‘You’re SO inspirational!’ This is NOT a compliment.’: Young woman with Acute Flaccid Myelitis says ‘my life isn’t less worthy’

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“Let’s Discuss… Why I’m not inspirational just because I’m disabled.

Scenario: you meet me and find out my left hand is paralyzed. Immediately after learning my story, you tell me, ‘Wow! You’re so inspirational!’ Calling a disabled person inspirational may seem like a compliment, but it is actually exactly the opposite.
When you call a disabled person inspirational for simply living, being happy, or dealing with the challenges that come with being disabled, you are implying:

You are surprised a disabled person is living a productive life.

You don’t expect disabled people to be happy.

Disability is the most difficult challenge someone could ever face; You feel that being disabled is an awful fate and something inherently negative. All these views further perpetuate the harmful misconception that disabled people’s lives are less worthy.

On the other hand, calling a disabled person inspirational because they accomplished something not everyone has accomplished (such as surfing with one arm or dancing with paralysis) is different and acceptable. This is because the comment is directed towards something meaningful the person did rather than their existence and/or positive attitude.

The Takeaway: I’m not inspirational for simply living my life as a disabled person. I’m not inspirational for being happy while also being disabled. I’m not inspirational for dealing with the challenges that come with being disabled. Disabled people being happy should not be inspirational—it should be expected and accepted.

I’m not inspirational for living my life as a disabled person. I’m just ME.”

Girl smiling in front of a tree
Courtesy of Sarah Todd Hammer

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Sarah Todd Hammer of Davidson, NC. You can follow her journey on  InstagramYouTube, and her website. Submit your own story here, and be sure to subscribeto our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.

Read more stories by Sarah here:

‘Just turn the key,’ she said. I was flustered. ‘I don’t know how!’ I forgot how to tie shoes. I struggled seeing a future.’: College student with Acute Flaccid Myelitis now thriving, ‘I’m unlocking my independence’

‘When I reached down to pull up my tights, I realized my arms and hands were paralyzed. Scared, I said, ‘Mom, I can’t move my arms.’ Young woman describes life with a rare autoimmune disorder

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‘He’s called a hero or a saint, simply for being with me.’: Woman with Osteogenesis Imperfecta advocates for disability awareness

‘But you don’t LOOK disabled.’: Woman urges ‘disability is not a bad word’

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