Why I don’t mind being patronised by strangers because I’m disabled

Why I don’t mind being patronised by strangers because I’m disabled

We’ve all heard the phrase don’t judge a book by its cover or patronise people, and this can be particularly true if you’re disabled. But writer George Baker says he doesn’t blame people for it, and here’s why…

There’s no getting around it, people often assume I’m mentally disabled because I am in a wheelchair. I admit, it can be hard to tell either way when you first glance at me, so I can hardly blame them.

That’s not to say that it doesn’t piss me off a when someone says something like:

  1. To whoever is with me: “Are you looking after him, how wonderful of you?”
  2. “Aren’t you doing well to get out and about!”
  3. “Would you like a sweetie?”
  4. To whoever is with me: “Can he speak?”

As much as it irritates me I still forgive them because, contrary to popular belief: you have to judge a book by its cover. You can only judge a book by its cover because that’s all the information you have about it unless you read it. After all, that’s what covers are for, to advertise the book. Have you got time to read every book, to explore every new thing in your life? I know I haven’t!

It is your responsibility, disabled or not, to demonstrate your value to the world, to show everyone who you are and what you’re worth. They can only judge you on a combination of what you show them and any vague, random guesses or preconceived notions they get from elsewhere.

What’s more, relationships of all kinds are based on shared experiences and mutual gifting. Revealing things about yourself, discovering commonalities and sharing your opinions are the foundations of interacting with others. If you fail to show people who you are they will not bond with you properly and you will feel rejected and unseen, unappreciated or misunderstood.

If you are not happy with the way people perceive you, with how they treat you then it is you that has to do something about it, not them. Yes, they might be prejudiced or see disabled people in a negative light, yes they might not understand you or your personal ‘quirks’. But you cannot change what they think by any means other than demonstration.

But before you go out of your way, spending time and effort to change the beliefs of others, realise that doing so will not make you happy – it will only make you more dependent on them.

You will chain your happiness and self-esteem to the temporary, and believe me it is temporary – the rush of excitement and relief you feel when someone finally gets it and gives you the recognition you feel you deserve.

You see, it is dependence on the recognition of others that makes most people so unhappy. They either crave acceptance from the ‘in-crowd’, the ‘cool kids’, the Joneses next door or, the chance to turn to all those who put them down in life and say; “I told you so. I told you I wasn’t scared, stupid, lazy or ugly.”

You will probably never get the chance to have either of those things and, if you do they will only make you miserable because they both involve discovering the sad and unavoidable truth… everyone feels exactly the same as you. Everyone is scared of something at some level, usually inadequacy or loneliness. By rubbing your success in their face you are simply subjecting them to the same misery you sought to overcome.

Your path to being understood is very simple – it begins with liberating yourself from the burden of looking cool, keeping up with the Joneses, from caring what other people think.

Remember these two things:

  • You are not a mind reader, you cannot know what other people think of you and if you ask them, most will almost certainly lie or at least bend the truth a bit. So it is pointless to try and work it out or worry about it.
  • If the way other people are acting towards or around you is having a negative effect on your life, you have two options. You can either completely avoid or ignore them and remove them from your life. Or, you can try to change their opinion of you through demonstration and hope it gets you the result you want.

By George Baker

This is an extract from George Baker’s book: The Adversity Edge: How an ordinary disabled man overcame impossible odds to achieve his dreams and how you can too. If you liked this you can read more by buying George’s book in paperback, as an e-book or audio book.

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