For many reasons, I have been ignoring the Intentional Blogging Challenge tasks since last Friday. I have been reading posts from other participants and thinking about my own responses to the challenges. Saturday’s challenge – to write a confessional post – has been a struggle for me. Then this morning I posted a question on my Facebook page and the responses from my friends provided the push I needed to tackle the task.
To understand my confession, it may help to see the question which inspired this post:
How come I can be grateful and appreciative when a young woman with a disability calls me an inspiration but when able bods do, I squirm?
So – here’s my confession. I want to be an accepting, humble, grateful person but when able-bodied strangers call me an inspiration I rush to judgement without giving them the benefit of the doubt. I internally roll my eyes, assuming they find me inspiring because of my disability rather than taking the time to question them about their statement. I close myself off to a possible dialogue or gift of connection with another because it is easier to group that stranger with those who give compliments to make themselves feel better instead of taking the time to learn why they blessed me with such praise. I am a skeptic.
My point in asking the question was not to doubt the sincerity of those who offer the compliment to me. I want to believe the positive intent of those who say it. I am truly humbled if a stranger finds something in my actions from which to draw strength. However, I’m not living my life to be an inspiration to anyone. I’m living my life in a manner authentic and honest to me. If my actions have an impact on others, great. It’s not why I do what I do.
I never had women role/roll models who were adults with disabilities living self-determined lives. So, when young women with disabilities say I inspire them, I can easily understand why. I’m doing what they hope to do. I don’t want to be an inspiration to the able-bods just because of my chair, so I squirm. I question the intention rather than accepting the compliment with gratitude.
Haven’t we all met people and questioned the motives behind their actions? Various media markets tell of celebrities endorsing this charity or that group, donating to benefit a cause or working with a humanitarian organization. While I want to believe the best in others, sometimes I wonder if they are in it because they truly believe in the mission. Or, are they hoping the extra publicity will sell more books, albums, tickets?
When we rush to judgement, we lose the chance for meaningful discussion. If we automatically assume negativity, we never have the opportunity to be blessed with insight about ourselves.
This morning my able-bodied friends forced me to look at my question from their point of view. They were kind, offering words of admiration I was not seeking and reminding me how much I miss when I am quick to project negative intent instead of merely being grateful. Here’s what I learned from my friends:
- I am not alone in feeling unworthy of praise or admiration.
- Gratitude doesn’t just happen without some internal cultivation. If we aspire to be grateful, we should ask ourselves why we feel we are not worthy of a compliment given with good intentions by others.
- Humor is individualistic and even when we think we are being clear sometimes a joke falls flat or offends others who don’t understand the back-story. It doesn’t mean the one making the joke is a bad person or uncaring.
- When we diagnose the motives of others without knowing their background or the experiences which have colored the lenses they use to view the world, we are often wrong.
- Despite my experiences with strangers who (obviously) see my differences right away, those who know me don’t consider my disability when viewing my accomplishments or calling me inspirational. (Why do I continue to assume this of strangers?!)
- Asking questions can foster discussions and growth if we are willing to listen to the answers thoughtfully in our attempts to reach understanding.
Today I was inspired by my friends who took the time to share their views and their passions. As a writer who still struggles to peel back the layers and expose her vulnerabilities, their willingness to share their words in writing gave me the courage to spend my lunch break writing this post. While I may continue to struggle when others call me inspirational, I will try not to rush to judgement and indignation. And when I offer the word to others as a compliment, I will tell them why in case they are internally rolling their own eyes.
How about you? Are you an inspiration to others? What can you do to help serve as an inspiration to those in your world? Please share your thoughts and comments below!