There comes a time in every woman’s life when she realizes apologizing all of the time isn’t getting her anywhere, but as women, we’re trained to say “sorry” for all kinds of ridiculous things. That needs to stop, especially for those of us trapped in the role of “sweet wheelchair girl.”
Our society prefers its females to be docile, and so it follows that it really prefers females in wheelchairs to be unimaginably so. But when you’re injured like I was, as a teenager, it’s too late to transform into that sweet wheelchair girl society shapes us to be. If I was raised as a child in a wheelchair it might have been a little bit easier to be this way, but my accident occurred when I was 14. On top of teenage angst, I was angry and not at all interested in being sweet.
Wherever I’d go as a new wheelchair-user, people smiled my way, some approaching wanting to talk — complete strangers who only wanted to talk to me because of my wheelchair (the do-gooder type) — and I absolutely hated it. There’s nothing that drives me crazier than insincere people. All I wanted was to be treated just like I was before, but that now seemed impossible.
I quickly learned that if I was extra nice, smiley all the time, and apologized frequently for everything from making a lady move her cart so I could get by to being slow at the checkout, people liked me better and were less uncomfortable around me. If I had wanted to express my anger or otherwise be myself, it would have blown up to my face.
At my core I am a stubborn individual who will tell you exactly what she thinks. If you do something I don’t like, I will call you out on it. This is not what people expect from a girl in a wheelchair however, and I can sense it every time I let my real personality flow.
People just deal with us better when we’re sickly sweet. But I have finally realized I can’t be this way. I feel like I’m suffocating — the cost is too high.
I think that’s the takeaway here — if you end up in a wheelchair, don’t let it change your personality. Please … don’t. It may help you be better liked by people, but what does that matter? You need to stay true to yourself, and not be forced into the role of that sweet wheelchair girl society would prefer you to be. That’s the most important thing you can do for yourself.
Have you ever felt pressured to be someone you’re not post-injury?