By Chelsea Douglas
Dealing with Positivity Pressure as a Disabled Person
04 Oct 2021
Chelsea Douglas is a Business Applications Specialist at Hymans Robertson and has worked in IT for 6 years. Here, Chelsea talks about dealing with positivity pressures as a disabled person.
I have Cerebral Palsy which primarily affects my lower limbs, I use a wheelchair to get around. I chose to work in the tech industry because there would be less barriers to being able to provide value to an organisation regardless of my disability because if I needed to, I could customise the technology to meet my needs.
There are constant pressures out there nowadays for us to act and behave in a certain manner, primarily driven by society and the media (online and in print) which has, in turn, developed this stereotypical idea that disabled people must always be positive.
I’m not sure where the concept initially came from but apparently, it’s one of those stereotypes that’s gotten out of control. Society often wants us to be seen as an inspiration, and any time we feel like life isn’t fair and we wish to scream and shout about it (which let’s face it, we all do it sometimes in our lives) we are viewed as ungrateful for the abilities we do have when that’s really not the case at all.
As an individual who is very open to talking about my disability, I am a very positive person, often cautious of being too negative or seeming ungrateful. To preserve the belief that having a disability is the worst thing in the world just seems like I’m doing a disservice.
Often when you start to show signs of weakness you are instantly made out to be the most vulnerable in society and we don’t want sympathy for it. You get a round of applause every day for daily living and that’s when we are being positive!
We need to be open and discuss the negative aspects of being disabled to stop this stereotype from being spread to other disabled people who will think they are alone in these challenging times, which is certainly not the case. When you have a disability you fight battles every day to be included and treated equally.
By illustrating the negative side we can normalise this for other disabled people. Nobody needs to feel like the only disabled person experiencing a tough time.
Of course, it is possible for a disabled person to feel down and fed up! I’m not saying it’s the worst thing ever but it’s certainly not a walk in the park. It can take its toll both physically and mentally, competing in an able-bodied world but it does become your norm and can be fundamental in many aspects of life.
Yet, when are symptoms ever positive? It doesn’t give us unique special powers of time travel or anything like that. I guess what I’m trying to say is we just need to be mindful and given the space to be open about how difficult things can be at times.
In my opinion, there is an added pressure being a disabled person because right from the beginning of existence we have low expectations set upon us from the society that we live in today, whether that be through capabilities or comparisons with able-bodied people. As a result, we may find ourselves going the extra mile just to prove these people wrong.
While there is nothing wrong with hard work and reaching our potential, we are allowed time off from that pressure. We don’t have to be going at 100 miles an hour to be seen as a successful disabled person. We are enough just as we are, despite the pressures that might tell us otherwise.
Disabled people can be positive, pessimistic or somewhere in the middle. They have good days and bad days.
We must remember to look after ourselves too and be mindful that we can succeed without pushing our health to the limits. We also do not need to hide the realities and apologise for simply being ourselves.
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