In a world where right-handedness dominates, left-handed people often have to bear the brunt of jokes and rude remarks. From unusual writing angles to the often-forgotten left-handed scissors, these unique individuals have to navigate a world that’s just a little bit backwards for them.
Johannesburg-based clinical psychologist Deborah Olusola emphasises that being left-handed has no association with a lack of intelligence.
She says it was associated with clumsiness or a lack of intelligence because historically, using your left hand was seen as taboo, and children were punished for using their left hand. Failure of the child to correct themselves and rather use their right hand was seen as them being clumsy or achieving low intelligence.
“However, other research has found no difference in IQ levels or personality among left-handed and right-handed people.”
It is not a disability
Despite the disadvantage of struggling to use scissors, Nomnotho Ntombela from Empangeni in KwaZulu-Natal says she has always enjoyed being left-handed because she likes being the opposite of what the majority of people are.
“Growing up, it was called an ape’s hand, but nothing bothered me. Being left-handed has been associated with terrible handwriting and that we are ‘unlucky’ or associated with bad omens in whatever we do. This is contrary to popular belief, but I have beautiful handwriting and very good handwork skills.
“We always try to do things from the left-hand viewpoint, and this can be time-consuming. I’ve tried numerous times to use my right hand, but my attempts weren’t successful. I can barely do anything with it.”
Mchazeleni Gama, from Soweto in Gauteng, says his little sister and brother are also left-handed and now understand that being left-handed is not a disability or anything bad.
“People always say if you are left-handed, you will die early, and they call it an ape’s hand. It’s also associated with weakness in my culture. Thus, I’ve learned to be able to also use my right hand, and it worked for me because when I’m eating with a spoon, I’m able to use it properly.”
For Thabane Mzobe from Newcastle in KZN, being left-handed has been an advantage, as he describes himself as shy, so he has always been a conversation starter when around people.
“I have never felt isolated because of being left-handed, and I was shy but never shy about it. My father and little brother are also left-handed, so I’ve never faced many challenges except for the superstition people always tell me that left-handed people don’t live long.”
How parents and teachers can help
Olusula explains that studies have disproved that there is no correlation between autoimmune and allergic disorders and left-handedness. An individual’s handedness is rather linked to their environment and genetics (a gene called LRRTM1).
“We often see that a child develops their dominant hand based on (usually their primary carers) the dominant hand of those they spend more time with. Cultural influences can also play a role. For example, in some cultures, using or extending the left hand is regarded as disrespectful, so a lot of emphasis is placed on the use of the right hand,” she explains.
“Parents should allow their child to use their left hand and allow them to determine what things they choose to do with each hand.
Olusola also states that left-handedness is not a disease but just a preferential use of one hand. She also adds that only 10% of the population is left-handed, and with that information, they may consider themselves unique when it comes to handedness.
“It’s important that they embrace their uniqueness, be kind to themselves, and embrace their uniqueness,” she advises.
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