Overcoming the Narrative of “Overcoming”

One thing that’s helped my mental health a lot over the years – and increased my capacity for physical recovery – is getting involved with the disability community on twitter. Embracing disability as part of my identity, rather than something I needed to overcome.

The narrative of needing to “overcome” and “not be held back” does more harm than good for people struggling with health conditions. It creates an unrealistic burden to get successfully diagnosed, learn what you can about looking after yourself, change various factors about your life and also, keep everything else the same as before.

And for who?

To make other people not feel uncomfortable?

Shrinking or stretching yourself to make someone else feel comfortable is never going to result in your happiness. In fact, learning how to let go of someone else’s discomfort is essential work in finding your own authentic happiness and in looking after your health.

So then, for who?

To prove to ourselves that an illness doesn’t make us less? That’s ableist in it’s core, just internalised.

And it reminds me a lot of about the expectations we have around motherhood. The similar sounding pressure to:

  • Get your body back ASAP
  • Maintain your career trajectory
  • Maintain your social life
  • Not let yourself “go”
  • Not lose spark in your relationship
  • Not become that boring mom who can only talk about her kids

To take on more responsibilities than ever before without letting anything go.

And again, for who?

To prove that motherhood doesn’t diminish us? Because we ourselves have feelings that being “just a mom” isn’t enough?

I’m glad that online spaces are addressing how these expectations around motherhood, “supermoms” and “springing back” are too much and a creating a needless sense of failure in so many women.

I just hope that conversation will expand more generally. Because I see people needing to prove themselves- like I felt I had to prove myself- after illness. And it’s making them unwell and unhappy. Creating a sense of failure, pressure and shame.

Sometimes the smart, brave, and strong thing to do is accept what your life is right now. And find the shards of joy you can within it, as imperfect and blemished as it is.

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