On Mind Over Matter


There are a lot of inspirational tropes out there meant to inspire people to persevere or not give up. The top two are “mind over matter” and “there’s nothing that can stop you but your attitude” (or something to that effect). Both of these, while well-meaning, are extremely problematic, but especially because of how they relate to those of us with disabilities.

If you’re born with a disability, it doesn’t matter how strong your mind is or how positive of an attitude you have, at the end of the day, you still have a disability and your body still functions in a totally different way than the rest of the population. There’s nothing that your mind can or can’t do that will make you suddenly have a level of strength that’s physically impossible.

This has always been one of the many frustrations I have living with a disability. My mind tells me “go up the stairs”, “get off the floor”, “don’t fall” but my body just isn’t able to follow suit. So it doesn’t matter how much I “mind” because it’s always going to matter. There are plenty of days when I have a positive attitude too but that doesn’t mean I don’t have holes in my muscle cells anymore. And please don’t tell a mother whose son has Duchenne’s MD that everything will be ok if they both just persevere.

So while it’s a nice thought for privileged, white, non-disabled people to be able to do anything they set their mind to, that’s just not a reality for those of us in the disabled community and other minority groups. It’s not just crucial that we have more representation, it’s crucial that when we’re putting motivational thoughts and ideas out into the world, we’re thinking about they apply to everyone, not just the majority. I would never tell someone who broke their leg that they should just think positively and their leg will suddenly be unbroken, so I’d like that motivational poster hanging on your wall to do the same.

photo credit: polaristest Political affiliation via photopin (license)

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