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44 People With Disabilities On Whether Or Not They Want to Be Your Inspiration

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Whether or not being called “an inspiration” is a good thing is a polarizing question in the disability community, with passionate people on both sides of the argument.

Although it’s ultimately up to the individual as to whether or not they want to receive it as a compliment, we at The Mighty decided to ask our readers how they felt about the issue.

This is what they had to say:

1. “I feel like it’s ridiculous, honestly. It’s one thing to be told I am an inspiration because of something I accomplished (like getting a book published, for example). But too many times in my life I have been called an inspiration for simply existing or for going out in public living my life. In that case, it’s degrading… it implies that my own existence is something to be overcome, that living my everyday life is above and beyond what anyone expects of me.” — Tonia Says


2. “Inspiration can come from anyone or anything. If my son inspires someone to keep going, I take pride in that… He has been to hell and back multiple times and continues to wake up each morning with a smile and bounce in his step.” — Lorie Crowell Doll

3. “I consider it an honor. I was born with spastic quadriplegic cerebral palsy at 25 weeks. When someone tells me that I’ve inspired them in one way or another, I feel blessed.” — Tino Tarango


4. “I would much rather be asked, ‘How can we support you?’ than be titled ‘inspirational.’” — Bonnie Brown Clark

5. “For me it’s like one of those ‘Thanks… but no’ type feelings. Yeah, I have a lot of junk going on, but I’m not an ‘inspiration’ just for walking out of the house… If you want to call me an ‘inspiration,’ talk to me when I win a marathon!” — Ashley Laverdiere


6. “It depends on who is speaking and what it’s about. When my husband calls me one, I know it’s because he watches me trying so hard to live a normal life. When a parent of a child with the same condition calls me one, I know it is because they hope their children turn out to be as helpful as I try to be. When a stranger calls me one, it seems awkward. I am just living my life. They don’t know what it’s like and often say I’m an inspiration because they want to feel good about looking up to someone ‘lesser’ than them.” — Kirsten Schultz

7. “I feel like I should be flattered when someone calls me inspirational. Honestly, though, it drives me crazy. I am just living the life I was given the best way that I know how. I make mistakes every single day just like everyone else does… I have been a wheelchair user for almost 34 years, so I should have life as such figured out by now. I am thankful when I have the opportunity to give others hope, but I do not think of myself as inspirational.” — Jamie Spore


8. “As the person who does the ‘inspiring,’ it’s awfully hard to talk with you about my fears and pain, our many hospitalization, our insane amount of doctor visits. And frankly, you may not want to be disappointed by my honesty. I appreciate so much the heart behind the desire to place me on the tall seat of being an ‘inspiration,’ but do take me down, please. Instead, ask me how you can help and if you make an offer, follow through… I don’t have super powers. I’m not in some other league than you. I’m just under extraordinary pressure and I’ve had to adapt. You would too. So offer support, love, empathy, compassion and protection, but kindly keep me off the pedestal please.” — Stacie Poole


9. “If living life the best way you can is inspirational, then I guess that is what I am. I’d like to believe that means that we all are inspirational in some way or other. None of us is perfect, but we continue to live life, travel the roads we are given and do the best we can.” — Marcia Minutello


10. “I’ve been told that I inspire people many times from many friends and family. It’s nice to have someone notice you, your life, your situation, your struggle and your fight… It’s nice to be noticed.” — Melissa Cote

11. “I think it’s really stupid to call me an inspiration because I have a disability. You can find a conversation with me or my sense of humor inspiring, but please don’t be inspired by the fact that I have a life.” — Vici Michel


12. “I have been told I am inspiring. It makes me laugh. I appreciate people finding something in me to inspire them but I don’t see myself being any different from them.” — Meghan Nagy

13. “I really feel uncomfortable when someone tells me I am an inspiration. I’ve learned to try to take it the way it’s meant, as a compliment, but it still tends to feel condescending… Everyone has struggles. Just because you can see mine doesn’t make me an admirable person.” — Donna Gibbings


14. “Sometimes it feels like all the tears, pain, hard work and things get kind of of swept under the carpet as people only look at the achievement and not what goes on behind the ‘inspiration.’” — Antnz Burgess

15. “I feel honored and proud that I inspire people to find strength. It’s always there. Just have to find it.” — Becky Pantano


16. “I try and take it in the spirit intended by the speaker, but I hate it. I feel pressure to live up to that expectation of who I am, which I really do not need. I feel like the person speaking doesn’t know — and in some cases does not care to know — who I really am, preferring this idealized, saint-like picture they have created. This can be really isolating at times.” — Jess Guest

17. “I am no more of an inspiration than anyone else. Anyone can be an inspiration. Not just someone who is not the ‘norm.’” — Angela Lucia


18. “It’s a little weird, unwarranted and sometimes embarrassing. After all, I am just little old me. However at the same time, I feel incredibly happy and humbled to think that by sharing my story, raising awareness, increasing understanding and reducing stigmas I might be inspiring others out there. It’s just my story, and it is only one of many, but everyone has a story to tell. Even if I only help one other person, to me, that is important and making a difference.” — Stoma-licious


19. “My almost 11-year-old is a pediatric stroke survivor. The ‘inspiration’ comments that annoy him most are the ones from complete strangers who know nothing about him other than the fact that his left side is very weak. On a shopping trip not long ago, a stranger started gushing over him and saying how brave he is. Tired of the patronizing comments, he responded, ‘Why? I’m grocery shopping, not saving puppies from a burning building.’ I couldn’t help but smile. No, it wasn’t the most polite response, but after hearing the many well-meaning but annoying comments he receives, I couldn’t blame him. ” — Jo Walker


