After I wrote about the top 10 misconceptions, I knew we would need to explore a few of them further. The list came from a collection of voices. I asked for others to share their experiences and so many answers were the same. One answer I heard repeated connects to the idea of being inspirations:
We are inspirations for reaching normal milestones and leading normal lives.
Are we inspirations for simply living with a disability in the day-to-day?
I believe it really depends on who is saying we are inspirations and the reason behind the comment.
Are we strangers or close friends?
What did we do in that moment to inspire the person?
I went back to the Facebook groups and asked the same people to consider the question —
Am I an inspiration?
“I feel like it creates a separation between myself and the admiring person…they are saying I’m different. I’m in another category. I don’t need their admiration. But I would always welcome their friendship.” -Brenda
“It happens often to both my fiancé and I, because we’re both disabled, and we get out in the world and live normal everyday lives. However, I understand how people see us as inspirational. I agree with Laura that it’s easier to take from people you know, as opposed to having your differences pointed out by a stranger. It depends how I’m approached and how they say it, as to whether I take it as a compliment or as if my differences are being pointed out.” -Heather
“I, to a certain degree, can understand why people see us as inspirational; however, I don’t like it when they say it. This is all I’ve known, so as far as I’m concerned I’m not doing anything different than what they’re doing, just living my life.” -Carrie
“I have mixed feelings when I hear this phrase. I feel embarrassed, as you do when given a compliment. On one hand I feel I don’t deserve it, but on the other I realize I do…Disabled people are told they’re an inspiration for doing the most mundane tasks…it feels patronizing and it serves as a reminder of how difficult it can be to do those simple tasks. For most people going shopping is easy; for me it’s challenging and exhausting…I don’’t think doing shopping is inspiring…Sometimes though, I hope I am an inspiration. When we have conferences, I hope the younger ones are able to look up at us and see how we have adapted to manage…we can inspire other disabled or ill people to find a new way of managing instead of giving up…I hope I can inspire other Christians that God is with them whatever they are going through. When people tell me I inspire them, I try to accept it graciously, as I don’t know what they’re facing and I may inspire them for the simplest of reasons.” -Amanda
There is never one answer. We have to look at both sides of the inspiration discussion.
We can’t ignore or deny these 2 facts:
- People with disabilities face challenges in order to reach those normal milestones.
- Our normal includes very real obstacles and a different level of overcoming.
Physical limits are visible.
I wear AFOs. I use a wheelchair when I leave my house. I have a walker to help with my mobility when I want freedom from someone holding my arm. All of this equipment is not hidden from any bystander. Someone watching me do a task could potentially be inspired. I stand up for most of my work. This could inspire another person because in our culture the typical way to work is sitting at a desk.
I admit I’ve never really been bothered by the “inspiration” word. I don’t face this misconception very often. But if you ask me about healing or one of the other ones…
In a way, I’d rather be an inspiration than not.
Shouldn’t we all be inspiring each other as we do life together?
For whatever reason, you can inspire me and I can inspire you. It doesn’t have to be related to disability. Both of us can simply be inspired to keep going forward in this life — to keep reaching for the next normal thing or the next impossible dream.
What’s your take on the inspiration question?