The Equation of Self

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By Mark E. Smith

Here are five facts about me: I have severe cerebral palsy. I’m a middle-aged, full-time single father. I come from a deeply troubled background. I’m among the least successful people I know. And, many see me as a despicable character.

Every aspect above is literally true. If you were a woman, would you date me? Not a chance, as I’m a rolling wreck.

However, here’s the flaw in my rolling wreck of a self-description: it doesn’t reflect anywhere near the entirety of who I am. Rather, it leaves out the amazing parts of who I am, and fabricates a negative self-image from an inappropriately critical perspective. It’s like taking a beautiful diamond, and placing it under a microscope, finding the flaws, then discarding the entirety of its stunning brilliance. How many of us do that to ourselves every day? While the rest of the world sees our beauty and brilliance – like a two carat diamond – we find flaws that no one else sees. How is it that when we’re each so amazingly unique – one in four-hundred trillion, genetically, according to science – some of us can place a microscope on ourselves and only see flaws?

I recently heard a top collegiate soccer coach explain what he looks for when recruiting players. He doesn’t seek great runners or kickers – they’re easy to find, he said. In fact, he overlooks soccer skills altogether since everyone has them who applies to his program. What he looks for is the most empowering trait that an individual can have: self-confidence.

See, self-confidence isn’t about ego or narcissism, but about recognizing our own value, viewing ourselves as the rest of the world views us. And, when we have it, we don’t just perform better, we feel better. So, why don’t more of us have self-confidence, why don’t we see the beauty in who we are that others see, so unique that we’re one in 400 trillion?

The answer, as I’ve concluded, is that we’re really really bad at math. Allow me to explain….

When others view us, they add up the sum of our parts to create the whole value of who we are. We can look at someone and say, “Wow, what an amazing person, from the inside out,” and we’re able to do that because all of his or her traits add up to extraordinary. Yet, we’re often not skilled at doing math on ourselves – that is, except negative numbers. While the rest of the world looks at us as 2 + 4 + 4 = 10, we look at ourselves and add a negative to every positive -2 + -4 + -4 = -10.

Therefore, we need to do a much better job at understanding all of the variables that comprise us, and add the positives back in. Getting back to my five examples of why no woman should ever date me, let’s see what happens – mathematically – when I complete the missing variables to my equation:

I have severe cerebral palsy, and it’s fueled a life of independence, where I’ve seen first-hand that most limitations that we project are false, that the power of the human spirit runs deeper than any ocean, where few obstacles are insurmountable.

I’m a middle-aged, full-time single father who is in fantastic shape, and my daughter is a young woman of tremendous grace, wisdom, and empathy, whose hard work applied to education and the arts has her on an Ivy-League track.

I come from a deeply troubled background, and I’m the only one in generations of my family to be formally educated, to not live in poverty, to not be an addict.

I’m among the least successful people I know because I learned that if we wish to rise, surround ourselves with those who foster our growth, so I strive to associate with those of tremendous moral compasses, exceptional work ethics, and accomplished personal and professional lives.

And, many see me as a despicable character because I’m among the most read, public figures with a disability, where my success brings out some who resent it.

The result, then, is that I’m not a loser, but a remarkably successful individual with a lot to offer in my uniqueness.

And, the same goes for each one of us. None of us are perfect, but even our so-called flaws add up to remarkable when placed in the full context of who we are. The next time you look in the mirror, see yourself as everyone else sees you – and you’ll see an amazing person looking back.


Author: Mark E. Smith

The literary side of the WheelchairJunkie

5 thoughts on “The Equation of Self”

  1. I also have CP, MD, epilepsy, etc. I know how our world looks at us, but it is our job to bring our gifts to our people and to mentor those younger then ourselves to see their gifts. That is what you have done with yourself and your child. Roll On!

    1. I think this is among the most vital info for me. And i am glad reading your atclrie. But want to remark on few general things, The site style is wonderful, the atclries is really nice : D. Good job, cheers

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