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My 'Unexpected' Response to 'You're Such an Inspiration'

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Recently, I attended a summit with nine fellow women authors, most of whom have dealt with adversity of their own. During a lunch time conversation, a group of them turned to me and one of them asked: “How do you respond when someone says to you, “You’re such an inspiration?”

They correctly suspected that I’ve had this said to me. I hesitated, began to say something else, but then responded “I generally start by saying thank you.” They all laughed. I don’t think it was the response they expected.

I answer that way because I take being called an inspiration as a compliment. I asked the group in return: “What’s wrong with being an inspiration?”

The answer to that might depend on how you interpret inspiration. If you feel you are not worthy of admiration, or if you feel you are being put up on a pedestal, I can understand the discomfort.

The definition of inspiration is “the action or power of moving the intellect or emotions; a person, place, experience, etc. that makes someone want to do or create something.” Being an inspiration means being the force or influence that inspires someone to do something or to feel a certain way.

I enjoy being that force. I am grateful my own story and experiences have empowered me to influence people, to encourage them to embrace their differences and make choices that help them live happier lives. That’s why I put myself out there, writing books and speaking professionally.

However, I don’t want others to view what I have as unobtainable. Instead, I want the people I inspire to feel that they can achieve what I have — to create the mindset “If she can do it, so can I!”

They also need to know it’s OK if they need a little help.

If I can set an example through my positive choices, success, survival, happiness, confidence or whatever, how is that a bad thing? If I can inspire someone to aspire to a happier, more active, more productive life, isn’t that what any of us could hope for?

Now, what I really don’t understand is when people call me “brave.” But I already wrote a blog about that.

While it took some adjustment, I’m now totally fine with being an inspiration.

Follow this journey on Facing Up to It.

The Mighty is asking the following: What’s one thing people might not know about your experience with disability, disease or mental illness, and what would you say to teach them? If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to Please include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio. Check out our Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines.

Originally published: April 23, 2016
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