It’s something I don’t like to admit. It’s something I’ve tried to overcome for years. It’s something that often presents some very difficult obstacles. No matter how much I try to deny it, there is something woven into the fabric of who I am that will most likely never go away. I am a giant, socially awkward dork. (Probably thought I was going to say something else there didn’t ya?)
I have great friends, and I hope most people who know me would consider me a relatively nice guy. But there are times, (somewhat frequent times actually,) when, whether by acts of commission or omission, I do or say, or forget to do or say, something that makes me look just plain stupid. Way too often, it’s in front of people I’d rather not look stupid in front of. This happens whether I’m relating to friends, peers, or authority figures. In a moment of brutal honesty let me tell you that I probably have more of those “Ooooh, that came out wrong,” and “Shoot, why’d I do that?” moments than almost any other human being on the planet. The people I most want to impress and treat right can sometimes turn me into a tongue-tied bull-in-a-china-shop-esque nervous wreck.
One particular incidence of my striking awkwardness comes to mind as a good example. Several years ago, my parents and I had the honor of being invited to a dinner at a local five-star hotel for major Focus on the Family donors. Immediately following dinner with all these wealthy dignitaries, I was feeling pretty puffed up. My fancy dress pants, however, had not been fitting well all night (I suppose you could say I was, ahem, a little too big for my britches.) As we were standing on the curb a few yards from the hotel, in the dark, waiting for Mom to bring the car around, my drawers dropped completely. It is, hands down, one of the most embarrassing, awkward, and darn funny moments of my life. I am, with good reason, simply a self-conscious guy sometimes.
All joking aside, though, an unhealthy self-consciousness can have ramifications far worse than my bouts of interpersonal goofiness in the life of someone with a disability. It really is tough to admit, but at times we’re painfully aware of just how people might see us. To quote a young woman with CP who appeared on a recent Focus on the Family broadcast, it is often all too easy to think about how people see our obvious disabilities and think “Is this repulsive?” We want, so desperately, to be accepted as people, but many of us, (including myself at times) worry that all people see are the outward physical deformities. We worry that this alone can be enough to push people away before they risk digging deeper. To some people, it seems as though we are a walking deformity or disability before we ever have the chance to be a human being. I want to encourage anyone who’s ever felt this way that your value does not rest in other people’s opinion. Scripture says, “How great is the love the Father has lavished upon us, that we should be called children of God.” God, your Creator, has made it an absolutely undeniable reality, something as unchangeable as gravity, that YOU ARE VALUABLE. Don’t you EVER let anyone tell you differently. Recognizing this truth is the first step for anyone to build healthy, happy relationships. It is also one of the best ways you can build up a loved one with disabilities. And hey, if afterwards you’re still a bit of a dork sometimes, just know you’re not alone.