“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.

I’m sad. 


About Norah

writer. aspiring editor.
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11 Responses to #overcompensating

  1. nicolanoo says:

    I can relate to a lot of what you say in this post. People have told me similar things. Not that long ago, I applied to a work placement scheme, I won’t say which one. I’d been advised to do this the year before but I didn’t because of the way the thought of doing so made me feel because I didn’t want to play the card, and I didn’t want anyone else to think that I was. However, when the time for the applications rolled around this year, I looked at the jobs on offer and realised that there were some that I really wanted. I decided to apply anyway, telling myself that had it been a scheme to help unemployed people find work regardless of disability. I would have done it with really thinking twice. For an hour or so afterwards I felt sad because I felt like ‘I’d played the card’, but then l reminded myself of how good the jobs looked.

    As, it happens, I was unsucessful and that actaually made me feel sadder, but at least I knew that I had tried because I think if I hadn’t, the always wondering would have been worse

  2. nicolanoo says:

    It was a work placement scheme for disabled people, by the way

    • Norah says:

      It hurts even more to have been unsuccessful once you ‘play the card’ . . . and, as it turns out, I was unsuccessful too. It makes me angry that I played the card now because, in this case, it made no difference and was of no help. I feel like I compromised my dignity and integrity.

      • nicolanoo says:

        I’m sorry that you feel like way. You applied for a job you like the sound of because you wanted it so badly and it is that level of determination that will help you suceed above all else. Try to remember that you are trying your best and don’t be too hard on yourself.

      • Norah says:

        it’s just so hard when you try your best – and try all the time – and it’s not enough.

      • nicolanoo says:

        When I applied for the job though I told lots of people that I was thinking of doing and none of them thought that I was playing the card at all- they all told me to go for it. I applied really not because of the scheme itself but because it sounded like a job I wanted and had it not been one offer under that scheme I would have applied for it regradless.

        Now that I’ve thought about it, I was really just appliying for a job that I thought I could do well so by not applying I would have ruled myself out of the running with even trying because I was worried about what people might have thought of me. I’m really glad that I applied in the end even though I didn’t get it because if I hadn’t, the only person who would’ve lost out would’ve been me.

        I know job hunting can be tough but you just have to try really hard and eventually, you’ll find the job for you.

      • Norah says:

        it’s true. i’m glad you did it. you would have been hurt and mad at yourself if you hadn’t.

      • nicolanoo says:

        I hope you find something soon.

      • o3broken says:

        I, too, can relate and empathize with this post. I have been in several different situations where my disability has come into the mix. “Playing the card”, for me, is the fall back plan that nay or may not work. I once had a boss tell that he almost didn’t hire me because he was looking for an assistant to get coffee and he thought that would be too hard. However, I showed him through my work ethic and professional demeanor, that I belonged there. Living with a disability can be like taking a shot in the dark, sometimes you will hit the target, sometimes you won’t.

      • Norah says:

        i know right? something as simple as getting coffee – something others don’t even think twice about doing – can be hard and people can think you incapable of it because of the assumptions they make. i’m glad you showed him your capability, but it’s just hard to know you have to work that much harder – and that much faster – to prove that.

      • o3broken says:

        It’s second nature. I’m so used to being labeled, misunderstood and under-appreciated, I have learned to embrace it and use it to my advantage. Life is tough as is and having a disability can make it tougher, however, everyday I tell myself I can make it; I will make it and I do. Here’s to another successful day.

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