Inspiration. Oxford Dictionaries describes it as, “The quality of being inspired, especially when evident in something… A person or thing that inspires.” We all have something or someone that inspires us. Maybe as a kid you looked up to your dad and wanted to be just like him. He was your source of inspiration. John Quincy Adams even is quoted as saying, “If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.” The issue is, what if you do not want to be a leader or an inspiration to others? I know, it’s a weird question. However, there is major controversy going around in the chronic illness, mental health, and disability communities that echo this same sentiment. I would like to look at the issue from both sides today as well as give my point of view on it.
Often people in these communities are seen as great sources of inspiration to “normal” folk. Yet, people are taking offense to this. As quoted in one article, “If we have overcome anything, it’s more relevant to highlight the barriers that a disabling world sets in our way, not our medical problems” (Shakespeare, Tom). I agree with this quote, but people cannot chose who looks at them as inspiring. It is a difficult situation. The problem that I am seeing is the pressure that the people in the disability community are feeling. Pressure to always be uplifting, encouraging, and well, inspiring. It is hard to always have that pressure in your life when most times you feel like you are falling apart.
The issue with this situation is that it is not truly focused on the topic of inspiration. Disabled people are getting lumped into a giant category with each other. The origin of this argument came from Stella Young. “She objected to the way that disabled children and adults were feted for very minor achievements – like coming to school, or making a painting. She didn’t like how the non-disabled world automatically responded with pity and admiration for disabled people, often for simply existing” (Shakespeare, Tom). I can understand this as well. We want to be on the same playing field as everyone else and celebrated for our achievements, not for what we go through.
Now I want to focus on this argument from the other side. As someone who did not always have physical disabilities, I thought this way. For me, it was encouraging to see someone going through so much more than I was, yet they were still here. I think, at least in my own opinion, people are living stressed filled lives. Considering in a study done in recent years, “73% of participants regularly experience psychological symptoms caused by stress” (11 Scary Statistics). That is a scary fact. However, it’s human nature to compare situations to make one feel better. So, if an average adult is stressed out and reaching their breaking point, it makes them view their situation in a different light when they consider that people with disabilities have it worse than they do. It helps to keep them going.
In my opinion, I think anyone can be an inspiration to someone else. I also can see both sides of this issue. Yet, as always, there exists a gray area. In my experience, I believe that disability provides a unique position in which to influence society. It is a position from which one can help change the way we are treated. However, connection is a huge part of this. People of all kinds like to be able to relate to someone. Inspiration plays a big role in this. If you are already deemed as inspiring, you have a foot in the door. We love our role models. So, even though being this source of inspiration may not be ideal, I have chosen to use it to the chronic illness community’s benefit. I can make people aware of something that they may not ever would have been and I think that’s pretty cool.
Thanks for reading this article today! What is your view on this issue? I want to hear your thoughts. Please subscribe and I’ll see you next time, my Un-imaginables!
“11 Scary Statistics About Stress At Work.” Officevibe, 14 Mar. 2019, http://www.officevibe.com/blog/infographic-stress-at-work.
Hamilton, Anna. “I Don’t Want to Be Your ‘Inspiration.’” Shondaland, 1 May 2018, http://www.shondaland.com/live/a19685274/people-with-disabilities-inspiration-narrative/.
Shakespeare, Tom. “Disabled People Don’t Want to Be Your Inspiration, but If They Are It’s No Surprise.” The Conversation, 16 Sept. 2018, theconversation.com/disabled-people-dont-want-to-be-your-inspiration-but-if-they-are-its-no-surprise-65430.
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