Editing Away My Value
Growing up I was told by a lot of people that I was really good at something for a girl in a wheelchair. Whether it was singing, acting, art, or even academics (all things at which I excel). And I listened to those people. For so long I had this false perception about who I was and what I was truly capable of. Every time I said or did something impressive or important, I realized that a majority of people were still focused on the fact that I was disabled. People would say “Oh look how cute she is up there,” or “Wow, she really speaks well for someone like her.” There were times in my life where I began to question whether or not I was awarded something or given recognition because I was actually deserving of it, or because they thought I was good enough for someone with Spina Bifida. I lived in this paradigm for a very long time. I was always letting other people dictate who I was and what I was capable of. I got myself lost in the shuffle. I never had a clear sense of who I was and how valuable I truly am until recently.
This is actually my third version of this blog. In the previous two I fell back into old patterns. I was worried that people wouldn’t want to hear what I had to say and I wasn’t comfortable with what they might think of me. Originally it took me the entire post to get to the point of what I really wanted to say and then I just stopped. I was hiding what I really had to say behind intellectual-sounding but vague phrases. I didn’t reveal the truth of what I know, what I am capable of, or who I am, because I wasn’t sure anyone would care. But hiding away the things about me that are valuable because I’m not sure if others will value them the way I do doesn’t help anyone. Not myself, not readers of this blog, and not my clients (especially the young girls I work with). So here’s my truth and my power:
I still care what people think of me. I am not immune to critique and sideways glances or the child in the grocery store who points and laughs at me. All of those things still sting and it doesn’t feel good, but it no longer paralyzes me. I absolutely could have graduated high school and not gone off to college and stayed home and lived off the government’s money. But something inside of me always knew that I was meant for more. I wasn’t done showing the world what I could do. And not just for someone with Spina Bifida, but for someone who has unique gifts and abilities that are all her own. All my own.
Before I came to work at the Center for identity Potential I didn’t speak my mind, and I used to chalk up my lack of expression to “nobody cares what the girl in the wheelchair has to say.” I am no longer allowing myself to use this excuse, but it is tough. I have edited myself and held back my power for so long, that I now have to really push myself out of the habit. It is hard and it is worth it, because I know I am not doing myself or my clients any favors by creating a barrier between what I think, feel, and believe and what I express. In order to have my full value in the world, I have to continue to express my truth and be in touch with the impact that that has on others. I am constantly being pushed by my colleagues at the Center to speak my mind and say what I am thinking and own my unique gifts and abilities.
I am a great counselor. It is something that I was born to do. Being a counselor has awarded me some of the greatest privileges of my life. Not only do I get to help people when they are at their most vulnerable, but I also get to help them discover their truth and their power. In order to help others do that, I have had to do it myself.
We all care about what others think of us, and I know how painful it is to be different. The journey of finding acceptance of yourself regardless of others’ opinions is where the tough work lies, but it is also the most rewarding. I show the young kids that I work with that their differences (whether that’s being gifted, disabled, or in my case both) are a part of them, but they are not the definition of who they are. Running away or trying to change what makes you different and unique is not the way to go, trust me. The journey of discovering who you are at your core without all the edits that you have placed on yourself or that others have placed on you is often times sad, scary, and isolating, but you don’t have to do it alone. Who you are at your core cannot be be taken from you and it should not be determined by others. Part of me wishes that I would have learned this lesson earlier in my life, I could have saved myself a lot of pain and loneliness if I had the support that I needed. But I’m glad that now I have the experience and knowledge to understand and support my clients in learning to embrace their value, and to stop editing it away.