By Mark E. Smith
I read that 92% of women and 56% of men struggle with some sort of low self-esteem, most commonly relating to “body image” or “feeling like one doesn’t measure up to others.”
In my experience, those statistics prove unfortunately true in everyday life, as I encounter many who confide in me – or indirectly suggest – such feelings of self-insufficiency. However, what’s striking is that it implies to me that I should be horrified by who I am: A spastic, half-witted guy with cerebral palsy, big ears, a goofy smile, and no talent, who doesn’t really fit in anywhere. I might as well put out a self-titled album, Rolling Disaster.
Really, I have attractive, intelligent, popular, able-bodied people tell me all of the time how insufficient they feel. Women who have model-like beauty and super intellects tell me that they’re disturbingly unattractive and unintelligent. Men who are brilliant tell me of their constant insecurities. And, it leaves me thinking that if all of these truly perfect people feel so horribly about themselves, I must really be a freakish wreck on wheels, where I truly do have many of the deficiencies that they wrongly project upon themselves. I mean, let’s be real – have you seen me? Again, I’m a spastic, half-witted guy with cerebral palsy, big ears, a goofy smile, and no talent, who doesn’t really fit in anywhere – who’s more of a literal mess than me? And, readers send me hate emails confirming those facts all of the time, so surely they’re true.
Of course, unlike the 92% of women and 56% of men with low self-esteem, I actually accept and embrace who I am. Indeed, I may be a rolling wreck, but I know that I can’t change aspects like having cerebral palsy, so rather than despising who I am, I make the most of who I am – much of which is based in gratitude for whatever I’ve been bestowed in life. Sure, I’m a spastic, half-witted guy with cerebral palsy, big ears, a goofy smile, and no talent, who doesn’t really fit in anywhere, but even those are traits not to be squandered. I say, why not be the best spastic, half-witted guy with cerebral palsy, big ears, a goofy smile, and no talent, who doesn’t really fit in anywhere, that I can be, right?
See, what I know is that our potential isn’t limited by what we lack; rather, our potential is maximized by what we have. And, too many of us count ourselves short, only seeing deficiencies – or, worst of all, buying into the criticisms of others – when we should be focused on our true potentials, our greatness within. We have this one body, mind, and life, and let’s make the most of them, where it’s not what we have, but what we do with what we have that makes all of the difference.
I could have looked at my life with spastic cerebral palsy and believed the pundits from birth, settling for an institutionalized life of physical dependency on others; but, instead, I sought to believe in developing whatever physical abilities that I could muster toward independence. I could have seen myself as having the cognitive deficiencies that doctors diagnosed me with when I was an infant; but, instead, I scored an I.Q. atop the charts, pursued a college education, going on to a successful career path serving others. I could have looked at myself in the mirror, seeing my cerebral palsied body – my undeniable “freakishness” – and never pursued relationships or a family; but, instead, I have a beautiful daughter, the center of my life. I could have presumed that I had no talent; but, instead, I write, give talks, and work in the wheelchair industry with great creativity. And, I could have looked at my power wheelchair as a device that prevented me from fitting in; but, instead, I combine my unique appearance with my personality to shine in crowds.
Indeed, every day I could write a thousand-line list as to how I’m not on par with everyone else, how I’m a spastic, half-witted guy with cerebral palsy, big ears, a goofy smile, and no talent, who doesn’t really fit in anywhere; but, instead, I recognize the positive attributes that I do have, and make the most of them, dedicating myself to family, career, and community.
Really, we’re a lot like old cars, where we may think of ourselves as clunkers, but with the right attitude, we truly shine as collector-quality classics. Take some time to look in the mirror, and see the shine in you – it’s there, you just have to open yourself to it. And, if it makes you feel better, you can say, At least I’m not a spastic, half-witted guy with cerebral palsy, big ears, a goofy smile, and no talent, who doesn’t really fit in anywhere, like Mark!
After all, if I’m doing great with all of my freakish flaws, you must be nothing short of a spectacular masterpiece of a person with your remarkable strengths, talents, and good-looks.