Your Own Pedestal
Before being called "an inspiration," find something that makes you worthy of that pedestal.
Lately, there has been a big uproar in social media, especially in groups involving disabled folks, that has caught my attention.
The readers who follow me and send me emails frequently know I’m a social media enthusiast and share anything and everything that may spark up a conversation or a little controversy when it comes to how we, wheelers, look at ourselves.
One of the discussions I came across was about the word “inspiration” and how it was easily thrown out there for people like us. “Oh, you are such an inspiration,” has been looked at as a patronizing way to say, “Thank goodness it’s you in that position and not me, because I couldn’t handle what you go through.”
More often than not, those wanna-be compliments come from strangers who have no idea who we are or where we come from. So, before I go on with this idea let me interrupt and backpedal a bit.
I just finished a critical theory course on literature and found out that I’m a hardcore feminist.
Now, it doesn’t mean I hate men or I’m going to shave my head, burn my bras and tattoo the letter “F” on my forehead.
What it really means is I have always been aware that I was raised in a very patriarchal household/culture and was influenced by that ideology most of my life. I rebelled against it most of my life.
To learn that what I felt wasn’t mere defiance made me feel better.
I felt even more validated to discover other women who were just like me. Not haters of people of the opposite sex, but women who understood their value and realized they were much more than what society claimed their worth to be. From this huge discovery, I had one of the biggest epiphanies of my life.
I remembered that although I loved feeling great about the way I looked from taking care of myself: eating a good, clean diet, running 8–10 miles daily, getting plenty of sleep and having plenty of fun; I hated feeling objectified by the opposite sex. I despised being qualified on my looks alone, knowing fully well that I had an intelligent mind and great conversation.
Ironically, when I found out I would never walk again while in the hospital, I grieved the loss of my looks and the power they gave me. I realized I had succumbed to the patriarchal ways of my culture because fighting the tide was too tiring.
Confronted with a new life in a wheelchair, I felt I would never be able to assert my place on Earth again without the looks that opened so many doors for me.
I Was Wrong
Eight years later, I come across this hot topic of us wheelchair users being objectified as “inspirations.”
I must admit that bothers me a little bit. It doesn’t bother me to inspire people, but it bothers me to be labeled that way without any merit, for the mere fact that I push myself to get around instead of using my two legs. There is no merit in that.
In fact, most of the wheelers I socialize with are incredibly inspiring, but not because they use a wheelchair. It’s because of how they continue to do amazing things despite the chair. I’m aware of those accomplishments and why I deem them inspirational.
I find that when people are too quick to put you on a pedestal, they impede you from finding your way to it. Being put on a pedestal isn’t what you want, trust me. It may feel good temporarily to be revered as a hero just because you survived and now live your life in a chair, but it fades.
Find That One Thing
Be gracious, accept the “compliment,” but don’t hold on to it.
Find something that makes you worthy of that pedestal, something no one can take away from you; one thing or many things you conquer on your own, because then, it won’t matter if you are given a title or a label.
Within yourself it’ll be about doing that thing that makes you feel alive inside despite your inability to walk. And, as women, we’re much more than our physical appearances even though society will continue to try to enslave us to its values.
Find that one thing that makes you want to get up in the morning and fully invest yourself in it. Then, when someone calls you an inspiration, you have something to back it up that’s only yours, and you’re not dependent on their words to feel good about yourself.
Words of Comfort
To all of you who reach out to me, you have no idea how exciting it is to open your emails and exchange conversations with you.
It warms my heart that my words bring some clarity or comfort to you.
Connect with Camile on Facebook at facebook.com/camilearaujo.
Your Own Pedestal
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