People don’t understand why I’m “hard on myself”. It’s a deeply rooted issue and it goes back to my childhood. Yes, I am a perfectionist, but I do not expect perfection 100% of the time. That’s unrealistic. In fact, true perfection is unattainable rather it is something to strive for. I expect myself to do my best and when I come up way short, I internally don’t take it well.
For example, when I’m doing a taekwondo form and I don’t rechamber on a kick multiple times in the same form(s) (as seen on the video from this weekend), I beat myself up. I know better. Chambering and rechambering a technique is arguably one of the most basic parts of almost every taekwondo technique that people don’t often completely do; an observation I’ve made from my time judging at tournaments, teaching, and most importantly, assessing myself. Yeah, I’m not great at rechambering my techniques and I know it. My chambers are usually stronger.
Throughout my life, I’ve been degraded because of my disabilities. That started with my second grade math teacher and it hasn’t stopped since. It doesn’t bother me like it did in middle school, but hearing it over and over and over gets tiring. Do I believe that “I’ll never go anywhere in life,” “That I should just quit now, because I’ll never be good enough,” and others that have been much, much worse. No, I don’t, because of the self-confidence and resilience I’ve developed, but that doesn’t make it any less insulting.
I’ve had people give up on me for giving my best and having my best not be enough. Even worse, in my opinion, is when people help me improve and they settle for less even though I’m capable of being better. Just because there’s only two other people in the world that compete in the same division as me in TKD (for Top 10 points), if my technique is not up to par, I want to hear about it. The same applies to my schoolwork. If my work is not up to par, I want to hear about it and then how to improve it. I want the brutal truth about my performance in anything even if it’s not what I want to hear. In my eyes, it’s better than going through life disillusioned that you are doing something to the best of your abilities when you aren’t. It’s a good ego check for anything and it opens the door to improvement.
There are people that can’t see the good in anything they do. I am not one of them. I can look at those same videos and see where I did well. I can see where I’ve improved and I can also see what needs to be improved to some degree. I’m not perfect, so I’m not going to catch all my flawed techniques or subtle detailed changes that need to be made.
But part of the reason I’m a perfectionist? It’s because I have to compete in a world of abled-bodied people and I’m okay with that. I’ve known that my whole life and I don’t know differently. It’s been beat into my head since I was 7. Throughout my life I have/will compete for the same grade, same GPA, same job, same ranking, etc. regardless of the challenge (we all have them) because that’s how life works and not everyone succeeds, wins, etc.
The pressure from the outside world has always said that I can’t just meet the baseline, I have to beat it, because society sees me as lesser. I am not disabled just because of a dysfunctional body. I’m disabled by the standards of the world I live in. I’m disabled by society every time I get called an inspiration for doing something completely ordinary, like loading my own groceries into my car from a wheelchair, making good grades, or getting an internship, job, etc. Normal things if you take disability out of the equation. Disability alone does not make anyone extraordinary. Now, if that same person goes and gets into a college with a 5% acceptance rate, that can be inspirational for a disabled person, because it would be inspirational for a non-disabled person too. If it would make a typical person inspiring, it can make a person with a disability inspiring, but not on the grounds of their disability. It could be their intelligence, athleticism, anything really, except for disability. See where I’m going with this? “You’re an inspiration” is meant as a compliment 99.9% of the time. Except when somehow I’m inspiring for making it to class on time (true story🤦🏼♀️) or something that makes me go “seriously?!” like that. There are other ways to word the same phrase and leave the disability out of it.
This isn’t the most eloquently written piece of my writing, but I hope that it gives others the insight into why I am the way I am. Sometimes, just a little understanding can explain why someone is the way they are and it can be transformative for a friendship or any kind of relationship. Consider some of this before telling someone they are too hard on themselves or that they are an inspiration. Some people with disabilities like it. I really despise it and I really don’t like hearing I’m too hard on myself. If I could take anyone on a walk down my life, they could see why I am the way I am and why I feel the way I do. I think a lot of people could probably say the same. This makes make empathy and understanding so important, because actually walking through someone’s life with them isn’t possible (at least not yet), except through words. I know I’m going to lose friends over this post telling what I see to be the reality, but it’s all true in my eyes.