Ah what fun. Disability often feels like a lifelong white elephant party. Sure, some of the aspects to being disabled are a gift—being able to think outside the box, the resourcefulness, general bad-assery—but there are many characteristics to our lives that abled people are glad were gifted to us and not them. Discrimination from the outside world we can recognize, but the discrimination we are taught to apply to ourselves is harder to identify. The media doesn’t help. It reinforces stereotypes that others believe about us and even views we believe about ourselves. We’re experienced enough to know that while we may have to live according to these more often than not, they shouldn’t cloud every thought, experience, and relationship we’ve had. So, here’s some ableist thoughts I’ve had about myself. I hope they help you identify your own.
This person is only in a relationship with me because they want to be seen as a hero.
Whether it’s a friendship or romantic love, it’s hard to have confidence that people are around us for the right reasons. When every movie, show and Facebook post shows disabled people as helpless and our friends as benevolent everyday heroes, we begin to question everyone in our lives. But (please pause for non-sarcastic emphasis here) people really like you—love you for who you are—and want to be in your life. You don’t have to perform little tests on them to verify their intentions. (Oh please, like I’m the only one)
Because I’m disabled, I should to lower my standards.
You don’t. You really don’t. You don’t have to alter your wants, desires and goals just because you have a disability. The little ableist in your head wants you to believe that high standards are impossible for you to acquire, but it’s alright to have them. You’re used to working for the things you want, don’t think this is something you can’t have.
I will never have a romantic love like that of films or television.
Honest to god, would you really want a love like in those problematic, toxically masculine, homophobic movies we grew up with? Imagine if messaging apps were more prevalent during the F.R.I.E.N.D.S. era, you would have to block Ross Gellar on Twitter! You will have your love story. Whether it’s with yourself or the love you’ve been looking for, it will be the one love you can’t forget.
This person I saw had success/was cured by going vegan/eating this herb/ sleeping 18 hours a day. If I do it too, the same thing will happen to me!
Another person’s life story cannot act as a prescription for your own. Of course, you can take certain tips as suggestions, but don’t punish yourself if they don’t work for you in the same way. Every twitch and spasm is unique to you, you cannot expect your body to react in the same manner. We’re constantly inundated with cures and if they don’t work, our confidence plummets and we blame ourselves. You have to give yourself a break.
Just because someone told me I can’t do something, I have to prove them wrong.
This is my personal rabbit’s hole. (Please, no one ask me why I moved to Paris.) I have this innate need to go against the grain and do the very things people think I am unable to. While I tend to count these moments as accomplishments, I have come to realize I shouldn’t merely try to prove people wrong, but do what I want because I truly want to achieve those goals. People tend to talk out of the side of their mouths when they see disabled people achieving, but you have to want your goals greater than people want to stop you. Otherwise you’ll have a list of accomplishments and someone else’s motives for achieving them.
I need to make the ableist joke to break the ice before this person thinks of it.
Making the joke first doesn’t necessarily make things start off smoother. You don’t need to make anyone feel at ease with your disability and you certainly don’t need to make yourself the punchline to do it. Other things can be funny. You don’t have to be the joke.
Now that I’ve reached the pinnacle of anti-ableism and self-acceptance, I should begin policing the tone of other disabled people.
While this doesn’t quite count as internalized ableism, I feel the need to include it. People describe their experiences with disability in a way that reflects where they currently are in their story. Tone policing is essentially giving someone a vocabulary for things they have yet to experiencing and it can be incredibly damaging to their process. You can offer tips and suggestions from your own experiences, but try to refrain from putting words in other people’s mouths.
*all gifs from giphy.com