“If someone doubts you, just prove them wrong.” – Allison Becker
I am looking for work and have been encouraged to use my disability to get a job on the basis of equal opportunity. I have no problem with other people using equal opportunity to get jobs, but I didn’t want to play the disability card in order to be considered because it creates more problems than possibilities. I recently secured an internship based on my education and experience – without even mentioning my disability – but, this afternoon I saw a job posting I really wanted and applied for it on the basis of equal opportunity, knowing that it would increase my chances of being considered. This goes against my principles as a person – particularly since I try not to consider myself disabled – and I feel that I have compromised my integrity and stooped to a low level. I used to play the disability card all the time when I was little; I used my disability to my advantage to get what I wanted (and get out of what I didn’t want) and people still play that card with me, but now I try not to. I’m angry with myself for ‘using’ my disability in this instance, but I’ve realized that, with how competitive the industry I would like to enter is, it might be my only option.
If I cannot be considered for the job for which I just applied, I think I might just have to face it and apply on the basis of equal opportunity for every subsequent company to which I send my resume. I understand that I will have to overcome even more barriers and constraints once I get into a job because I will have to work harder to prove that I am worthy of the job, competent, and intelligent, and not just ‘there because of equal opportunity.’ I have earned previous jobs and internships on the basis of my education, experience, intelligence, and strong desire to work for the companies to which I have applied, but I have since entered a different market with different parameters and far more odds stacked against me than ever before.
I am afraid that my disability might always affect my working life. People are kinder and gentler with me than they are with other people, and often don’t impose the same consequences or discipline with me that they would with others. My mother and my good friend Sandra told me something I hadn’t previously considered: people might also be sensitive with me because they can see that I’m a sensitive person. Sandra told me that I look very young, sweet, and kind of dorky, so people handle me delicately because I come off as such, especially initially.
Yesterday, a friend of mine told me something others have and something I’ve known for a very long time: I am always trying to prove myself. He didn’t tell me to stop or do things differently; he just said I am always trying to prove myself. He doesn’t know me that well, but he can already sense that about me. I don’t think I would work so hard to prove myself if I didn’t feel the need to prove myself. If I felt that I were accepted and acceptable and okay ‘just as I am’ I wouldn’t work as hard, but I don’t feel that way, so I feel the need to work and I consistently work on myself and work to prove myself.
I think this is just one of those circumstances where I have to ‘use what I have’ to get to where I want to be, even though I feel I have cheapened myself for it. I understand that once I get a metaphorical and literal foot in the door, I will have to overcompensate (even more than I naturally do) but I am willing to do the necessary work. In writing this, I realize that I can consider this a case of ‘being upfront about my disability with people’ because I understand that I will have to tell them eventually if I ever need help with anything physical. I just have to tell them earlier than I usually would, and I have to ‘use it’ in a way that makes me extremely uncomfortable. Considering it a case of ‘being upfront for the sake of my health and safety’ makes it feel less like cheating or taking an easy way out, but coming to this point makes me feel that I have failed.