you get proud by practicing

Believing in ourselves as disabled people

As disabled people, it can be very hard to learn to believe in ourselves. We’re often taught not to.

We’re told over and over “believe in yourself, and you can do anything!” and that if we work hard, we can overcome disability. That sounds positive, but it actually teaches us that we’re not worth believing in as the people we really are.

In the name of believing in ourselves, we’re told to ignore key facts about ourselves. We’re taught that believing in ourselves means that if we ignore disability as hard as possible, it will go away and we’ll be ok.

But ignoring reality doesn’t change it. No matter how we feel, no matter what we believe, our bodies exist and matter. Our limitations stay important.

We need to get real, and we need to believe in ourselves for real. We have real bodies. We have real minds. We have real limitations. We are real people, worthwhile as we really are.

Believing in ourselves means self awareness and self acceptance, including of our disabilities. We can believe in ourselves enough to stop fighting with our bodies and brains, and to start working with them rather than against them.

We can understand our limitations, and face them without shame. We can accommodate our disabilities. We can take our strengths seriously, and respect our capabilities in an honest way. We can enjoy things and have good lives. We can figure out for ourselves which things to do, and how to do them.

We can’t overcome disability — and we don’t need to. We are worth believing in as the people we really are.

Letting labels define us

So, people say this about people who are stigmatized in some way or another:

  • “She has a disability, but she doesn’t let her label define her!”
  • “He happens to be gay, but he doesn’t let that label define him!”

And… it tends to be in the context of an article or video that’s literally about how their difference and the way it’s labelled has a profound impact on their life.

It rings false, because if labels didn’t matter, the article or video wouldn’t be about them. It matters that some people are disabled or gay or whatever other thing people are afraid to name in a straightforward way.

It’s important to send the message that we’re all more than one thing, and that no label or category completely defines who we are. It’s also important to acknowledge that differences don’t stop mattering when they are stigmatized. We need to be able to refer to important aspects of who we are without evasion or euphemism.

Pride in disabled accomplishments vs inspiration porn

I think sometimes people with disabilities get caught between a rock and a hard place regarding pride and inspiration porn.


When people without disabilities choose to do hard things, they usually feel proud of accomplishing them. And they usually have people in their lives who notice the hard things, and who respect them for doing them. Doing hard things is something that people generally respect. 


People with disabilities are often totally excluded from that kind of respect, when the thing that’s hard is hard for reasons related to disability.


Sometimes the difficulty of being disabled is acknowledged, or at least referred to, but in a way that’s utterly devoid of respect. That can take the form of condescending and degrading praise, eg:

  • “Wow, you are a person with a disability in public! You’re not even in your house! You are doing a thing! That is so inspiring!”, or:
  • “Hello, fellow parents at the conference. This is my son. I never gave up on him, so he’s going to play the guitar badly for us. See what our special kids can accomplish if we believe in them?!”, or:
  • “Wow, you sure are good at driving that wheelchair that you have been using every day for the past ten years.“
  • “Wow, really, you’re autistic? I never would have known! I don’t see you that way at all. You even talk to people and everything.”

And then there’s the other side, where everyone just completely ignores difficult things that people with disabilities accomplish when the difficulty was disability-related, eg:

  • Learning, through considerable focused effort, to speak in a way that others can understand (nondisabled people are allowed to be proud of their communication skills)
  • Preferring to walk and putting in a lot of effort to retain the ability (nondisabled people are allowed to be proud of their ability to run)
  • Bearing hate and breaking into a profession that’s hostile to people with disabilities
  • Learning to read even though it’s cognitively difficult (nondisabled people are allowed to be proud of learning to understand something difficult)
  • Learning how to recognize facial expressions
  • Figuring out a way to do calligraphy even though your motor skills are awful (nondisabled people are allowed to be proud of mastering a difficult artistic skill)
  • Explaining your reality to someone who you need to understand it

When people don’t acknowledge this kind of thing, it’s degrading in a different way:

  • Doing things that are easy for most people can, genuinely, be a major accomplishment for us 
  • Our struggles aren’t acknowledged very much, and almost never in respectful terms
  • And our disability-related accomplishments aren’t often celebrated, except when they’re being used as a way to shame nondisabled people into being less lazy or something 
  • Having the difficult things we do go completely unacknowledged is also degrading
  • Disability-related accomplishments matter just as much as accomplishments not related to disability

Or, in short, these things are very different:

  • Being exhibited by someone else as you play the guitar badly, while that person implies the the audience that this is the height of what you will ever accomplish
  • Having messed up hands, deciding to try to learn to play guitar anyway, getting to the point where you can coordinate well enough to play a few songs badly, and being proud that you’ve come so far

It’s ok to be proud of doing things that are hard for you, even if they’re easy for most people. It’s not a failure of acceptance. It’s not the same as pushing yourself to be normal at all costs. Your accomplishments deserve respect. 

