Tell a TAB that they are inspiring and the person will be aglow with pride. Compliment me in the same way and I’ll duck my head and try to become invisible, which of course never works when I want. It is almost as bad as being told I’m amazing.
A seatmate on an airplane asked me a crucial question, “Isn’t it good if by your example you cause another to do something worthwhile?” Since nobody can argue with that result, of course I agreed which began me thinking. What is so objectionable in being an inspiration?
I realized there are two forms of inspiration: the role model type and the amazing flavor. They differ in that in the former inspiration has led to act and achievement whereas the latter is focused on emotion.
Their common ground is that of expectation. In order for something to inspire, it must seem out of the ordinary for human behavior. An obstacle assessed as insurmountable must be overcome. Circumstances determined as utterly bleak must have been successfully plumbed for happiness. A perceived burden must be shouldered as though it is feather-light.
If it were simply about behavior out of the ordinary for human beings, I would have no objections to engendering inspiration, but it’s not. People based their expectations on the limits they assume my disabilities impart. These constraints are typically based on socially perpetuated beliefs about disability as opposed to the reality. Thus people think I can’t bake, so when I do they find it inspiring. This makes me crazy.
If the inspiration leads to an individual behaving differently and accomplishing something, I have more tolerance. Perhaps this is because the inspired person has perceived us to have common ground. They are not viewing me as other and setting the bar lower as a result. Instead they realize my reality has traits familiar because they are present in their own lives and use an identical yardstick to measure both of us. This feels far less like being thought less competent and hence less objectionable. It also helps that a person is getting more out of the comparisons than a surge of emotion.
It dawns upon me that there is a subset of inspiration that has always been nebulous to me. I tend to engage in these discussions when people start gushing about my amazingness and I feel obligated to object. Sometimes the person says something like, “I can’t sow, so I’m amazed you made that skirt.” When questioned, they seem genuinely convinced that it isn’t my blindness that makes the act seem extraordinary, but rather the common ground we share as human beings.
So I suppose my objections to those who find me inspiring are solely related to whether or not the person sees us as the same or different. It’s about whether they use the same yardstick to judge me as they use to judge themselves. The instant my disabilities inspire them to create a separate set of expectations, it becomes insulting. If the expectations were higher, I’d probably find it irritating, but somehow they’re always lower.