If He/She/They Can Do It, Can You Do It Too?

February 2022 Update: Wow, I sounded so whiny in the original post! This post has been edited to reduce how whiny I sound. I was also diagnosed with autism and an additional anxiety disorder almost 6 months after I posted this, so edits will include those factors too.

Hey everyone. I have been really busy with school lately, so my constant posting had temporarily stopped. The semester is over, so I am back. This is kind of a rant, but doesn’t have the same raw anger that exists in my other rants. Heck, this rant isn’t even as angry as I usually get.

I’m going to be blunt. I will never be the neurotypical definition of “successful” due to being autistic and having two anxiety disorders. These factors caused me to not be able (or allowed) to make my own decisions as well. You might be thinking “Dia! You’re just making excuses! You’re not trying hard enough to be successful!” How many times have neurodivergent people been told they aren’t trying? Countless people, including myself, have been told that we’re not trying. However, to be realistic, not everyone is able to be successful.

We’re bombarded via various forms of media about “the disabled” overcoming their challenges to become successful. People think “If they can do it, so can I!” But the truth is, you might not be able to do something they did, and that’s okay. One person is not and should not be the representation of EVERY person. If you think about it, some of what you see is called “inspiration porn”. Inspiration porn is media that portrays a person with disabilities (or disabled person, depending on if you like person-first or identity-first language) as inspirational, mainly due to their disability.

For every one disabled person who became what society deems as successful, there are at least one hundred disabled people who struggle a lot with basic self-care skills like self-feeding, getting dressed, or wiping themselves after using the bathroom. For every one person who overcame their struggles with trauma, there are hundreds who still can’t rebuild their lives. For every one person who became successful despite where they came from, there are thousands who became products of their environment. For every Dr. Temple Grandin, there are many autistic people who require 24-hour care who can’t live independently (like my uncle who died years ago). For every Toshia Shaw, there are hundreds or thousands of women who can’t recover from the PTSD of being trafficking victims.

While I cannot properly define what success means to me, we need to realize that not everyone can be successful like the people we see in the media. Just because they can do it, doesn’t mean you can. No two people with the same disability are alike in their challenges. For example, my cousin struggles with hyperactivity and my ex-boyfriend struggles with focus. They both have AD(H)D, but don’t have the same challenges. A churchgoer struggles with language that isn’t literal while I struggle with social cues and social appropriateness. We’d both fit on the autism spectrum (he has a diagnosis of Aspergers while I was diagnosed as autistic in June 2021, though getting a diagnosis years ago would have probably put me in the Aspergers category as well).

Take this time to recognize your (or your child’s limits). Unfortunately, “inspiration porn” can create unrealistic expectations for a disabled child. Just like how no two people with the same disability have the same challenges, no two people with the same disability have the same strengths. I’m an autistic kickboxer who is one of the higher-ranking students in the class. However, another autistic person might get sensory overload from the loud music, loud bell timer, and the coach shouting instructions during warm-ups. One of my strengths is that I can often drive to places without a GPS just by studying the directions on Google Maps before I leave my house. Aleksander Vinter, an autistic DJ who goes by the stage name “Savant”, feels like his autism gave him the gift of having exceptional musical abilities.

This blog post was actually inspired by a post a military wife wrote about her son who was diagnosed with ADHD, and then later received an autism diagnosis as well. She said she told her son “You will go to college.” First of all, college isn’t for everyone, and this is true regardless of whether the person is neurotypical or neurodivergent. Second of all, is the college environment going to be a good fit for that child? I have heard that some colleges and universities are not very good at meeting the requests for accommodations, especially since accommodations in a post-secondary setting are based on what is reasonable and what the student is eligible to receive.

We do so much harm by forcing people to meet unrealistic expectations.

4 thoughts on “If He/She/They Can Do It, Can You Do It Too?

  1. I agree with you. “Success” is different for every individual, and can sometimes be as simple as dressing ourselves for the day. We have so much pressure put on us to be like someone successful, someone who overcame certain hurdles and has achieved that “success”. Not all of us will, can, or even want to. There are tons of things I’d love to be able to do, and be successful at, and I’ve tried, but it’s not meant to be. I get so mad at people who tell me I’m just not trying hard enough. I’m different, my brain works differently, but that doesn’t mean I’m any less human. Or worthy. Same for you. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I wish society didn’t equate success to hard work. Or maybe hard work shouldn’t look like being burned out. I know my limits and don’t want to become burned out. I’m also concerned that when we see well-known disabled figures in the media and awareness is spread, it may start causing parents to create unrealistic expectations for their kids. On another note, my ex-boyfriend has ADHD and he felt like a failure in his dad and grandfather’s eyes because he didn’t turn out how they wanted. I also felt like a failure before finding out that some of my issues are related to neurodivergence. Now I’m able to set more reasonable expectations and limits on myself. Well this reply ended up longer than I expected. Oops.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Absolutely! I was the same… my therapist has helped me realize that there’s nothing wrong with me or the way I do things. We’re all different, we all have our limits, and trying to push through and be more “normal” is a waste of time, and a disaster. The neurotypical world wasn’t made for us, and instead of us trying to fit in, I say, to hell with that, lol.


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