Being with family can do weird things to you

Something to be aware of if you’re with family for the holidays/break/visting/etc:


If you’ve been working on self-acceptance lately and making progress, some aspects of that are likely to be harder when you’re around family. When you visit family, you might feel bad about things you’ve learned to feel good about in other environments. That might be very frightening. It helps somewhat to know that it’s normal, and that most people struggling with self-acceptance go through this. 


It will be easier when you leave again. And, in time, as your self-acceptance solidifies, you will likely learn to hold on to it more consistently when you’re with family. This takes time and practice. It’s not your fault that it’s hard. It’s not a failure and it doesn’t mean you’re doing self-acceptance wrong. It just means that it’s hard. 


An example: If you’re fat and you’ve been learning body positivity and feeling good about yourself and your body, that’s likely to be harder to maintain while you’re visiting family. Most people aren’t in tune with that particular kind of body positivity. And some families are actively awful about it. You might feel worse during your visit, and feeling worse may linger after your visit. But it’s a temporary setback; it’s not permanent and it’s not your fault. It’s just that these things are hard, and close relationships complicate things when you’re trying to learn to live by values people you’re close to don’t share. 


It can help to actively stay connected to people who share your values while you’re visiting family. (Eg: take time to read body-postive blogs; talk to your friends; write emails.) It can also help to journal. 


And, in the words of Laura Hershey, it helps to remember that you get proud by practicing. Feeling good about stigmatized attributes you have takes time and practice. Feeling good about those things even when you’re around family members who feel bad about them is an advanced kind of pride. It takes a lot of practice to level up and feel ok even in that context. It’s hard, and that’s not your fault. You’re ok, even if you feel bad right now. 

Learning self respect

I’m twenty years old and I can’t help but think that everyone thinks I’m stupid. I stutter, I feel slow, I say dumb things, and I sometimes catch people giving me judging looks. No one’s ever said that to me except maybe once or twice when I was much younger, but I can’t help be bothered by it. I feel like there’s something wrong with me mentally, but people don’t want to address it. I hate it. I’d rather be messed up and not aware of it than this. How do I learn to love and be okay with myself?

realsocialskills said:

The most helpful thing I know about this, I learned from Dave Hingsburger’s book _The Are Word_. And, in the simplest form, it’s this:

You’re ok. They’re mean.

If you stutter and think slowly and have cognitive problems and have trouble communicating, there probably are a lot of people in your life who think you are stupid.

They may think that, but it isn’t true.

You’re ok. They’re mean.

People who think that you are stupid are being mean. People who give you judging looks are being really mean.

You’re ok. They’re mean. 

The way you talk doesn’t make them look down on you. The way you think doesn’t make them look down on you. Your voice is not the problem. Your brain is not the problem. They’re mean because they’re bigoted and mean.

You’re ok. They’re mean.

And, in the words of Laura Hershey: you get proud by practicing

I know it hurts. It hurts terribly. It’s not your fault, and you won’t always feel this awful. It takes time. It takes practice. It’s slow, and incremental. Try not to be hard on yourself for struggling with this. We all do. It’s hard. That’s not your fault, either.

You’re ok. They’re mean. And as you practice understanding this, and as you practice getting proud, it will be easier to feel ok and harder for them to hurt you.

eccentrickimmy1 : 
 
