Stronger than I Seem

Believing in yourself starts with acceptance, honesty and compassion, says Najla Al Tenaiji…

One day you’re going to wake up and want to try!’ said my mum, after I’d screamed another list of things I couldn’t do at her. I was always adding to a catalogue of false excuses for why I couldn’t be independent.

Tiring myself out for something beyond my control was exhausting and made zero sense to me. So I didn’t try. But the real reason that I couldn’t do anything for myself was simple: I was terrified of failure and had convinced myself that my disability rendered me worthless by definition.

I could try. I just didn’t want to. I used my trauma as a get-out clause whenever it suited me. Disability fostered my toxic ideology: lazy, unsociable, angry, irresponsible, mistrustful and suspicious.
If it worked in my favour, I was happy to define myself as a disabled person. But after receiving my recovery team’s evaluation, I realized that I was making progress but not accepting reality. I had to change something – or, rather, someone.

Don’t think for a moment that I had a ‘Eureka!’ moment, or that suddenly everything looked rosy. The relationship between me and my disability took years to collapse, reshape and rebuild.
And you know what? I’m still working on it, and I probably won’t finish it. But the difference is that when problems within my control sneak up, I’m able to manage them. I’ll never get rid of them altogether, but that’s okay.

We’re all human. We make mistakes, we struggle and sometimes we don’t like ourselves, but we navigate those difficult times. So, instead of failing, I was brave. Instead of not being able to do it, I tried it. Instead of being ignorant, I learned. I grew up. Because punishing yourself for something beyond your control is exhausting and meaningless.

Self-acceptance is still painful for me, but it was the only solution for my growth. I had to face myself and my disability head-on. If I wanted to, I could have hated myself for being disabled forever. But that didn’t get me anywhere. So I made mistakes, learned from them, and made them again before I started to appreciate my abilities.

And by focusing on my abilities rather than obstacles, I changed my view of myself. Yes, there are things we can’t do and things we can do, but why not focus on the latter? See your struggle as a means to success and your life may change forever.

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