Wednesday, 5 October 2011

You're Inspirational!

Something I hear so often that it grates.

Like so many wheelchair users when I go out for coffee, pop to the shop, go to the post office, I run the gauntlet of 'how inspirational' 'how brave' 'how amazing'.

Why? Tesco holds no fear and Starbucks no hidden terrors. I may go in my wheelchair, but seriously: it is no big deal. Well, it is in that when on wheels I am so much more part of the community and able to interact and enjoy things (see 'statement of disability'). And clearly there is nothing remotely special in doing everyday things that are within my capabilities, in an everyday way.

It irks me. It's depressing that people have such low expectations of me that my posting a letter can inspire them.

And this has coloured my reaction to compliments about my attitude or achievements - my automatic inner response of 'I'm just getting on with life, just let me be myself and stop setting your expectations so low that they imprison me.'

Recently I was in hospital. A nurse asked me about my conditions then read my books for more information. We chatted more. I told him about my up-coming book releases.

He said I was inspirational.

I paused, looked at my inner reaction and compared it to reality.

The comment had context. It was backed by thinking my books were really fun and educational. He'd never read anything like them and found them really useful. He saw being a published author as something special - and to have achieved it on the basis of a talent found during bouts of intermittent speech problems was, for him, inspirational.

And thinking about it, I'm OK with that. I am proud of the talent I discovered, and that I have found ways to use it that help others and earn money. 

Over the course of their life, the average human will do things that inspire, things that scare, things that are despised, things that are respected. Being told you are inspirational isn't always patronising. Sometimes it is just recognising you as another human being and appreciating your achievements.

Sometimes the inner reaction should be looked at before spat out.


  1. Very similar feelings.
    I told my friends once that I was convinced there must be a troll living behind the birthday cards section in the local post office as I was always told I was brave whenever I went there!

    On the other hand, I am often told I am an "inspiration" when people hear of my academic and career accomplishments before I finally had to give them up. And when I think about it, they're good regardless of whether I am disabled or not.

    In other words, feel free to congratulate me about the work I did, but please don't tell me I'm brave for going to the post office (unless there really is a troll lurking behind the postcards!)

  2. It's great to be able to examine and look at one's feelings and see both sides. I think you've made a great point. (Also, I find Starbucks terrifying!)


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