It should not come as any surprise, but as it is New Year the subject of this Blog Post is all about why New Year’s resolutions fail. And it’s no different for people with disabilities. Why would it be.
And here’s a thing.
Many unwanted behaviours – whether they be smoking, bad food, drugs, alcohol, being lazy, retail therapy or just putting off something – are in fact coping strategies (a way of dealing with unwanted feelings or situations). But why can that which has served us so well suddenly become something that we need to now see as something that shackles us to what we need to get rid of.
Let me explain using an example of my own.
When we are growing up from a child into an adult we first learned about how to survive at School, but although this served us well it was of little use at work. Yes, it taught us a great deal about learning to control our emotions and subsequently how we could adapt different behaviours and get different results.
The “Sideways Crab look”
It will come as no surprise to those of you who have met me in person, that my eyes do not look right. However, this did not stop me convincing myself that if I looked like I was “normal” then nobody would know how little I could actually see. This evolved over such a long period that I actually began to believe that I really could fool most people until many years later, a lady in a shop took my hand and counted out my change as she spoke in a slow, raised voice. My daughter’s friends would say “your Dad’s eye looks in a different direction”. This was extremely hard for me to accept, until I was talking to a person at a Breakfast Networking Event in Newton Abbot and realised that they had moved on without me seeing.
As I only have one eye, I need to turn my head to actually achieve eye contact with the person I am talking to; the “sideways crab look”. However, I maintained a forward looking head position, but had never really appreciated that my pupil in my left eye would move towards the nasal area giving the appearance to the onlooker that I was looking at something to the right of them. On the occasion in question, I made the conscious decision to deliberately look to my left to get my pupil to appear as if it was positioned centrally.
I realised a little later that I was now talking to myself – lesson learned. Well the truth is that I am still working on what I have always found so difficult, accepting that my sight loss is obvious to all those around me. It might sound ridiculous, but wanting to fit in when we are all born differently is a paradox I continue to struggle with.
The truth is that we are destined to fail unless we accept the fact that to change, we have to change something in us first. It’s not good enough to set a goal, write it down and just expect us to get there without having worked out how. Many people regardless as to whether they have disabilities often say “i’ll get a new job in January, its the right time and i’m not putting up with this crap any longer” a few weeks later they have done nothing and accepted their lot as a done deal. So how do you break this cycle and for once actually make progress with your dreams.
We have to change the one thing we can control – our own behaviour from what is no longer helping us to something that can. Like anything new, it feels uncomfortable and hard work, but you can only accept the change when the new way of thinking is giving you something tangible in return for the effort invested.
And this is where it all goes wrong.
The transition is not something that just happens on its own. It is a journey with pitfalls, sets of traffic lights, decisions and set-backs or wrong turns. Think back to learning a new skill; how long did it take you to be able to truly say, I have mastered this?
Here’s another bad habit I still struggle to let go of, I have to prove myself as a disabled person just to be accepted by those around me.
This is nothing really to do with ability, but much more to do with how we perceive other people see us and how they actually do perceive us. We assume we know what others think based on prior negative responses that trigger this coping strategy that we have no choice. However, when was the last time disabled people ever listened to those they wrongly perceive as more able to do what we wished we could do. I cannot legally drive, but I do know how to and have driven motorbikes and cars, so do know how it should be done.
So over the coming weeks, we (you and I) are going on a journey. I am going to share some secrets as to how you can appear to everyone else that you have learned a more positive behaviour whilst we get you fit and ready for the real challenge – doing it for real.
So I would love to hear a behaviour you think is helping you, but you not so sure anymore. Be honest, no BS lets hear your thoughts you cannot hide even from you.