No two people are alike, and that would include people who live with a disability. Yet, if there is one common denominator shared amongst them all, I would venture to say it would be feelings associated with shame.
Having lived with a life-long disability myself, and provided professional counseling to many people over the past thirty years, I can certainly attest to this truth. Of course, people with disabilities haven’t cornered the market on shame – sadly, it is a universal experience.
Shame, however, is grossly misunderstood. I hear people say they feel shame because of physical disfigurement, unwanted abuse, social-economic circumstances, family members, and on and on. Unlike guilt – when someone feels bad because of something they did (or didn’t) do, shame is an internal manifestation. It stems from one’s belief that they are inadequate, broken, or abnormal.
Here’s the juicy bit of wisdom I have to share on this topic. Our beliefs are a direct reflection of our thoughts. Our thoughts create our experience in the moment, and sometimes… they can last a lifetime.
We all experience a host of ill-related feelings that suck and it’s easy to be fooled by them, simply because we are human. We carry around thoughts like invisible stones weighing us down, and yet thoughts are not real. They’re snippets of code running through our minds. I’m not suggesting you need to change the code to stop those thoughts but rather simply realize those thoughts are just a few of the trillion code snippets that run through your mind every day. They are not the thoughts to focus on – instead, look in another direction. And remember, no thought is truer than any other unless YOU decide that is the case – so the ball is very much in your court.
When you live from the inside out and see others as doing the same, then compassion and understanding come easier.
When I was younger, I got caught up in my own shame thinking until I realized that I was the one paying too much attention to my own negative thoughts regarding disability. Once I realized that, I found myself standing (with a walker) with pride. It did not improve my balance, or extend the amounts of steps I could take, but it did bring me a lovely peace of mind and a new appreciation for self-compassion.
I love my disability because it is an essential aspect of my life experience.
Okay, okay, yes, it does frustrate me, brings discomfort and can royally piss me off, somedays. However, I know those feeling will pass as soon as my thoughts change. All I have to do is know when it’s time to hit the “reset” button.
Now back to today’s big news – December 3rd is the annual observance of the International Day of Disabled Persons.
It was started in 1992 by the United Nations General Assembly with the goal to promote the rights and well-being of all persons who live with disabilities. It’s meant to enhance awareness and apply to all aspects of social, political, economic and cultural life.
The theme for 2018 focuses on empowering persons with disabilities and educating about community inclusiveness. Equitable and sustainable development is a part of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which pledges to “leave no one behind”.
This is all fine and dandy – but why are things related to full accessibility and inclusiveness always slated for so far into the future?
Advocating for accessibility is a big job, but I bet if everyone had someone with a disability in their life right now, things would move forward a lot quicker.
Let’s stop thinking that access is a privilege and instead think of it as a right. Come on, we can do this!