I have a hard time with all the “inspirational” stories on social media these days. Today I found stories about: a little girl learning to walk with an artificial leg, a teen with Down’s Syndrome who is rounding the interwebz as this week’s most beautiful person, Alicia Keys’ #nomakeup movement, women breastfeeding in public, an ex-Army Ranger who is slowly rehabbing after severe injuries from an IED… I could go on.
Do I sound like a heartless bitch yet? I know. I feel like an awful human being because I’m sure that for every one of these stories there are real human beings who are only trying to be the best version of themselves. That is a good thing. But inspirational? On a deep and meaningful level?
Overcoming great odds inspires me. But a little girl with an artificial leg? I can’t quite stretch to inspirational for that one. Of course a girl who loses a leg is going to wear an artificial leg and learn to walk on it. Do you look at a lizard or starfish and call it an inspiration when it grows a new tail or leg after losing one? Nope. It’s just what happens. Living beings adapt to their circumstances. If they don’t, they are forever hampered. Maybe the little girl will learn to run SUPER fast. Or dance with her fancy, shiny leg; perhaps even gracefully. Or maybe she’ll learn to jump rope or play hopscotch. Those are all amazing for her, personally. I’m sure her parents are relieved that she won’t be permanently and wholey limited by her physical other-ness. And I’m glad for them that they have that sense of relief. But are they somehow super-humanly strong or tenacious because they – by accident, fate, or some other circumstance – had to face something they never thought they would? That none of us would rather.
I don’t think they are. I’m happy for them, but they don’t inspire me.
Why? Life is one long challenge, for every single one of us. If I hold one challenge (Down’s Syndrome) up as more admirable to overcome than another (Club foot) what am I saying to the kid growing up with trouble walking “normally?” Sorry, kid. Your disability isn’t “cool” enough. (P.S. Your parents should have had the money to spring for medical treatment so you wouldn’t walk so weird.)
Everyone has their own challenges. Some of them are invisible and private, others are impossible to hide. Instead of ranking them in ways that just end up as judgey, what if we encouraged everyone we meet to be their best? Actually, no. How about if we EXPECT the best out of everyone, instead?
That would be so nice…….
And just in case you’ve gotten all the way down here to the end and still think I’m a heartless bitch. Well, that’s your perogative. But in my defense, I am the consummate cheerleader. This means in every challenging situation, my nearest and dearest always count on me to be on their sideline cheering them on loudly and in probably an inappropriately boisterous manner. So I’ve got that going for me 🙂