  You Get Proud By Practicing   by Laura Hershey, poet & Disability Rights activist    “If you are not proud   For who you are, for what you say, for how you look;   If every time you stop To think of yourself, you do not see yourself glowing With golden light; do not, therefore, give up on yourself. You can get proud.  You do not need A better body, a purer spirit, or a Ph.D. To be proud. You do not need A lot of money, a handsome boyfriend, or a nice car. You do not need To be able to walk, or see, or hear, Or use big, complicated words, Or do any of those things that you just can’t do To be proud. A caseworker Cannot make you proud, Or a doctor. You only need more practice. You get proud by practicing.  There are many many ways to get proud. You can try riding a horse, or skiing on one leg, Or playing guitar, And do well or not so well, And be glad you tried Either way. You can show Something you’ve made To someone you respect And be happy with it no matter What they say. You can say What you think, though you know Other people do not think the same way, and you can keep saying it, even if they tell you You are crazy.  You can add your voice All night to the voices Of a hundred and fifty others In a circle Around a jailhouse Where your brothers and sisters are being held For blocking buses with no lifts, Or you can be one of the ones Inside the jailhouse, Knowing of the circle outside. You can speak your love To a friend Without fear. You can find someone who will listen to you Without judging you or doubting you or being Afraid of you And let you hear yourself perhaps For the very first time. These are all ways Of getting proud. None of them Are easy, but all of them Are possible. You can do all of these things, Or just one of them again and again. You get proud By practicing.  Power makes you proud, and power Comes in many fine forms Supple and rich as butterfly wings. It is music when you practice opening your mouth And liking what you hear Because it is the sound of your own True voice.  It is sunlight Wen you practice seeing Strength and beauty in everyone, Including yourself. It is dance when you practice knowing That what you do And the way you do it Is the right way for you And cannot be called wrong. All these hold More power than weapons or money Or lies. All these practices bring power, and power Makes you proud. You get proud By practicing.  Remember, you weren’t the one Who made you ashamed, But you are the one Who can make you proud. Just practice, Practice until you get proud, and once you are proud, Keep practicing so you won’t forget. You get proud By practicing.”  Image Description: Peach/Pink background with faint yellow circles of various sizes centered. Dark purple text reads:  "Remember, you weren’t the one Who made you ashamed, But you are the one Who can make you proud. Just practice, Practice until you get proud, and once you are proud, Keep practicing so you won’t forget. You get proud By practicing.- Laura Hershey”  facebook.com/  autismwomensnetwork

eccentrickimmy1:

You Get Proud By Practicing
by Laura Hershey, poet & Disability Rights activist

“If you are not proud
For who you are, for what you say, for how you look;
If every time you stop
To think of yourself, you do not see yourself glowing
With golden light; do not, therefore, give up on yourself.
You can get proud.

You do not need
A better body, a purer spirit, or a Ph.D.
To be proud.
You do not need
A lot of money, a handsome boyfriend, or a nice car.
You do not need
To be able to walk, or see, or hear,
Or use big, complicated words,
Or do any of those things that you just can’t do
To be proud. A caseworker
Cannot make you proud,
Or a doctor.
You only need more practice.
You get proud by practicing.

There are many many ways to get proud.
You can try riding a horse, or skiing on one leg,
Or playing guitar,
And do well or not so well,
And be glad you tried
Either way.
You can show
Something you’ve made
To someone you respect
And be happy with it no matter
What they say.
You can say
What you think, though you know
Other people do not think the same way, and you can
keep saying it, even if they tell you
You are crazy.

You can add your voice
All night to the voices
Of a hundred and fifty others
In a circle
Around a jailhouse
Where your brothers and sisters are being held
For blocking buses with no lifts,
Or you can be one of the ones
Inside the jailhouse,
Knowing of the circle outside.
You can speak your love
To a friend
Without fear.
You can find someone who will listen to you
Without judging you or doubting you or being
Afraid of you
And let you hear yourself perhaps
For the very first time.
These are all ways
Of getting proud.
None of them
Are easy, but all of them
Are possible. You can do all of these things,
Or just one of them again and again.
You get proud
By practicing.

Power makes you proud, and power
Comes in many fine forms
Supple and rich as butterfly wings.
It is music
when you practice opening your mouth
And liking what you hear
Because it is the sound of your own
True voice.

It is sunlight
Wen you practice seeing
Strength and beauty in everyone,
Including yourself.
It is dance
when you practice knowing
That what you do
And the way you do it
Is the right way for you
And cannot be called wrong.
All these hold
More power than weapons or money
Or lies.
All these practices bring power, and power
Makes you proud.
You get proud
By practicing.

Remember, you weren’t the one
Who made you ashamed,
But you are the one
Who can make you proud.
Just practice,
Practice until you get proud, and once you are proud,
Keep practicing so you won’t forget.
You get proud
By practicing.”

Image Description: Peach/Pink background with faint yellow circles of various sizes centered. Dark purple text reads: 
"Remember, you weren’t the one
Who made you ashamed,
But you are the one
Who can make you proud.
Just practice,
Practice until you get proud, and once you are proud,
Keep practicing so you won’t forget.
You get proud
By practicing.- Laura Hershey”
facebook.com/autismwomensnetwork