Wednesday, December 11, 2013

A Ridiculous 'Inspirational' Quote

Inspirational quotes - the kind that are supposed to affirm that each and every one of us is completely in control of our own destiny and our own happiness, and that if we work constantly at changing ourselves, we can be better human beings. People love to tweet and retweet these kinds of things. They even print them on real-life vases, fridge magnets, coffee mugs, and a host of other gift-shop objects.

I, however, am generally not a fan of such quotes. This is mostly because I don't think that happiness is something that can be taught - only felt, and naive as I am in the ways of the world, even I know that people are frequently placed in situations over which they have little or no control. I tend to try to take such quotes as being well-intended, but unfollow people who continually tweet or retweet them.

Last night, however, I saw a Tweet that really bugged me:

The only disability in life is a bad attitude. -Scott Hamilton
I know that this was supposed to be an empowering or inspiring quote, but seeing it on my timeline really irked me. The only disability in life is a bad attitude? Really? I don't feel that this true at all. In fact, I consider the claim to be utterly ridiculous. Obviously, disability has many causes, and comes in many forms. It is upsetting to think that others have so little understanding of the challenges that people with disabilities face each day.

I am certainly not disabled solely by my attitude. Rather, the barriers I face in participating in social activities, romance, work, study, community, sporting and cultural activities are caused by a number of interrelated factors. These include the symptoms of a complex collection of genetic and acquired illnesses, and by the lack of access I have to services and resources (such as money).  

It is insulting that some people believe the challenges that people like myself face are somehow self-imposed. Do these people really believe that all people with disabilities have a "bad attitude"? Or do people with disabilities that do not have "bad attitudes" somehow also not have disabilities in their eyes? It doesn't make sense to me. Would we suddenly and miraculously no longer be disabled if we worked hard and our changed our attitudes? If only it was that easy. 

Unfortunately, real-life doesn't work that way. Disability can happen to anyone, at any time. I understand that people want to think that it won't happen to them. They want to feel as though maintaining a positive attitude will somehow make their problems disappear, and they want to believe that nothing in life is outside of their control, but sadly this is not true.

I believe that I (like most of the other people I know who have disabilities) usually maintain a very positive attitude. This helps to keep me sane, and gives me resilience against the daily challenges I face. I am not disabled by a bad attitude. I have a positive attitude, and a disability.