God only gives people what they can handle. That saying has been thrown around more times than I can count. Well God’s definition of handling it and mine must be quite different because from where I sit He picked the wrong person to be born with CP.
What exactly does handling it mean? Whatever it means I’m almost certain it doesn’t mean basically shutting down and giving up every time something becomes difficult.
Despite this fatal flaw of mine people still tell me I inspire them. I smile and graciously accept the compliment, but deep down I don’t understand it. How can they be inspired by me? I’m just doing what needs to get done. I’ll give you a couple examples.
About a year and a half ago I had surgery on my legs. I won’t go into details, but it was quite a major surgery. My right leg was done first and I spent about a week in hospital recovering before being sent home in a giant brace that ran from my hips to my feet. I was sent home on a Friday and by the Monday I was ready to return to school even though I was non-weight bearing I needed to catch up on the work I missed. Besides, I was in pain and bored. School was a nice distraction. Everybody was surprised to see me back so early and kept telling me how strong I was. In my mind it was the same as coming back to school with a broken leg after falling out of a tree or something. Nobody calls those people strong. Why was I any different?
The second example was actually really sweet. We had just finished performing our final play in drama class and we were tossing around a teddy bear (yes, a teddy bear, his name is Ollie) giving shout outs for jobs well done. A guy across from me caught Ollie and gave me a shout out for basically still managing to act well and be positive with everything I have to deal with. It was really nice to be appreciated, but part of me wasn’t taking it as the sincere compliment that it was. I kept thinking, what did I do that was so special? I was just acting. Everyone else did so much better than me.
I could go on with examples, but I won’t because I think we’ve identified the problem. My inner critic doesn’t shut up. Every time someone compliments my strength or compassion or…anything really my brain jumps in with a counter argument.
I’ve had an inner critic for as long as I can remember. It’s quite a strong one. I remember talking to my math teacher before our final exam. I had missed a lot of his teaching due to the leg surgeries and basically had to teach the units to myself. I had pulled grades in the sixties and seventies on the unit tests I’d missed which was not my definition of a good grade. I’m not a fan of anything below an eighty. I was really stressing about the final because there was still so much I didn’t understand. You have to realize that I was a prominent feature in my math teacher’s classroom at lunch hours before surgery. He’d taught me the year before as well and knew math wasn’t my strongest subject.
He actually got to know me really well in the two years we were together and he knew when my inner critic was rearing its ugly head. He would try to calm me down, tell me that I put too much pressure on myself, and that I need to relax. I was going to do fine on the exam. I tried to listen to him, but when the final came I was a mess. When it came time to hand it in I was bawling my eyes out. I was certain I had failed. I hadn’t. I had scored an 82%. Once relief had set in and I had calmed down he sat down in a desk beside me and told me that I was a huge inspiration to him and that he was happy to have me in his class. Even in my overwhelming relief at having not failed the exam it was strange to hear that a teacher was happy to have me in their class, particularly that class. It was hard to see myself as more than annoying human being who constantly needed help, and had panic attacks.
This transfers to outside of school too. Any time I do an interview, speech, or even share my writing with others it’s hard to take in the positive feedback because all I see is flaws. I stuttered here, I read this wrong, that sentence doesn’t even make sense.
For this reason I am very hesitant to say yes when somebody asks me to do something in the public eye. I often say yes and immediately regret it as my mind conjures up every possible thing that could go wrong. After the event everyone will tell me how great I did, how calm and collected I was when really I was anything but.
Even though I don’t always believe the compliments right away hearing them does give me a much needed self-esteem boost. It shows me that I do have a purpose in life and that I do have the ability to help people. That’s why I want to go into social work and also why I started writing for this blog. I want to connect with people and show them they’re not alone. I’m slowly learning I have good qualities and I want to use them to their full potential.
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