“You inspire me.” Next time these words are poised to roll off your tongue, I urge you to bite it. I’ve bloomed from child to teen and teen to adult on the receiving end of such commentary, and let me tell you, it doesn’t feel as uplifting as one might think. Much to the contrary, being held as a totem of inspiration sings a demoralizing tune which makes me feel spat upon.
Here’s why: reducing me to an amalgamation of undesirable circumstances that you’d rather not experience yourself, does not brand me a hero. Surviving catastrophe after calamity has not gifted me enlightenment, so please don’t expect me to spew pearls of insight. No matter how well-intentioned, these three words echo only the sentiment that you are glad not to be me. Though I can’t fault you for finding appreciation to belong to your body instead of mine, how might you think admitting to such might make me feel? Additionally, my life is not about inspiring others. A desire to live a robust, healthy life does not warrant adoration. Serving as a target of said adoration does nothing to staunch or justify the inhumane task of being chronically debilitated, nor should it.
The barrage of inspirational insults hurled at marginalized groups, from those with disabilities to racial and sexual minorities, preclude meaningful conversation. By inhibiting individuals to voice their own stories, we underestimate the capacity of injustice. Silencing the unsavory truths of others only bolsters the current state of societal tapestry that induces such travesties in the first place.
Feeling inadequately equipped to process profound pain and nosedives toward death is understandable. Converting my torment into your gain, however, is not. A bandaid for the ego does nothing to soothe my boiling insides, it only reinforces your privilege while disregarding my identity as anything but that poor, disabled girl.