I’ve always felt that chatting about my disability was one of the greatest things I could do as a writer. And, indeed, it’s been so very rewarding for more than a decade.
Last month, my writer friend Ellen Seidman interviewed me for her blog Love That Max, which she’s written since 2008 about disabilities and life with her son Max, who has cerebral palsy. I thought I’d share some of that interview today (you can read the awesome blog post)…
Have you always been pretty regular selfie-poster? Did you never give it much thought? Had you gotten trolled before and what was your way of dealing?
Oh, yes, I’ve always loved snapping selfies — maybe a bit too much, if you ask my mom! I’ve always felt that it’s a great way to capture a moment in a genuine way…no camera tricks or filters. Just you being you.
I learned pretty early on that being a woman writer, especially one with a disability, was going to open me up to trolls on the internet. People respectfully critiquing my work has never bothered me. Instead, what’s bothered me the most is people going right for attacking my appearance. No mention of what I wrote…just making fun of how I look. Those are the sorts of bullying that I’ve received over the years and while it still stings, I try my best to let it roll off my back.
How has what happened influenced your selfie-tendencies—do you feel like you’ll be posting more now? Has this given you added selfie confidence?
It doesn’t seem like such a horrible experience with trolls would actually give me more confidence, but it has. I’ve continued posting selfies and people really seem to like it. In fact, I even started the hashtag #MyBestSelfie to encourage others to post photos of themselves and celebrate who they are!
When you were growing up, how did your parents instill confidence in you and what advice did they give you for dealing with meanies?
I credit my parents for encouraging me to believe in myself and be as independent as possible despite my disability. They always told me to never let my disability stop me from doing what I wanted in life. And, similar to not reading the comments, they taught me how important it is to not let others’ cruel words impact how you see yourself. The old adage “treat others as you want to be treated” is sounds simple, but it applies to so many situations in life, including bullies.
What advice would you give to parents to encourage their children to love themselves as they are?
It’s so important for parents to model that sort of behavior for their children. Kids see everything, so if they see their parents being hard on themselves or being overly self-critical, they’re going to pick up on that and internalize it.
Also, teaching them that we all make mistakes — that’s just a normal part of life — but it doesn’t make us a bad person.
And what advice would you give to parents to teach their children to accept others as they are? [It would be great if you could mention, too, how to handle it when children make innocently blunt comments in public.]
I’ve never been insulted when kids ask about my disability in public. I’d rather them ask than just point and stare. I think it’s so important for parents to encourage children to be politely curious — ask questions respectfully and treat the disabled person like a person. Also, parents should always reinforce that disabilities are nothing to be afraid of — that people with disabilities are people who maybe use a wheelchair to get around or use a walker to go shopping.
Thank you so much, Ellen, for chatting about my disability with me!! xoxo