Many times over the years I have been called “inspirational” by various people for various reasons. This seems to be a common thing with a lot of disabled people. People seem to call them inspirational. But the thing is, most disabled people, including myself, don’t see themselves as being inspirational.
It depends who is saying it. If it is a close friend or family member who has known me for many years, and knows about my life and what I’ve been through, then I take it as a compliment. It means a lot more coming from someone who actually knows me, then from someone who I bump into on street.
Most of the times I have been called “inspirational” was when I was in a nightclub of all places. Random people who I have never met before would come up to me and tell me I was an inspiration, just because I was there and doing what everyone else was doing. On the face of it I know they mean well, and they mean it as a compliment. But why is it inspirational to be in a nightclub? My dance moves are not particularly inspiring. Nor is my choice of attire. I’m 25. I’m simply doing what most people my age do.
It’s not like I had to single-handedly trek across the desert to get there, or have just saved 10 people from a burning building. If I had done that then maybe it would have been worthy of being called “inspirational.” But clubbing is not so.
And what is it exactly that I’m apparently inspiring you to do? Party harder? I don’t think so.
The reason I think they called me “inspiring” is because they have such low expectations of disabled people. They probably expect disabled people to sit at home all day being miserable and wallowing in self-pity. Not going out and enjoying themselves like everyone else does. The fact that they don’t even know me makes it a bit insulting. They are basically saying “oh I expected you to just exist and not live.”
If you don’t know me I would rather you NOT call me inspirational. By all means ask me questions if you are interested, but don’t just assume that my life is such a hardship that my very presence among society is worthy of praise.
There are a lot of people in this world that are much more worthy of being called inspiring then I am. People like Stephen Hawking who has had to overcome a lot more difficulties than me are genuinely inspiring. I bet even he wouldn’t really see himself as inspiring though. He’s probably too modest.
Basically, what I am saying is if you see a disabled person on the street that you don’t know personally, don’t call them inspirational. It won’t mean anything and it is probably insulting more than anything.