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Jenna, 29

My arms are mismatched. The left one is congenitally 20 centimeters shorter. I’m fine with it in some way, but deep inside me I’m really insecure. I was born with this situation, but it’s been different at every stage of my life. I have a critical relationship with my looks anyway, but the arm is the thing I’ve had to think about the most.

Being a little kid was nice and easy. Children ask what they want to know and don’t think about it much after that. But in school I was bullied a lot.

During secondary school and vocational school I sought for acceptance in my relationships with others. I was skinny and pretty in a flashy way. That was my attempt to compensate for the awfulness of the left arm. I wore lipstick all the time and my hair was dyed, sometimes red, sometimes purple.

Nowadays, I prefer a more natural look. My boyfriend says that I’m prettier without makeup. I think it’s important to let go of the need to please. I have a lot of comfortable clothes, and I feel good in them.

How I want to act with the arm depends on the moment. Some places are easier to go to in a long-sleeve shirt. I’m faced with it quite often in my job as a nurse. It’s tough to always go to a new situation with new people, because adults are too afraid to ask. Then we sit at a coffee table and the other person keeps looking and looking but can’t open their mouth.

Maybe people are more honest with things in Pohjanmaa. Here in the south it’s somehow very conspicuous that people want to be discreet and not hurt your feelings. I prefer if they just ask me about it directly. Then I don’t always have to wonder how to bring this up.

When I look in the mirror in the morning, I may have very negative thoughts. My eyes focus on my belly and the fact that I’m quite large these days. The change has happened quickly. If I think about the way I dress, for instance, the arm bothers me less than being big. But if I look at pictures of myself, the arm becomes more important. Somehow it disturbs me more in photos than other places.

Sometimes I think, though, that overall I’m beautiful. Many people tell me that their attention is drawn more to my face than my arm.

Taking part in the photoshoot happened at a meaningful moment in my life. I had decided that I have no need to hide anything. Still, you can see a certain sorrow in the picture. I’ve sometimes been afraid that I will have to give up my job. That’s because I was told when I was 15 that I might be unable to work in my 30s. But now I’m doing extra training that will open up even more possibilities in my work. Thanks to that, I can keep working for however long I want. That feels good.