss wasn’t much of an issue for me. All I cared about was Pokemon, Sailor Moon, food, etc. Even around other people, I didn’t notice or pay attention to it. When I was hanging out with my friends, all we did was run around and play games outside or play Pokemon. Not much communication needed for that. Regardless, I don’t remember having much of a problem with communication then.

Fast forward a few years to middle and high school and that’s when low self esteem and self consciousness started to pick up. School was really the biggest and only culprit, as the life of a normal teenager typically consists of just school and home. School work was difficult depending on the subject. Having to write down facts from uncaptioned videos was the worst. If you haven’t seen my video about the time my U.S. History teacher in 11th grade made fun of me in front of the class, you can see that video here. I’ve also dealt with comments from my math teacher who would tell me I should be “paying more attention” when I didn’t understand something.

Making friends was difficult, but I believe there were more reasons to that than just being half deaf. However, there were plenty of cases when my peers would talk to me and I wouldn’t get all of what they were saying and I was too scared to ask them to repeat themselves. Sometimes, I’d guess what they were saying, reply, and say the wrong thing because I misunderstood what was being said. Lunch was a fun time, but it was difficult to keep up with 2-3 conversations at once.

My confidence was really in shambles once I graduated high school. I didn’t know what I was going to do with my life. Not only could I not afford school, but what was I going to do about accessibility? How was I going to get a job? I spent four years trying to apply for the simplest jobs. I only got one interview during those years and they told me I didn’t pass it.

I wondered about my dating life (or lack thereof). During years 18-21ish, I was constantly worried about whether or not I was going to find a boyfriend because, oh no, what if I don’t understand them? I was resorting to online dating which didn’t make it any easier. 

Things didn’t start to look up until my early 20s when I became more active on Tumblr. There, I came across the “deaf” tag and started reading posts from real live deaf people. Since I grew up knowing only one other deaf person who was also oral, it was so weird seeing a group of people who were like me but also different. This was when I discovered there was a deaf culture, identity, etc.

And that’s how I got to where I was today. Even though I was doing makeup videos on YouTube when I discovered more deaf people, I would not have been able to do the videos I do now if I hadn’t discovered them. The new friends I made then inspired me to create videos like the first deaf related video I ever did and “Shit Hearing People Say”.

Representation is important. Seeing movies like “The Hammer” and “SuperDeafy” makes me feel good. I feel less alone when I see people like me on the screen. I’m a big believer of representation helping with someone’s self esteem and confidence. That’s why I wanted to make these videos  and continue to do so. That’s why I’ve wanted to branch out and do different things. So that people like me who feel alone will now that they’re not.

Note: For a few years now, I said I was diagnosed when I was 12. As it turns out, I’ve been terrible at math for the last few years. I was diagnosed in 6th grade, yes, ‘cos that’s when I started a new school. But it seems I forgot how old I actually was in 6th grade. I was 11. So I was diagnosed at 11-years-old, not 12, oops.

See Rikki Poynter Present At Hampshire College

A Deaf Experience In The Education System | Guest Post