20. “I can tolerate it surprisingly well when people call me an inspiration for doing little things because it’s clear that they just don’t know better and I can easily steer them in the right direction. What bothers me the most is when I do something really great, like win a scholarship, and instead of saying it in reference to my efforts, my accomplishments, or something else the person relates it to my blindness. I want my achievements to be recognized for what they are, not for what they are in spite of my disability.” — Kaiti Shelton


21. “Fighting through metastatic breast cancer and living my life, being happy no matter the outcome — if that inspires anyone that’s great.” — Janet Oney

22. “It’s nice that people notice how much I go through at times, but I feel unworthy of the title ‘inspiration.’ It’s probably because I know all the times I’ve failed, cried and almost given up and because I know of so many others who have gone through so much more than me or are going through more than me. I feel they are the inspirations.” — Jennifer Hines Hansel


23. “I’m honored when I hear it but also don’t really know how to process it and react.” — Harper Spero

24. “When I’m able to inspire someone, especially someone else living with a chronic disease or disability, I feel like it’s one small way my disease can be used to bring good. I’m not perfect and there may not be much that I can accomplish on any given day, but if I can encourage someone else to keep fighting or keep smiling than I have accomplished a great thing.” — Hannah Anderson


25. “I hate disability and inspiration porn with a passion… pictures of amputees with slogans that are meant to make able-bodied people feel grateful that they’re not disabled [are] insulting, and it treats disabled people as ‘other’.” — Louise Evans

26. “Living with anxiety and bipolar [disorder] doesn’t make me inspirational. Being a mom to a little boy with sensory processing issues doesn’t make me inspirational. To be called it makes me uncomfortable and uneasy. I’m a mom. I’m a woman. I am alive… Find inspiration in people who make things better for more than themselves. I’m not an inspiration, not when all I’ve done is survive the worst my brain can throw at me.” — Cassandra Coogan


27. “Many times people say to me, ‘You’re an inspiration. I couldn’t do what you do!’ One day I was fed up with it so I replied (with a bit of snark), ‘What? You couldn’t love your kids?’” — Carly Pointon

28. “I am proud of myself privately because I know I put all my effort into participating in life each day.” — Patricia Howarth Andersen


29. “If I can touch someone’s life through my life with gastroparesis, then I am happy to do it. I know I am merely one cog in the wheel of life that helps a person along.” — Christine Rachuy

30. “I have mixed emotions. Part of me feels proud, like I am being validated and recognized for the struggles I face and the things I go through. The other part though kind of feels like a fraud. They only see one side of me and my illness — the times I am actually feeling well enough to be in public, the carefully worded Facebook posts, etc. They haven’t seen the times I’ve not been so graceful — the crying from frustration after a bad doctor’s visit, how I get apathetic during a long hospitalization, the depression that accompanies my serious chronic illness, and the times where I haven’t been sure how I was going to keep going. But overall, if someone calls me an inspiration, it means they are taking the time to be invested in my life which means the world to me.” — Ellis Milligan


31. “I cannot express strongly enough how much I loathe being called inspirational.” — Nadine Riches

32. “I appreciate the sentiment when someone says that, but I don’t understand it. Living as best I can for as long as I can is my goal (which I think is probably most of our goals) and I don’t feel that is inspirational. It’s just playing the hand you are dealt with dignity.” — Tasha Moreno


33. “I don’t mind it. I’m a poet. I want to inspire people. If my writing inspires people why cant my life?”– Marissa Stone

34. “I’m totally fed up with being put on a pedestal because I live my life the best way I can. I sometimes feel other people tell you how amazing you are whilst all the time thinking that if they pay a compliment they somehow are helping. No, sorry, that damn pedestal just makes me feel more isolated.” — Liz Morris


35. “I am not an inspiration. I fight because it’s the only option I have. If you were in my position you would fight too.” — Brooke Nelson

36. “I consider it a compliment because I feel when life deals us a difficult hand we all need a little push to keep us going through our rough day. If I can inspire one person to make it through one difficult day then I feel as though I’ve made a difference in their lives.” — Nicole Small


37. “I feel good about it! I worked hard to get well and if I can help one person, it is all worth it.” — Megan Roach

38. “[When] people ask, ‘How I do it?’ I say, ‘What am I supposed to do, kill myself?’ Not an option. We all have things to deal with, some are harder than others but we all have something. I’m not inspirational, I’m human. Believe me, I have my days when I feel crappy and act crappy. I am just a person.” — Horn K. Jean


39. “I don’t like it. I see life as a choice. You have the choice to pick your self up, dust yourself off and push through; or sit there and let life pass you through.” — Cassie Rebeor

40. “I appreciate it because they’re usually acknowledging how I positively deal with my diseases. When I can inspire someone else to keep going, it gives me more reason to keep fighting illness every day. It also makes it seem like maybe something good can come from all this pain.” — Katherine Mitchell


41. “I get it, but it makes me uncomfortable. I think sometimes that overcoming incredible odds can set you up for an accidental lack of support later. After all, you survived the impossible.” — Alena Belleque

42. “It brightens the dark days when people say that they are inspired by me.” — Klansi Kelly


43. “People with an illness aren’t objects of inspiration. I prefer not to be used so someone can think ‘I could have it worse, I could be like her.’ It’s just disrespectful.” — Anna Riordan

44. “Seriously? It’s great that I’ve survived 40 years of bipolar disorder, over 30 hospitalizations, suicide attempts, etc. I’m a survivor. Eff yeah I’m an inspiration.” — Amy Hrynyk


How do you feel about it? Let us know in the comments below.

*answers have been edited for brevity.  

Originally published: August 12, 2015
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