Inspiration

Tashauna’s Twist on Inspiration Porn

In Columns, Features, My Life: Straight Up with a Twist by Tashauna Swanson4 Comments

Photo of Tashauna Swanson smiling and sitting in her power chair.

Tashauna Swanson

Everyone has something or someone who inspires them or motivates them to achieve greatness from within. Once you know a person’s struggles and triumphs, the person becomes a source of inspiration. But what happens when the intent behind the inspiration gets twisted?

Ladies and Gentlemen, this is Inspiration Porn. And it can be as dirty as it sounds.

We all have seen it. It’s about us and people like us. Stories on the news, in magazines, newspapers,
internet memes—mediums that are meant to publicize something we do, but yet these avenues in turn objectify us. We are depicted as the poster individuals attached to messages about not giving up, and trying to do what seems impossible “despite” our challenges.

Even in person to person communication, we can be objectified. Skewed compliments such as, “You go through so much and never complain,” are often received and possess underlying tones of pity and hints of, “If I had your life, I don’t know how I would deal with it.”

The words indicate something good, but the message is something entirely different. Have you ever gotten a compliment like this? How did you react?

I understand it might not always happen on a conscious level. Some people we come into contact with don’t know the best way to say what they are thinking. The person could mean well, but the words come out totally wrong. I try to be understanding of this.

Generally, I think we know when the person is showing some pity behind a mask of praise. This is what pisses me off. I can’t say it any more plain than that. I don’t want a person to say something positive to me because he or she thinks I need to hear it to feel better about myself. I also don’t want to hear it if they are saying it to feel better about themselves as a person. It is condescending for anyone to assume my life is so terrible that they wouldn’t be able to handle being me.

Trust me, life happens and you handle it. There is no other option.

Personally, the most common line I think I get that falls under the category of skewed compliments is:

“It’s so good to see you out!”

It’s often said by an acquaintance who doesn’t really have any idea as to my daily life or routine. And the comment is said as if I am a total shut-in with no life. Either that or I successfully secured a day pass to leave my own house.

I know–I am that person’s hero for going down the street to the grocery store. It’s an Olympic sized feat for me to buy my chocolate and fancy cheeses. I deserve a medal, and a chest to pin it on!

Seriously though, do they think it’s some miracle I leave my house? Do they think my life is so sad and unhappy that I don’t want to go out in public?

So how do I respond?

I usually smile and say, “It’s so good to see you out too!”

After that, I make it sound like I go to the store all the time.

Really, that is all I say before continuing the conversation. I completely disregard that the person acted as if I was let out of my cage for one day out of the year. Then I say something to make it obvious I am frequently at the store because going to the store is a normal thing—and I am normal. I need the person I am conversing with to understand this.

I don’t know for sure if this tactic works, but I like to think it does. It might be too subtle for some, but the point I am making is that I am not stuck at home, I do ordinary stuff out in the world, and I am happy.

If that is inspiration, then so be it.

No need to pity me and show such enthusiasm because you see me out and about.

My life doesn’t suck. Let me repeat this—MY LIFE DOESN’T SUCK! I have good days and bad days; I get frustrated with hurdles sometimes whether they are unique to me or something more common. That’s life, and there will be occasions where it isn’t all sunny days. Struggles and frustrations aren’t exclusive to people with disabilities. I am not sitting at home boo-hooing because I have a tube in my neck. It’s just not a common thing and it is difficult to comprehend living with such an apparatus if you haven’t had one before.

My life, as well as your own is so much more than what meets the eye. I haven’t seen very many people with disabilities in my lifetime feeling sorry for themselves. Have you?

The ratio of people with disabilities who feel pity for themselves seems equivalent to the number of able bodied people who feel that way about their own selves.

I guess the general public didn’t get the memo.

Society often doesn’t see it, but we are so much more than our conditions. It’s not fair, nor is it right to put us on pedestals for living the only way we know how or to feel bad for us and pat us on the back for completing ordinary tasks.

So, how do we fix the problem? How do we get society to stop feeling so sorry for us and blasting this attitude throughout their feel-good, warm and fuzzy, self-serving human interest stories and person to person interactions?

We fight back with feedback.

I think we need to show people when they are making the mistake of evoking pity for us. We shouldn’t keep our mouths shut and our thoughts to ourselves all the time. How lucky are we to live in the age of social media? It is so easy for us to be able to express our thoughts and opinions via blogging, commenting, YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook. We have a wide open forum to use at our disposal to show the world who we truly are rather than leaving it to other people who haven’t lived a day in our shoes. If we utilize these tools wisely, we can change how others see us.

Let’s communicate with content creators when they commit a faux paus in showcasing our lives and achievements in the wrong way. Constructive criticism is how improvements are made. How else will they realize they’re not doing us any favors? Ask them to highlight our accomplishments because of our talents, but not to call us heroes because we achieved them.

What is more effective on society however, is when we create the content ourselves. There is no better way for us to convey how we want to be viewed than by developing material from our firsthand viewpoints. Don’t you agree?

What have you developed?

You can find Tashauna on her own blog  when she’s not here giving her views straight up with a twist!

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